We have talked about surrender and forgiveness as it pertains to grace. I think that these are primarily personal aspects of grace and how we interact with God. I think that they are the foundation for the Christian life and they are a lifetime endeavor to work out as we have been talking about. It is primary for us to incorporate them into our lives for healthy Christian living so that we get the promises of God, peace and joy. When we have that we can withstand the pressures and circumstances of this world. I think that as we get a deeper understanding and implementation of grace in our personal lives we then have the opportunity to take that grace and practically use it to impact our world for the kingdom. The aspect of grace that I want to talk about today is service. I think that many people believe this to be a natural outpouring and activity of our Christian faith, but I really believe that while service is the responsibility of all Christians there is a deeper and higher level that God wants us all to aspire to and that can only happen with grace and an advanced level of intimacy with God.

I believe that God has an individual calling on each of our lives and I believe it to be our responsibility to get to that place where God can use us for His glory. Higher purpose requires deeper intimacy and that only occurs with more grace and constant filling of the Holy Spirit. It’s kind of an exclusive club that is available to all of us, but to get there we have to be totally dedicated to the cause. This is why surrender and forgiveness become prerequisites for service. We deepen all aspects of grace in ourselves as we draw closer to Him and then the fruit becomes evident and we fulfill the calling for our lives. I believe that there is that thing or things that God wants us to individually accomplish with Him. Not that God needs us because He doesn’t. I was thinking about something the other day and it’s not something that I have thought about for the first time, but I sometimes have those moments when God blows my mind as I get a fresh understanding of something that I think I know. I was thinking about how the God of the universe was before creation. In total harmony and fellowship within the trinity, and God, because of His nature, felt compelled to create human beings because of one and only one reason. God is love and while totally content and perfect with the trinity, He knew that there was love in His nature to give and ultimately the potential for it to be given back to Him. He knew everything that was going to happen and yet despite the heartache and pain we would cause Him the prospect of a potentially loving relationship was enough for Him to create the universe and put us in the middle of it. I am awestruck at the thought of the length God has gone just for the chance to have a relationship with me and therefore I am compelled to do the best I can to want to reciprocate. Within all that God has not required anything of us other than allegiance. He does not want us to strive to do anything but devote ourselves to Him and be willing to attempt to follow the will that He has for our lives. He is not asking us for performance just devotion.

The part of grace that particularly applies to service that is most intriguing to me is that we don’t have to do service to be loved by God. As humans, I believe we are very performance driven and there is a sense of worthiness and value that we believe to be attained by any kind of work or service. In the world, that’s how it works. Value is determined by ability and or achievement. But not with God. God loves and has loved every human being since the beginning of time exactly the same. He can’t love us any more and He can’t love us any less. This is hard for humans to understand because we are inundated with the idea of performance and often we take a performance based mentality to our relationship and service for God and this totally goes against grace. I am not saying that we shouldn’t serve, but not because we have to, but because we want to. God doesn’t want compulsory behavior. I think He wants us to understand His love and grace so deep that we have trouble doing anything other than love Him and serve Him with all our heart and will.

The best part of the whole process is that God promises that all we have to do is be willing to participate in His service. He promises to forgive us and keep on forgiving us and to sustain us and keep on sustaining us and He will do all the work through us to accomplish His will. Our job is to be willing and available for service and that only is accomplished when we are filled with grace and that only occurs when we are in fellowship with Him. It is impossible for us as humans to accomplish anything that is good for the kingdom outside of His fellowship. Within fellowship the possibilities are endless. My goal is to continue to grow in grace and see what God has in mind for me. I encourage all to do the same. The promised rewards and benefits of peace and joy are endless.

In our first installment on grace we talked about the aspect of surrender as it pertains to grace. We also touched on a common verse as it pertains to grace in which the apostle Paul talked about working out our grace daily. I think that we have only scratched the surface on the depth of that verse though I am sure that we will getting to know more about what I think it means. There are literally thousands of books written on the subject of grace and yet there appears to be this struggle to truly understand it. I think that truly understanding grace is a spiritual exercise in which arrival at a destination should not be the goal as much as maintaining a direction of movement. Surrender, as we talked about last time, I think is the cornerstone. There has to be a level of acceptance and in conjunction a giving of ourselves for grace to take hold and grow. As our key verse implies, the depth of grace and it’s effect in our lives is something that grows and I believe will continue to grow forever. The Lord tells us that even in eternity we will forever know Him more and yet never fully know Him. I think that this expresses the depth of God and in turn His grace.

I think the reason that there has been so many books written about grace is it’s depth and the difficulty to put it into a box and put a bow on it. Since I believe grace to be a fluid process I think that part of the struggle to understand it is the human finite mind wanting to quantify a concept that is not quantifiable. I don’t think that the fact that it is so deep exonerates us from trying to understand it as much as possible though. On that journey I want to do my best to discuss the many aspects of grace specifically areas with which I think we tend to struggle most. We already talked about surrender. Today I want to talk about forgiveness. Let me first say that none of these aspects operate in a vacuum or independently. I think that as we develop in one area of grace there has to be impact in other areas. I think that this can cause what appears to be regression of growth sometimes as we strive to fit the various aspects of grace together as growth in one area impacts another area and our thought of it.

