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I am always amazed at the strength of theological convictions held by those who purport to not believe in God.
In a previous blog, I mentioned praying for grace as part of my prayer notebook. Actually, I have two sections on this topic; in the first, I pray for standard grace, and in the second, I pray for divine, abundant grace. Most people when praying for grace ask God to bless their deserving works beyond what they would normally reap. This is completely acceptable but is not grace. Grace by definition is receiving that which is not deserved. By divine grace, I am not asking God to bless my deserving works, nor am I simply asking Him to bless in those works that I have left undone. Rather, by calling for divine grace, I am asking Him to also bless those things done wrong. Hence, I truly ask for that which is not deserved.
Just this past week I was sharing Christ with Dimitri (in Russia), and he, an atheist, was questioning whether it was possible that the God he did not believe in would actually save men by grace alone. If that is true, why would men serve God? Why not just become a Christian and continue living the way you wanted? He then shared adamantly that he did not believe God would save men by grace. He was arguing about what the God he did not believe in would and would not do in terms of salvation. Not, if there were a God what would be plausible for this God to do, but rather, what God would or would not do (even though he professes no belief in this God). It is amazing to me that those who do not believe in God would hold such strong theological convictions. It is as if people who do not believe in extra-terrestrials were to argue with you about the size, shape and composition of the home planets of these same unbelieved-in extra-terrestrials - as well as the type of space ships used and details of their personal appearance.
This particular issue is on my mind this morning as I meditate in my time alone with God on the grace of God as it pertains not only to my salvation but also to my ministry. God the Holy Spirit assures me in Romans 11:29 that â€śthe gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable.â€ť This passage reminds me that in spite of my frailties, God, because of His grace, will continue to use me. Not only will He give me the Holy Spirit by grace, not only will He not take His Holy Spirit from me by grace, but in addition, His Holy Spirit will continue to use me in the ministry by grace.
Early in my disciple-making ministry, it was not uncommon to hear messages on â€śbeing put on the shelf by God.â€ť In other words, we were saved by grace but our spiritual gifts, our ministry and even our calling could be lost forever. We could be set on a shelf by God; â€śbenched,â€ť so to speak, not to play again until our death or His return. I remember the burden that was lifted from my heart the first time God the Holy Spirit spoke to me through Romans 11:29. A sister passage has been equally comforting is Galatians 3:1-3 which states â€śYou foolish Galatians, who has bewitched you, before whose eyes Jesus Christ was publicly portrayed as crucified? This is the only thing I want to find out from you: did you receive the Spirit by the works of the Law, or by hearing with faith? Are you so foolish? Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh?â€ť
Many Christians, who will argue passionately with Dimitri that the God he does not believe in does, indeed, save by grace, will then argue (just as passionately) that the God they do believe in, who saves by grace, will then, just as quickly, discard them by works. I do not know which is more illogical.
It is important for me, as a minister, to not only preach salvation by grace, not only live salvation by grace, but to minister by the grace of God as well.
This, then, is my prayer this morning â€“ that God would extend His grace to me, not as a one-time historical act in the past but as a daily, hourly event in my life and ministry. I throw myself on Godâ€™s grace with the expectation of receiving what I do not deserve (grace's very definition). I throw myself on Godâ€™s grace to receive what I do not deserve in terms of my salvation, yes, but I also throw myself on Godâ€™s grace to receive what I do not deserve in my daily life and ministry experience.
And so I pray:
â€śO Lord, I plead for Your divine grace - deliver me from the consequences of my sin and folly - for the consequences due have fallen on Jesus as my substitutionary sacrifice. Let it not affect my life - be as if it had never occurred - no evil ramifications, no penalty, no judgment, no reaping the sin I have sown. The ripple will not reach the shore, for it will be as if the stone were never cast. Neither the physical nor the spiritual ramifications of my sin will come upon me, for God has not only forgotten my sin but delivered me from the path of its incoming consequences. No punishment, no retribution. No debt to be paid, no ill will on Godâ€™s part to be undone. No favor to be curried, no love to be rekindled, no impending humiliation, no reminder of failures past, no one last jab, slight or score to settle before it is all over.
Satan, the world and the flesh will have no hold, no opening, no accusations. It will be as if it never occurred. The bullet is dodged, the tide has ebbed, the flow is stopped, the blow is checked. I, Your helpless child, am plucked from the path of the rushing train of judgment. I plead the blood of Christ, who has fully absorbed and paid the judgment of God. The pain, the suffering, the humiliation, the grief, the sorrows, the judgments, the vengeance, the wrath, the anger, the retribution, all this and more has Christ suffered and paid for as my substitutionary sacrifice on the cross some 2,000 years ago. Christ and Christ alone, the perfect substitutionary sacrifice received in His body, in full, while on the cross.
The full consequences of my sins, having been fully imputed and then punished, leave nothing left to be paid - God is propitiated â€“ completely, totally, fully satisfied. The only ramification in my life will be good â€“ Godâ€™s grace. That which is good and only that which is good will result and must be defined as such. I need never cringe in fear thinking, â€śWhat bad thing will God now do to me for this sin?â€ť For all my sins were imputed to Christ while on the cross 2,000 years ago and, then, all the â€śbadâ€ť things were done to Him as He hung there in my place, as my personal substitutionary sacrifice. And God, having fully expended His infinite wrath on His beloved Sonâ€™s body, is satisfied. Nothing is left for me except the grace of God.â€ť
I once had the unenviable task of testifying in a criminal trial against a fellow minister. He was indeed guilty of a most heinous and despicable crime. Although not a victim of this man, I did give evidence when subpoenaed and told as I had sworn on the Bible â€śthe truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth.â€ť Afterwards, I received a number of phone calls from friends of this man (now incarcerated), demanding to know how I, as a Christian and minister, could testify against a fellow Christian and minister. I answered them straight. â€śThere is a line drawn. On one side is this perpetrator of a heinous sin. On the other side is the victim, the victimâ€™s family, the law and the Word of God which not only condemns the sin but justifies the state in its prosecution. I stand with the victim, the family, the law and the Word of God. With whom do you stand?â€ť
There is a line drawn. On the one side are non-Christians, who feel strongly about the God in which they do not believe or the false god(s) in which they do believe. They hold that neither salvation nor the Christian life nor the ministry may be lived out in reliance and expectation of the grace of God â€“ to receive that which is not deserved, daily, hourly, each step of the way. On the other side is the One, true God the Father, the cross and the blood of Christ, the indwelling Holy Spirit and the holy, eternal, inerrant, written Word of God â€“ all promising that, not only salvation but also both the Christian life and ministry, may be lived out in reliance and expectation of the grace of God â€“ to receive that which is not deserved, daily, hourly, each step of the way. I stand with God, with Christ who shed His blood for me, with the indwelling Holy Spirit who has made me His temple and with the holy, eternal, inerrant written Word of God.
Where do you stand?
By His mercy, II Corinthians 4:1 Rev. John S. Mahon Director â€“ Grace Community Int. â€“ St. Petersburg, Russia
Oct 2012 - ConvictionsAs I shared salvation by grace with Dmitri, I was once again amazed by the theological convictions...