September 19, 2014

The mystery of grace

This post is long overdue . . . last month I decided to delve into the world of cake baking and decorating, which has been a whirlwind - and this blog fell to the wayside (oops). 

I wanted to share about this awesome book that my bestie has let me borrow - Extravagant Grace by Barbara R. Duguid. 

It's hard to wrap your brain around grace. I find it difficult mostly because I am hard-wired for works and performance . . . when I think I'm nice and productive and doing well spiritually, I feel like everything is great. When I fall into a pattern of sin, see the ugliness in my heart and am too rushed to have a real quiet time, I feel not so great . . . as if I need to pick myself up by my bootstraps and try harder. I feel like a "bad christian" - as if my performance is what keeps me in good standing with the Lord.

I thought for a long time that falling into a pattern of sin or having habitual sins meant that something was devastatingly wrong with me. As if I needed to be victorious over my own sins and just get over that bad habit on my own. How could I be a leader if I wasn't perfect? How could other people look to me when I struggled? How could I be a Christian and still battle these sin patterns?

In this book, Barbara explains that there are certain sins that the Lord - in His grace - allows us to struggle with for years, maybe even this lifetime. We never can quite gain victory over them. In those struggles, we see that we are never beyond needing His grace. Even the apostle Paul wrestled with sinning against the Lord and not being able to do what he knew was right (Romans 7). 

The beauty of this is, the more I see my sin and my inability to pick myself out of it, the greater Christ becomes to me. I see that He knew humanity's sin and our wickedness, yet He still moves towards us to love. He is not surprised by our sins and our struggles. He loves us despite those things and even counted it joy that He would call us His own after suffering in our place (Hebrews 12:2).

The fact that Christ loves me, adopted me and will never let me go (John 10:28-29) . . . all while knowing how much and how far I would fall is nothing short of miraculous. I am surprised by the selfishness and pridefulness of my heart, but He is not. If you are in Christ, He has called you into covenant, lasting relationship and nothing can change His love for you. Even when you commit sins that you never thought were possible, His feelings toward you do not change. 

I was listening to this sermon by Dr. Byran Chapell where he is talking about God's grace and His grasp on us . . . and I will leave you with some nuggets of wisdom:

He says,

And we know we can fall, and we know that we fail, and we know we are faithless at times, but God says, though we are faithless, he abides faithful. “My grasp isn’t enough to hold you, God,” but his grasp holds us. It’s the double grasp of the Father and the Son by which he says, “I not only have the ability to save you, but to keep you.”

Charles Spurgeon, the great 19th century preacher said it this way. He said, “As a believer, you may fall on the ship of faith, but by Jesus Christ you do not fall off the ship of faith.” We are held by him.
Fault does not change relationship. And what God is saying through his Son is that when we have heard his voice and we, by hearing who Jesus is and having believed that, are made one with him, we are grasped by the Father and the Son. We’re part of the eternal family. And we may fail, but that doesn’t change the relationship. He holds us.

And the reason that you and I have to hear that and receive that is too much can happen in life, our failures, the failures of others, the abuse that we experience, the trials that we go through, the hurt that we can’t get rid of. We have to hear through all of that cacophony of the noise of this world the words of Jesus that say, “You are mine. I gave myself for you because you are precious to the Father and I will not let you go.” And that’s what gives us home. It allows us to be sustained in a world where the heartache can sometimes be so great and beyond our ability to cling.

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