Forgiveness is a delicate subject. Someone once said that everyone wants forgiveness for ourselves and justice for others. Unfortunately, I do not think that this viewpoint will work. Jesus told us to forgive others as we have been forgiven. Easier said than done. To start down the path of considering forgiveness we first have to delineate what it is and define what it looks like in a particular circumstance. Forgiveness is the alleviation of the burden for an action or other transgression. I think that this is one of the issues people have with giving forgiveness and believe it or not receiving it also. If we are giving it we have to give up the right to revenge and in many cases the right for justice. Biblically, the forgiveness offered to us by the death of Jesus on the cross exonerates us of any burden for our sin. We are called to do the same for our fellow human beings. A tall task. Some people say I will forgive, but I will never forget. Within the context of grace I am not sure that this concept will work. I understand that trust is earned over time and appears to be a totally different discussion than grace, but we can forgive and over time even forget.

Giving forgiveness is something that I think can only truly be done within the context of the supernatural power of God. I believe that His Spirit must guide us in this process. Giving forgiveness applies to others and ourselves. In other words, unless we have accepted forgiveness and are doing that at a deeper level continuously for ourselves we will struggle to be forgiving. This is much more difficult than it would appear. Just like surrender, it is easy for many to understand the concept of forgiveness and our sins being cast as far as the east from the west and God choosing to remember them no more, but it is an entirely different thing to accept forgiveness deep in our soul and realize that we are clean, white as snow, just as if we had not sinned at all. Even with ourselves we tend to forgive but not forget. Now, I believe that we cheapen grace when we arbitrarily sin without thought of the consequence and sight grace as an excuse for us to sin as opposed to a cure from it, but we must understand that we do sin and sometimes we have areas of repeated sin in our lives that we are struggling to overcome. The difference to me is always direction and attitude. Forgiveness and an attitude that chooses to accept it and give it rely on a deeper relationship with God and understanding of grace. As we forgive more our relationship with Him grows and as our relationship with Him grows forgiveness becomes deeper. This is a key aspect to deepening and working out our grace daily.

I get to meet people every day and many of them are Christians struggling with daily living. Many of them struggle with the basic truths of the faith and some struggle in applying those truths. I think some of the issues that people have are because the enemy is good at using the culture to cloud God’s truth from the minds of people and create ambiguity as it pertains to what to believe and then, as a result, how to live. But then, there is another group of people that are strong in the truth and whether they are new Christians, young Christians or people still seeking they share one common issue. The issue is believing that grace exists and the extent of it. I think that it is easy to intellectually ponder and even accept the thought of unconditional love, the forgiveness of sins and eternal destiny determined by the atoning act of Jesus, our savior, but then to have difficulty actually letting the heart embrace it.

Grace is an endless well of unmerited favor that all people have access to and that can create peace, but there is a level of interaction with it that is required to truly accept it and have it make a difference. Some people say they accept it, but all they really are doing is understanding the idea of grace, but not truly engaging in it. The apostle Paul talked about working out our grace daily and a lot of people have given their opinion of what that means, but I am saying that this is what it means. It’s not at all about an intellectual understanding of it, but a deep impression that gets deeper like the pounding of a die on the casting of our heart. It’s not new information just old information that is proven to be true over and over and over again.

The question at hand is how do we do it? How do we let go of what we want and what we are doing now and embrace grace? The answer to that is simple, but not easy. We have to surrender our will and then embrace the heart and will of God. Again, simple in concept, but extremely hard sometimes in practice. I think about the concept of surrender and I think about the thought of a general who gets to that place where they are not going to win and the only option is to surrender or perish. I think that this is the crux of accepting grace. We must surrender or perish. Funny thing is, some generals would rather perish than surrender and they profess some level of honor in doing that. I think that Christians can sometimes do the same thing and  would rather perish at some level than surrender.

I know this analogy is not perfect when it comes to grace, but I hope it gets the point across because it would be ridiculous to compare the loving God of the universe who has only the best interest at heart of all humanity to a general who is engaging in battle with an enemy who only wants to destroy them. But, is it a bad analogy? I think that sometimes we see the hand of God as somehow being a tyrant who just wants to control and take over the turf of our heart and we rebel with some warped sense of honor and fall on our own sword rather than surrender. I am finding more and more this issue to be an issue of the will and I get that it’s hard and our sin nature and maybe our experience tells us to never give up total control. Some people give up some, some people give up a lot, but I think we all have those strongholds in our life that we are not giving up. Again, this is what Paul was talking about when he said to work out our grace daily.

I don’t think that God is unreasonable in this area either. I think God would love for all of us to surrender one hundred percent of our souls and our will at one time and merge our life with His will. Reality is that is probably not going to happen. We all embrace God’s grace at different rates and at different times. The issue is not how fast and how much, but whether it is going on. Are we on the path of grace and growing in it? Sometimes, we are for a while and sometimes we struggle and sometimes we even stop or regress. The wonderful part about grace is that God is just waiting for surrender, any surrender at any time. Surrender means that He has our attention and that is the cornerstone of grace. More to come.