The Astonishing Gift of Grace
A gift is not a gift unless its received. God’s gift of grace is not a gift unless it’s received and its not grace if it’s something to be earned.
It is a gift so astonishing that its routinely rejected.
“The grace was given us in Christ Jesus before the beginning of time, but it has now been revealed through the appearing of our Savior, Christ Jesus, who has destroyed death and has brought life and immortality to light through the gospel.” (2 Timothy 1:9-10)
Grace was given before the beginning of time. God became flesh for the purpose of providing his gift to all people.
We like to think that grace was invented by God in response to the Fall – but God’s perfect love is proactive, not reactive. He provided the gift of grace even before Creation.
God knew what was going to happen. He knew that love has the capacity to hurt and be hurt – to reject and be rejected – to disappoint and be disappointed.
God’s love is so perfect that he cannot love us any more than he already does for every good and righteous act that is prompted by faith. And God’s love is so perfect that he cannot love us any less for every sinful thought or action.
God’s love or grace can never be earned. It is a pure gift prompted by love.
It is a gift so profound that our natural tendency is to be too embarrassed to receive it.
Grace is a valuable treasure that creates awe. It may be like receiving an heirloom from another family that is laden with diamonds and passed down through many generations. The gift has been entrusted to us along with an invitation to be a part of a family – a royal family — with all of its inheritance and status.
To be bestowed with astonishing grace from God is to be confronted with a sense awe and majesty.
And what separates us from his love and his gift of grace?
Sinful pride or guilt.
We are reluctant to receive God’s grace because pride or guilt whispers in our ear that we are inadequate or unworthy. Or we think there are better or obtainable treasures to strive for rather than the treasures of heaven. We are fooled into thinking that there are better ways to cope with the struggles of life. The world cleverly devises way to cope with sin, disappointment, and hurts. We look within ourselves to self-improve. We find value and identity in our family relationships, job status, and material things that we think define success. And when the pain of life gets to be too much, when we continue to seek and never seem satisfied or fulfilled, we look to the world to numb the pain.
Evangelists are messengers who say that life doesn’t have to be that way.
Sometimes, I think that Christians are like jury foreman when they proclaim a gospel message to an unbeliever.
During the trial, the judge hands over the case for the jury to deliberate and reach a verdict. After the jury is assembled, the judge then asks for their verdict.
The jury foreman stands up and declares, “We find the defendant… not guilty!”
It’s an astonishing verdict!
The evidence was overwhelming. The person who was standing trial was obviously guilty. They broke the law. And not just once, but many, many times over the course of their life!
There was no attempt to make deal or a plea bargain, because the evidence was too great.
Until Jesus testified.
He told the jury in a moving testimony that he is guilty. He took the fall. He accepted the consequences. For all people.
The judge bangs the gavel and the verdict is rendered and sealed in court.
The defendant – although guilty – has been justified. They are free to go. Their stain has been permanently removed from the records.
The defendant has the freedom to receive the verdict and walk out of the courtroom, or they can reject the verdict and ask to be sent back to prison. They have the option to remain attached to the world and chained by their sins.
Faith in Christ has a difficult time fathoming rejection of grace and persistent unbelief. We look with astonishment upon those who reject such a valuable treasure and an amazing verdict. And that’s one reason why evangelism can be so difficult. The gospel appears as foolishness to an unbelieving world. Human pride can appear so foolish in the midst of astonishing grace.
In God’s wisdom, he asks his people to continue to pronounce an astonishing verdict to the world. It is a verdict that was rendered before the beginning of time.
Like the jury foreman, we can stand up and pronounce, “Not guilty!” Because of what Christ has already done.
We can proclaim, “Believe. Your sins are fully forgiven” Because grace came in the flesh and took the punishment in our place.
Despite the Fall in the garden, Jesus Christ takes the fall for us. That’s astonishing grace.
And that’s the Good News we can share with the world.