Gracious Grace!

Day Eighteen

This morning I read yet another rant against grace, and now I just can’t keep silent any longer.

Grace is the power of God to save.  Power.  To save.  People who want to reduce grace only to a salvation event fail to understand the power behind grace.

On the other hand, people who want to use grace as a license to sin fail to understand the true liberty of grace, and also the necessity of repentance (read Romans chapter 6).

Grace has been granted once and for all to cover our every sin past, present, and future.  That should be obvious, since this all happened long before any of us alive today were born (or our parents, our grandparents, our great-grandparents, etc.).

Grace is also the power to walk in the newness of life, once we’ve repented.  Without repentance, we are not allowed access to grace.  Grace is granted only on the condition that we have repented.  Repentance is literally turning around and going the opposite direction.  If my life didn’t produce fruit that shows my repentance (Matthew 3:8), then I also wouldn’t truly have grace.  Therefore, grace is not a license to sin.

Grace gives us power to live this new life through the same thing that brought us to the cross: love—our response to Jesus’ love.  “We love Him because He first loved us,” (1 John 4:19, NKJV).  Love and grace are inseparable.  Grace was granted to us because of Jesus’ love for us.  If He hadn’t died for us, then we couldn’t say that He ever loved us, and grace would be an unknown and unknowable concept.  So since love and grace are inseparable, if we love Him, we also have the power (through grace) to live a life that is pleasing to Him.

The problem is us, not grace.  Our love is imperfect.  We tend to think of love as an emotion.  Love is a decision—a sacrificial decision.  Love made Jesus lay down His life for us (John 15:13).  If we waver and struggle with sin, it’s because we love the world more than we love Jesus.  And in that case, we need to go back to step one: repentance.  If we don’t do repentance right, then our whole Christian walk is worthless—worse than worthless because it casts a negative light on the Gospel.

But to go too far the other way risks falling back into legalism.  Legalism is a rejection of grace.  It says to Jesus, “No thanks, I can do it for myself.”  For more about how I feel about legalism, look at my recent post: Stop Complicating the Simple Things.

Also check out an article that I found in my inbox today from Charisma News: What’s Wrong with Grace?  Grace gets under the legalists’ skin, but it’s also abused by some.

Thank God for grace—it is Amazing!  God is good!

Surprised by Love and Kindness

I have the best job in the world, and I can say that because I have the best Boss in the world.  I’m a missionary, and my Boss is God.  I have never felt like my job was thankless or the work difficult.  Jesus said, “Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.  For my yoke is easy and my burden is light,” (Matthew 11:29-30).  And I can attest to the fact that it’s true—it’s truer than I had ever imagined possible.  How can it be that I spend my days pleasantly, doing what I love to do: meet missionaries, pray for them, and help them whenever and however I’m able?  It sure doesn’t seem like work, but I have a benefits program that’s unbelievable.  God provides for all my needs, He’s the Great Physician of my health plan, whenever I need legal help He’s my Advocate and the Judge, and the retirement program can’t be beat.

Me teaching the children to do the “Hokey-Pokey.”

 

I am in southern Hungary, staying in a nice house with a sweet family.  I came here at the invitation of a friend to help in a children’s summer Day Camp/Vacation Bible School.  I’ve been helping this week with various aspects of their program, but honestly, I’m somewhat limited as to how much I can do because I don’t speak Hungarian.  What I’ve done is teach the children some songs and games in English, help with the afternoon snacks, and basically just be available for anyone wanting to practice their English.  To be honest, it has just been fun.  Nothing I’ve done all week felt like work, and the family is very pleasant to stay with, despite the language difference.  The oldest son speaks English fluently, while the rest of the family’s language skills vary from almost fluency to practically no English at all.

Tonight they asked me (through the oldest son): “What does Hungarian sound like to your ears?”  Without hesitation I responded that it sounds like tongues.  When this was translated, the family screamed with laughter.  But I have noticed that after spending all week hearing Hungarian all day every day, I am beginning to be able to distinguish familiar words.  OK, most of the words I recognize are the numbers (one to ten) that I learned last year.  But I’ve also intuited a few words from the way they are spoken or the subject matter (when I know it).  And I know that if I’m able to pick up a few Hungarian words without really trying, then my advice to students wanting to learn English is good: listen to English every day.

Today was the last day of the camp, and they wanted me to speak briefly to the audience of children and their parents, and to lead them in a simple English song (“Head and Shoulders, Knees and Toes”).  So I just told them how very grateful I am to have had the privilege of getting to know them and their children.  I had seen firsthand how big-hearted and generous the Hungarian people are, but that didn’t prepare me for what came when my part of the program ended.  The Camp Director came to the front with a basket of goodies for me, and he spoke about how much they all love me, and how they hope that I will someday return to visit their town again.  That’s when I lost it.  I was so touched by their kindness that my emotion flowed out of my eyes.  I doubt that any queen has been treated as royally as I have been treated here.