Monday, November 7, 2011

When Grace Appears - Grace

DSC_0552 by Rosalind McKever

Look for the grace right now. That will be your salvation for the day.
-- Glenn Craig

One of the most interesting points in this epistle is subtly tucked into verses 12 and 13 of the first chapter. 

One of themselves, even a prophet of their own, said, the Cretians are always liars, evil beasts, slow bellies. This witness is true. Wherefore rebuke them sharply, that they may be sound in the faith;

Oh no he didn’t! But he did. Paul, a learned man who knows a lot about the psychology of man (read about Paul’s time in Athens and how he used this approach to foster an atmosphere conducive to open dialog, then try to tell me he didn’t know about man’s psyche) just completely called out the Cretans, exposing them for who they are as a people. Was he agreeing with the words of a Cretan? Yes. But the fact remains that he agrees with the prophet.

It is easy to be offended. One time, I caught wind of a couple that intended to send wedding invitations with different starting times, based on ethnicity. Cubans were slated to receive save the dates with a half-hour earlier start time in order to ensure that they do not arrive late. This assumes that all Cubans are tardy to everything all the time. Of course I took offense. Not that I’m ever timely for anything, but I was offended all the same. You are impugning my character based on a cultural stereotype.

What if I told you that this stereotype extends beyond Cubans, including the entire South Florida region. It is a documented fact that general opinion is not favorable towards people in the City of Miami and the greater Miami-Dade region. How offended would you be to receive a wedding invitation, arrive 30 minutes early and find out at the event (for someone you love dearly) that they think you are always late to everything and are taking corrective measures for you? Too bad you forgot the wedding gift back home, right?

What hurts most is the realization that you have a poor relationship with that person. The fact that they would sneak around and try to trick you into being different says that they do not feel comfortable speaking their mind to you. Paul says, Do not try to manipulate people into better behavior, confront them strongly with grace. He wants us to bring a rebuke with grace. Speak to the offensive people and let them know that their behavior is wrong so that they can be stronger Christians.

Grace always keeps the goal in mind. The goal is not so they become better Christians and thus become more pleasing to you. The goal is so that they become better people themselves and thus bring glory to God. All too often, we extend grace to others that is more like a loan with heavy interest. In fact, I read recently that our language is heavily tainted to reflect that very concept. Consider how we invest time in others. When one makes an investment, there is an unstated expectation for a return on investment plus interest. We, either consciously or subconsciously, expect to get the results we want when we try to tell people about Christ. The problem is, while God’s Word will not return void, sometimes we miss the harvest when the crop is ready because we are expecting Mangoes while God is gathering Legumes. I suppose what I’m saying is that we are selfish and then distort God’s grace.

The only way to truly avoid this trap of selfishness is to remember the Grace of God as it relates to us. Paul had a point when he agreed with the Cretan prophet, we are all lazy, good-for-nothing bums when left to our own devices. Our own devices include both hedonism and religion. Consider the incredible investment the Lord made in mankind recorded in Titus 2:11-3:8:

For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men, teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly in the present age, looking for the blessed hope and glorious appearing of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, who gave Himself for us, that He might redeem us from every lawless deed and purify for Himself His own special people, zealous for good works. Speak these things, exhort, and rebuke with all authority. Let no one despise you.

Remind them to be subject to rulers and authorities, to obey, to be ready for every good work, to speak evil of no one, to be peaceable, gentle, showing all humility to all men. For we ourselves were also once foolish, disobedient, deceived, serving various lusts and pleasures, living in malice and envy, hateful and hating one another. But when the kindness and the love of God our Savior toward man appeared, not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us, through the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit, whom He poured out on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Savior, that having been justified by His grace we should become heirs according to the hope of eternal life. This is a faithful saying, and these things I want you to affirm constantly, that those who have believed in God should be careful to maintain good works. These things are good and profitable to men.

God gives man: salvation, teaching, hope, glory, purity, zeal, kindness, love, mercy, washing, regeneration, renewal, justification and an inheritance. Multiply this grace by the seven billion people living in the world today. Now take that number and multiply it by the generations past. Then, multiply it by future generations. Imagine if God used his grace as capital for an investment in mankind. Let’s say he demands a return in holiness of 1.14% on His gracious investment. We would never be allowed to slip up, ever! We would have to work so very hard to pay back even such a minute fraction of God’s love.

But we know that’s God’s grace does not work that way. We know this because of a key term in the key verse 14 of chapter 2: redeem. In one sense, this means to buy back a possession, and we know that God created us for His good pleasure but we fell away from that position. Now He has redeemed us so that He can mold us back into something useful for Himself. But in another sense, redemption also means emancipation. In that manner, we are slaves that have been set free. In neither sense of the word do we have any hint of return for the investment.

However, that is only where Grace begins. That is only the appearing of God’s grace. Salvation is an every-day process. We always need deliverance from bondage and God’s grace is sufficient for us. Glenn said to look for grace right now, it will be your salvation. Perhaps that is the key. Rather than pushing my interpretation of grace on others, perhaps we should let the grace fill us and then the overflow will soak others.

That is when we will see His grace at work.

Check out the "Quest for Admin Parking" photo gallery @
Christopher M. Jimenez. Powered by Blogger.

Mailing List