Has Grace truly embraced you? And reciprocally, have you truly embraced Grace?
As I briefly and inadequately consider grace this morning, I readily see what I have been taught and what I have believed… that I am saved by grace and so my happiness is found in the reality that I am safe, not just for the moment, but forever. I am thrilled that my belief is such that my being saved means I’m going to heaven… my eternity is secure. However, sadly, I often don’t think beyond me and my safety. It’s so easy to be enamored with the wondrous gifts and promises that I inherit through Christ that as a very self-centered person, I don’t readily consider that Grace came to me by way of a cross.
Jesus Christ, the Son of God, came from a perfect and holy and glorious place to a lowly dirty animal stall, to a sin-loving world. I don’t readily identify with the life that Jesus lived on this earth, nor do I often enough consider that in his grace and mercy to me He suffered much, in fact was actually murdered two thousand years ago by folks just like me and was buried. And then Grace was resurrected in a glorious victory that forever secured eternal salvation to all who call upon the name of Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ, the perfect son of God and the perfect son of man suffered and died in my place. He took the penalty, the pain, the wrath of a just and loving God in my place…and he died and through His shed blood He made a way for my sins to be forgiven and for me to be set free to live eternally through his life in me.
It is an amazing grace. So why don’t I readily live in the reality and constant embrace of this grace?
Because grace is still at work in me. I still carry about in me the effects of sin. I am still inclined to live in the world that is all about me and I even find ways that make living in the world of me look very good and right and godly, to me and to others. So how does this saving grace deal with my ongoing ties to this sin-bent flesh of mine? As I am seeing more and more clearly, grace will lead me to where Grace walked. Grace will take me along a path of suffering so that I might be made perfect, even as Jesus Christ is Perfect. Grace will constantly bring me to the Cross and I am learning that this is both a wonderful place to be and a very difficult place to be. If I focus on the suffering alone, I can’t remain there. BUT, if I look to the joy of knowing Christ and being conformed into His image.. if I look to the promises of what He is doing and I trust in his love to perfectly complete His planned work in me as His chosen vessel, then I can and will remain with my gaze fixed on the Cross with a hope that very soon His work in me will be complete and He will come and take me to be with Him forever. Now, that will be GLORY for me!!
“Grace tried is better than grace, and more than grace; it is glory in its infancy”
These words spoken by Samuel Rutherford, an exiled pastor who knew suffering and who loved his flock so dearly and passionately that even in exile, wrote hundreds upon hundreds of letters to the sheep under his care to love them and shepherd with the saving truths of God’s word. His letters were not full of light sentiments and casual encouragements and He preached no prosperity gospel… of any kind. He preached from the depths of his heart in his letters to his congregation so that they would know the depths of grace that keep the soul steadfast and immovable. It is no wonder that he would say these words, “Grace tried is better than grace, and more than grace; it is glory in its infancy”.
For it was fitting that he, for whom and by whom all things exist, in bringing many sons to glory, should make the founder of their salvation perfect through suffering. Heb 2:10
Our own individual considerations of God’s Word are too limited in their embrace of suffering and this is perhaps why it is also missing in the preaching among us. If it is mentioned it is most often a brief reference or a mis-stated comment along the lines of ‘you may suffer’. It is rarely preached as the wonderful (and yes, supremely difficult) reality that it is for the follower of Jesus Christ. And in the absence of that teaching… in the absence of instruction as to the necessity and importance of suffering, we have an abundance of professing believers that spring up from the soil that will not endure the hot sun or the weeds that are promised to come. No… a life that will not embrace the sufferings in this life that are promised within the cost of discipleship is likely a life that will not endure to the end.
Since therefore Christ suffered in the flesh, arm yourselves with the same way of thinking, for whoever has suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin, so as to live for the rest of the time in the flesh no longer for human passions but for the will of God. (1 Peter 4:1-2)
So… as I look to Jesus and as I consider those examples of faith in Hebrews 11 and as I read of (and from) Samuel Rutherford and so many other wonderful disciples of Jesus Christ through the centuries and, even today, as I look at men whose lives demonstrate an embracing of Grace… grace tried’, I am strengthened in this Faith by which I was made alive in Christ to believe…to stand…to run…to fight…to suffer…to endure even as Christ Jesus did and this only by his grace. With the Cross always in view, I will take courage to endure the trials from without and the surrender of my will from within.
Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice insofar as you share Christ’s sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed. (1 Peter 4:12-13)
I have been saved by grace… I am sustained by grace… and I shall rejoice in grace and be glad when his glory is revealed! “Grace tried is better than grace, and more than grace; it is glory in its infancy” And I will do this not by my power but by the Holy Spirit enabling me.
P.S. Almost always when I finish putting thoughts like these to paper, I look at them and respond to the accusation of the Accuser… what gives you the right to say any of these things? My response today, again, is to agree with him, that I am not worthy but that I boast only as one who has been saved by grace through faith; and that as Jesus Christ the Lord gives me breath and thought and it is the truth of His word that I carry and not my own, I will obediently proclaim His truth fully trusting his Spirit to reveal it to those He wills.