Pastor's Blog

I Am Saved and Live By Grace Alone

“Is grace confusing?” I think it is. Let me rephrase.

Perhaps I should say, “I am confused by God’s grace.” God's grace itself is not confusing. Nope, not at all. God chooses to love sinners. That's grace in a nutshell. God chooses to love sinners not because they are lovable. Certainly not because sinners make themselves lovable.

God chooses to love sinners because, well, God chooses to love sinners. It is His choice.

Can we agree to that? His choice? His choice.

God chooses to love and, lo and behold, He chooses to love sinners. God works out the details of His choice in such a way that totally satisfies His holiness and, in the process, the sinner is made holy.

Now ... I wouldn't have thought of that.

Staying holy and making holy. All in the service of a choice to love a person so utterly unholy. (me, for example) But that's what God wanted to do. That's what God did.

Where grace confuses is not, surprisingly, in the details. One would think the details would be confusing; they usually are. Yet thousands, yea verily, tens of thousands of terminal academic degrees have been earned mining the details of grace. People have picked apart the details for millennia. Literal tons of tomes have been written unpacking the details.

Such as?

  • Imputed righteousness.
  • Propitiation.
  • Forensic justification.
  • Sacrifice.
  • The tension of past and future forgiveness.

The list of details goes on and on and on, like a trail path disappearing into a darkening forest.

And it's not that the details are unimportant. They are important! Those details reveal the depth, breadth, height and scope of the larger picture of God’s grace. Becoming familiar with the details makes us more comfortable, more certain of the wonder of God's grace. 

But we are not saved by details.

We are saved and we live by God’s grace alone. The center of God’s grace to me—a sinner, surely!—is not a detail unearthed through torturous theological struggle. At it’s essence, God’s grace to me is His choice to love me.

Why would He love me? The confusion lies with me, not with God.

I know I am not worthy of His love. I know it in my bones. I know it as surely as I breathe. The only way I can even imagine (falsely!) my own love-a-bility is the fantasy where God loves me because I'm better than the person standing next to me ... all the time ... every day ... always better.

And that's not happening. Not for a year, a week or a second. 'Cause I know I'm not better. The fantasy bubble bursts in my self-awareness. If I were God, I would not love me. God does not evaluate me by looking at the other person. God judges me by Himself. By His own holiness. I'm not standing next to a person working on being comparatively lovable. I'm laid bare before the eternally pure, alien righteousness of Holy God. This can only end one way.

Knowing what you know about you - come on, be honest, no one else knows as much about you as you - ask yourself a question. "How do I stack up against God's against pure and unapproachable holiness?" No fudging. No qualifications. Just answer the question. Are you as lovely as God? As pure? As holy?

No, didn't think so. Me neither.

Why would God make such a choice? That's the confusing part. That's the part I don't understand; can't wrap my mind around. What's in it for Him? He is no less God if I reject Him. He's still God and I'm still a sinner. The ocean is still the ocean even if I never swim in it. Gravity is still gravity if I walk off a mountain cliff.

My rejection of His love for me in no way diminishes Him.

God is no more God if I embrace Him. He doesn't become more God if I love Him. A pure gold ingot is not more gold because I hold it. Air is not more air because I breathe it. Yielding to God's love, accepting it, treasuring it, does not change God. He's still the same God. But I enter a vastly richer life when I glory in the wonder of God's love.

(Which, by the way, God wanted all along.)

 

God chooses to love me. It's His decision. He wants to love me. He wills to love me. He worked out the details. Really, He took out the guess work, any uncertainty whatsoever. God - praise His holy name - is not at all confused by His grace towards me.

My "confusion" about grace is not really confusion at all. God is not confused. No, not confusion but a struggle to let go of my pride.

"Pride," you say?

Yes, pride. Pride, as in, "I am unwilling to let God make His own choice regarding His own love, who receives it and how it is applied. Knowing what I know about God and knowing what I know about me, I wouldn't love me ... if I were God."

You're not God. I'm not God. 

Grace is God's choice - mysterious to me but urgent to Him - to love me. So, am I willing to let God be God and make His own choice?

Yes.

 

 

Posted by Tim Alexander with

Playing googly with God

A story is told about a Louisiana Senator. His state was (and remains) heavily dependent upon the oil industry. Over a period of years Senator Louisiana had been very protective of the oil industry because, understandably, he felt compelled to serve the interests of his constituents. And, too, just maybe his sense of protection might have had something to do with the financial largess the oil industry extended to him every six years or so. But maybe not. Maybe I'm just ... cynical.

The time came when some of the tax exemptions formerly extended to the oil industry were up for reconsideration. Originally those rules were written in to promote exploration and set up distribution networks. But 40 years had passed. The Gulf Coast was, as they say, a "mature" field. The networks were not only established, they had been profitably delivering the product for decades. Perhaps it was, after all, time to re-think some of the earlier provisions.

Senator Louisiana did not think so. He was a man of consummate legislative skill. Throwing himself into the sausage-grinding process of making law, Senator Louisiana used every technical procedure to delay the anticipated changes. But, alas, to no avail. The moment of decision came. Clearly change was about to happen and there seemed to be little he could do about it. The Committee was about to vote on the final version of the bill and then the next stop would be the vote on the Senate floor. Senator Louisiana knew the time was now.

So he told a story about playing cards.

He said he used to play cards with his children. Didn't matter which card game they played, there would always come a time when he held the winning hand and his children would become crestfallen at the prospect of losing.

So they invented the "googly."

What was a "googly"?

A "googly" was that particular hand that particular child was holding, on a Tuesday, or a Saturday, or whatever day it was. Whatever the cards were, the child would say "googly" and the game would be over and he, Senator Louisiana, would lose. The only rule applied to the "googly" was that it could only be played once during the game.

After Senator Louisiana, a honey-dripping raconteur of a story-teller if ever there was one, told his story the rest of the Committee was completely disarmed. What a charming paternal recollection. Sensing the moment, he said, "Gentlemen, I'm calling 'googly'."

They accepted his language and passed a bill in his favor. It was as simple as that. Except it wasn't that simple. Senator Louisiana called "googly," and basically blew up a much larger bill. "Googly" ended up costing all the rest of us a ton of money. But hey, he appealed to the sweet desperation of his children and which old 'Senator Curmudgeon' was going to vote against desperate children? Turns out, Senator Louisiana never played cards with his children. He'd heard the "googly" story at a Rotary Club lunch and thought, "What the heck, I'll tell that story."

How often people play "googly" with God. When faced with the moment of either accepting or rejecting God's authority ... "googly!" And just like the story told by Senator Louisiana, "googly" is never played once. We'll play "googly" with God pretty much every chance we get. What's in our hand will always trump whatever God might be showing us ... because ... we never want to lose. Even to God. Perhaps, especially to God.

When we read Scripture, do we hold a "googly" in our hearts? 

 

 

 

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