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Friday, December 9, 2016

A Discovery About Grace



Grace is one of the popular Christian bywords. Preachers talk about extending grace, living grace, showing God’s grace, etc. Let’s define grace according to the dictionary.

     Grace—“The word ‘grace’ in biblical parlance can, like forgiveness, repentance, 
          regeneration, and salvation, mean something as broad as describing the whole of God's activity 
          toward man or as narrow as describing one segment of that activity. An accurate, common
          definition describes grace as the unmerited favor of God toward man.” 
                                                                      (Baker’s Evangelical Dictionary of Biblical Theology)

I was proofreading a doctrinal statement, and I came across several references on the subject of grace. I looked up all the words translated grace in the Bible. To my surprise, I noticed that the word grace is used almost exclusively to express what God did for us in salvation. It isn’t about people extending grace; it’s all about God’s actions toward mankind!

Let’s read a selection of these passages:
  • But Noah found grace in the eyes of the LORD (Genesis 6:8).
  • And he (Moses) said, If now I have found grace in thy sight, O Lord, let my Lord, I pray thee, go among us; for it is a stiffnecked people; and pardon our iniquity and our sin, and take us for thine inheritance (Exodus 34:9).
  • For the law was given by Moses, but grace and truth came by Jesus Christ (John 1:17).
  • But we believe that through the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ we shall be saved, even as they (Acts 15:11).
  • But none of these things move me, neither count I my life dear unto myself, so that I might finish my course with joy, and the ministry, which I have received of the Lord Jesus, to testify the gospel of the grace of God. . . . And now, brethren, I commend you to God, and to the word of his grace, which is able to build you up, and to give you an inheritance among all them which are sanctified (Acts 20:24, 32).
  • Being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus (Romans 3:24).
  • By whom also we have access by faith into this grace wherein we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God (Romans 5:2).
  • Moreover the law entered, that the offence might abound. But where sin abounded, grace did much more abound: That as sin hath reigned unto death, even so might grace reign through righteousness unto eternal life by Jesus Christ our Lord (Romans 5:20-21).
  • We then, as workers together with him, beseech you also that ye receive not the grace of God in vain (2 Corinthians 6:1).
  • For ye know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that, though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, that ye through his poverty might be rich (2 Corinthians 8:9).
  • For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God (Ephesians 2:8).
  • That being justified by his grace, we should be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life (Titus 3:7).
  • But he (God) giveth more grace. Wherefore he saith, God resisteth the proud, but giveth grace unto the humble (James 4:6).
  • Elect according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, through sanctification of the Spirit, unto obedience and sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ: Grace unto you, and peace, be multiplied (1 Peter 1:2).
Do you see how grace is tied in with faith and salvation? Did you notice that it’s not usually about human-to-human relationships but rather God to man? To be fair, we’re supposed to imitate God’s grace in our relationships with others. The Bible says, As every man hath received the (spiritual) gift, even so minister the same one to another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God (1 Peter 4:10).

Yes, we extend grace to others. We treat them as we would like to be treated. We care. We rejoice with them that do rejoice, and weep with them that weep (Romans 12:15). We give to the needy and are compassionate. But, it’s important not to lose sight of the reason we do these things: the gospel of salvation in Jesus!

Grace is about what God did to reconcile us with Him. It’s about Jesus coming to earth as a Baby and becoming man in order to pay the debt for my sins and yours. Grace is the completely unmerited favor of God towards man. It’s amazing! It should humble us and make us so thankful.

And, we should honor Him in everything we do.

The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ
be with you all. Amen.
(Revelation 22:21, the last verse of Bible)



Monday, December 5, 2016

Santa Knows! (With Seven Ideas for a Christ-centered Christmas)


The popular Christmas song* says,

“He knows when you are sleeping.
He knows when you’re awake,
He knows if you’ve been bad or good,
So be good for goodness’ sake.”

Santa’s omniscience and omnipresence were probably invented by sneaky parents who wanted their children to behave during the months before Christmas.

It comes across like bribery: if you’re a good little boy or girl, you’ll get presents. If not . . . (wicked laugh, here) . . . you’ll only get a lump of coal or a bundle of sticks in your stocking.

My brother and I decided to be especially good before Christmas!

I was convinced that Santa knew.

I was a believer.

I didn’t want to displease Santa, and I wanted my presents!

There is Someone who actually sees us all the time. He is everywhere. It’s much more important that children are taught that God sees them. It’s important for adults, too. If people feared God like they used to fear the myth of Santa Claus, the world would be transformed.

The Bible says,
  • For the eyes of the LORD run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to shew himself strong in the behalf of them whose heart is perfect toward him (2 Chronicles 16:9).
  • The eyes of the LORD are in every place, beholding the evil and the good (Proverbs 15:3).

God sees and evaluates. Look at the examples of Omri and Asa.
  • But Omri wrought evil in the eyes of the LORD, and did worse than all that were before him (1 Kings 16:25).
  • And Asa did that which was good and right in the eyes of the LORD his God (2 Chronicles 14:2).

The Lord is everywhere, and He knows everything.
  • Whither shall I go from thy spirit? or whither shall I flee from thy presence? If I ascend up into heaven, thou art there: if I make my bed in hell, behold, thou art there. If I take the wings of the morning, and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea; Even there shall thy hand lead me, and thy right hand shall hold me (Psalm 139:7-10).
  • Jesus said, For there is nothing covered, that shall not be revealed; neither hid, that shall not be known (Luke 12:2).

We’re all accountable for our actions.
  • Even a child is known by his doings, whether his work be pure, and whether it be right (Proverbs 20:11).
  • Rejoice, O young man, in thy youth; and let thy heart cheer thee in the days of thy youth, and walk in the ways of thine heart, and in the sight of thine eyes: but know thou, that for all these things God will bring thee into judgment (Ecclesiastes 11:9).
  • So then every one of us shall give account of himself to God (Romans 14:12).

So, what does this have to do with boys and girls, teens, and adults today?
  • Because we know that God knows everything and sees us wherever we are, we will be more conscious of our actions. We will want to please our heavenly Father. We will change.
  • We will also be mindful that we have constant access to the Lord. For the eyes of the Lord are over the righteous, and his ears are open unto their prayers: but the face of the Lord is against them that do evil (1 Peter 3:12). He’s right there, and He wants to listen to us. This should encourage our hearts.

At Christmas, we would do well to teach our children about Jesus, rather than Santa. Here are seven ideas for making your Christmas more Christ-centered:
  1. Get rid of the Santa myth from the very beginning. Tell the children it's just a story and that the Santas they see are just people dressed up in costumes.
  2. Put up a manger scene, so that children can visualize Jesus' nativity. There are several hands-on manger scenes made for children, and you can also put up very pretty ones that aren’t to touch.
  3. Read the Christmas story to your children.
  4. Act out the Christmas story at Christmastime. My family did it every year, and we loved it—until we got to be teens.
  5. Take your children to a live nativity scene at a church near you.
  6. Make sure you connect the gospel (Jesus’ death for our sins, burial, and resurrection) with His birth. This is a wonderful opportunity to share why He came to earth as a Baby.
  7. As a family, give to those less fortunate. God gave us Jesus, therefore, we give to others. Make sure gospel tracts go into each present.

Have a blessed Christmas!

____________


* “Santa Claus is Coming to Town” was written by John Frederick Coots and Haven Gillespie. It was first heard in 1934.