Expected Grace

Expected Grace

Christians, we are a fortunate lot, aren’t we? We serve the God of ceaseless mercy, second chances, and staggering grace. We know that we know that we know that when we walk out of His will, God will lovingly forgive us once again.

I used to envision Him as a God that begrudgingly forgave me again and again because it was, after all, what He does and Who He is.  It is part of His job description. I do not know why I saw Him as being reluctant to forgive, but I did. But when it hit me that the Father of the Bible’s very own Prodigal Son was a true picture of God Himself sprinting toward me at the first hint of repentance, my perspective of Him changed, praise God! He is not irritated with us when we sin, turn back to Him, sin, turn back to Him, sin, and once again turn back to Him. He is overjoyed. He may have every right in the world to be annoyed and/or angry, but instead of rolling His holy eyes at us, He reaches out His forgiving arms to us.

However, when we repeatedly choose the sin over the Son, what we are truly saying is that we would rather sin…commit an act against God…do the very thing that separates us from Him, than walk with Him and deepen our relationship with Him.

I suppose we could continue on in that pattern…knowing that even though we are sincerely apologetic, the sin might be victorious again because well, even though we haven’t admitted it out loud, we have decided it is easier to rely on expected grace than to work, fight, and pray through to a victory of overcoming sin. I have been there on more than one period in my life regarding more than one sin. Allow me to share with you the affect that continuing on in that pattern had on my relationship with Jesus, and why my encouragement to you is: “Stop the cycle!”

  1. We know the act itself… the gossip, the cheating, the lying… is not what detaches us from God. Not that these are minor issues in any way, shape, or form. There are undeniable consequences to all of these acts. However, I believe that God is most concerned about what lies at the core of our choice to deliberately reject His way. The heart condition that causes us to sin is what causes the disconnect. Every time the sin wins, we are making a choice between telling God and showing God that our love for Him is first and foremost in our life or our love for Him is secondary to our love for unfulfilling ways.
  2. Another thing that happens is that we make it harder to hear from Him. Our hearts harden, our resolve weakens, and the distance between us expands.  Oh, Friend, we can rest assured that He is ready to run toward us even if He has farther to go, but the road IS longer and our weariness may set in sooner. The discouragement we feel when we realize we again allowed the Holy Spirit’s voice to be drowned out by our self-centeredness can make us feel defeated and ready to give up. The deeper we allow ourselves to go into the ugly pit of sinful behavior, the harder to get back to the beauty of the surface.

When we begin to take advantage of God’s grace in order to continue in our sin, we are making a decision to be satisfied with the temporary, artificial happiness that sin provides, instead of being secure in the contentment of the lasting, authentic joy that God provides.

God offers us an incomparable gift in His grace. Let us be gracious; not greedy, in receiving it. Let us never feel entitled to it, and instead feel empowered by it to dive more deeply into relationship with our amazing God.

 

Indescribable Love

“God loves you just the way you are, but He refuses to leave you that way. He wants you to be just like Jesus.” Max Lucado

God doesn’t love the best version of you. He doesn’t love the you that you ‘present’ to others or to Him. He loves you just the way you are.

There’s no, “Let me get myself together, out of this mess, over this bump in the road, or through this problem first. Then He’ll love me. Then I’ll be worth loving.” There’s the you that’s in the here and now, warts and all, plagued with problems, swimming in sin, and marked by mistakes. That’s the you He loves. That’s the you He sent His Son to die for.

Allow me to state the obvious. He doesn’t love all the choices you make. He doesn’t love the sin that you decide to partake in, but He certainly loves you. He loves the you that you are and the you that He sees that you can be. He loves you in the midst of poor decisions when we seemingly shake our figurative finger in His face and say, “I know, God. I know You created me, love me, have a plan for my life, and give me ways out of these tempting and sinful situations in order for me to stay in Your will and be blessed, but I have decided to reject the right decision in this situation. I have decided that my way is better. I’ll take it from here. Well, mostly, I’ll take it from here, until I run into trouble. Then I’ll call on You again, and You’ll be there…because that’s who You are. Amazing. Persistent. Loving. Merciful. Forgiving.” It’s a bit pathetic. We say things similar to this and He loves us through it. He’s that Father watching for the prodigal son…the One that watches for him and runs toward him. You and I are that son that has a Heavenly Father that sprints toward us waiting for us to invite Him to walk alongside us every step of the way. That, my friends, is love defined.

We can make a meager attempt to describe the extent to which He loves us, but it won’t suffice. His love is truly indescribable. His faithfulness reaches the skies, His ways are above our ways, and His love surpasses our knowledge. We really need to comprehend that we will never comprehend how much God loves us!

His love for you includes the love He has for the you that He has made it possible for you to be! He doesn’t create you with a plan for your life and then leave you high and dry while you search for His will. He shines the light in front of you in order for you to see the next step; the step that will keep you on or get you back onto His path.

He has a plan for us to use His gifts that He so generously gives to us in order to love others and show others the way to Him. It’s the least we can do for a Father that loves us so.

You are loved just the way that you are by a God that refuses to leave you that way. May this be the year that you feel that love in a tangible way. May this be the year you share that genuine love with all you encounter. And may 2016 be the year that your actions, words, and choices are truly motivated, moved and molded by that indescribable love.