As we have done in previous Lent and Advent seasons, we are again blogging our way through the Lenten Lectionary Texts. In this season, our prayer is that we will bless and inspire you in your walk between the Now and Not-Yet of the Kingdom. We pray that our meditations will be life-giving to you in your journey.
A reading from the Epistle to the Romans.
By entering through faith into what God has always wanted to do for us—set us right with him, make us fit for him—we have it all together with God because of our Master Jesus. And that’s not all: we throw open our doors to God and discover at the same moment that he has already thrown open his door to us. We find ourselves standing where we always hoped we might stand—out in the wide open spaces of God’s grace and glory, standing tall and shouting our praise.
There’s more to come: we continue to shout our praise even when we’re hemmed in with troubles, because we know how troubles can develop passionate patience in us, and how that patience in turn forges the tempered steel of virtue, keeping us alert for whatever God will do next. In alert expectancy such as this, we’re never left feeling shortchanged. Quite the contrary—we can’t round up enough containers to hold everything God generously pours into our lives through the Holy Spirit!
This is the Word of The Lord.
For most of my life, I understood grace only on a superficial level. I understood the meaning of grace as favor unmerited—one of those “just because” kind of things. Yet, in that understanding of grace, I lacked a revelation of the reality of grace. I didn’t know grace that left you standing “in the wide open spaces…shouting our praise.”
Yet, there came a moment where I came to understand the deep beauty of grace. I came to understand it as more than just unmerited favor and came to understand it as the very outpouring of God’s heart. Grace became to me the most beautiful expression of God’s love. It was a moment where I could look back over my life and see the hand of God moving pieces in the background, setting things up for me to come to know Him more deeply, and wooing me to Himself.
Grace, I came to realize, was expressed in the longing that God had for me to be His friend. His companion. His son. His co-creator.
For years, I had tried to force grace into the box of “anti-legalism.” I had tried to make it the anti-thesis of working for God. I had tried to make it the anti-fundamentalist. Tried to make it something that allowed me to do what I wanted to do. I had tried to make it my “Get-Out-Of-Jail Free” card. Only to find that grace doesn’t work that way.
Grace isn’t the anti. Grace is that which is better than. It’s that which woos us into deeper relationship with God. It’s that which rescues us from drowning in our own filth. It’s that which draws us ever closer to the Creator.
Grace is better than.
For me, that realization came after spending time in the book of Galatians.
Coming to understand God as more than just a task-master. Coming to understand salvation as more than a ticket out of hell. Coming to understand that God didn’t require me to DO, but rather He just wanted me to BE.
Grace is that which places us in deep relationship with God in spite of whatever we have done—whether good or bad. Grace is that which sets us free. It sets us free from struggling to live right. It makes us free to live righteous—in right legal and relational standing with God. It moves us from being workers FOR God and into being workers WITH God.
I came to understand grace as freedom. Not as a freedom to do whatever I wanted, but rather as a freedom to live unburdened by a system of strict rules for the sake of rules. I came to know grace as that which unloosed the harness of legalism.
Christ has set us free to live a free life. So take your stand! Never again let anyone put a harness of slavery on you. — Galatians 5:1 (MSG)
I also came to understand that grace given isn’t meant to be hoarded. Rather grace is given to us, so that we might give it to others. Grace persuades us to move beyond ourselves. It urges us to live out the whole gospel—“blessed to be a blessing” (Genesis 12:2 and Galatians 3:8-9).
Grace is that which spurs us on to labor with God. It is that which positions us as Co-Creators and Kingdom Ambassadors. It is that which enables us to “carry each other’s burdens” (Galatians 6:2) and in that carrying we fulfill the law.
A few years ago as Stephanie and I made our journey back into the arms of God, I came to understand that grace is greater than. In the words of Paul to the churches of Galatia and Ephesus, I came to know that imbedded deep within the character and nature of God is grace. I came to learn that God longs for nothing more than a relationship, and that He will extend grace “Just Because”.
I came to know that grace wasn’t something that I worked to get, or worked because I had. Rather, I was extended grace simply because God wanted to be in relationship with me. And, I learned that because I had been extended grace, I could extend grace to others. In that, I came to know that my extension of grace to others was far better than my desire to work FOR God, because extended grace allowed me to work WITH God.
But, most importantly, I came to the revelation—the deepest means of knowing—that grace is simply greater than.
Grace is greater than.