Friday, July 14, 2017

they'd have to kick Jesus out, too

The Word for today:
Acts 20:1-16
What is the essential concept in scripture?
Without a doubt, the key concept--the one that allows us to enter into authentic biblical understanding--is the concept of grace.
Paul prominently mentions grace throughout his letters. In today's chapter, he sums up his entire ministry as the task of testifying to the gospel of God's grace. (Acts 20:24)
Then, as he departs from Ephesus in 20:32, he entrusts the people to God and to the message of his grace.
Is grace just a New Testament concept? No way! The great teacher/preacher Kent Hughes sums up his 700-page book on Genesis with this definitive declaration: "The theme of Genesis is grace."
So what is grace? Before I encountered the Bible, I thought grace was a little prayer before a meal. People would "say grace" before supper.
When I first entered into Bible teaching, I tried to explain grace with big words and sweeping statements. I was failing my students.
Then one day, as I was explaining away, a student asked, "Is there a difference between mercy and grace, or are they the same thing?" I backtracked and sidestepped and stumbled through a long-winded reply. When I finally took a breath, I heard my wife's voice pipe up:
"Grace is when we get good things we don't deserve. Mercy is when we don't get bad things we do deserve."
Out of sheer respect, I bowed from the waist and tipped the hat I wasn't wearing. She'd nailed it!
Grace is when we get good things we don't deserve. Grace is the difference between every other religion and the Christian faith.
Religion works its way to God: if you're a better cub scout and gain more merit badges, then you can go to heaven and leave the rest of us losers behind.
But our unique Christian faith teaches that we are all dead in sins (Ephesians 2:1). Dead people, of course, can't work! So God has to do all the saving--every single iota of salvation is accomplished by God!
The Christian faith isn't based on what we do, because we can never do enough. It is based on what God has done for us, when he paid the penalty for all our sins (past, present, and future) and could thereby declare us as righteous as Himself:
God made Christ--who knew no sin--to be sin for us, so that in him we would become the righteousness of God. (2 Corinthians 5:21)
Religion reaches up to grasp for God. But no one has an "arm" long enough! Grace is when God reaches down and lifts us up to Himself.
The transaction at the cross--when Christ took our death and sin, as we received his life and righteousness--is so complete, so thorough, so real, so radical that if they wanted to kick (your name here) out of heaven, they'd have to kick Jesus out, too.
That's true. That's amazing. That's grace.

No comments:

Post a Comment