From the Preacher’s Pen…
Many years ago, a fellow preacher commented: “We’ve allowed the denominations to steal grace, the cross, and the Holy Spirit from us. It’s high time we got up a posse and got them back!”
He certainly makes an important point as many times Christians can seem bothered by someone wearing a cross or mentioning grace or the Holy Spirit. Perhaps it is time for us to remember that those things belong to God and His people and NOT to the false teachers of the world.
Let’s begin with Grace as it is one of those Bible terms that sometimes cause us to cringe. Why? Because, like the cross, we see it misused by others. But to fear God’s grace is to miss out on a marvelous, precious gift that God Himself gives to His children:
Grace: God’s Marvelous Gift
Most of us have treasured memories of a special gift. I still remember the Christmas I got my first bicycle. When morning finally arrived, I couldn’t wait for everyone to get up so I could try out my bike. That gives us a starting point for one of the most amazing and precious, but misunderstood, gifts of God.
What is this thing called grace? God is called a gracious God and we are supposed to show grace to others. In Romans, the word is used 21 times and includes the idea of mercy and kindness. It also includes the concept of freeing from harmful, offensive or sinful things. OK, so much for the dictionary, what does it really mean?
Remember that bicycle? I couldn’t earn it since I had no money. You can be sure my parents were not into buying bikes for all the kids in town. I didn’t receive it because I was so handsome and intelligent. I was given it because of our relationship. My parents bought me what I could not get for myself; they did it because they loved their son.
What saves you? Paul says we are “now justified by His grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus” (Romans 3:24). In saving us, God takes us into His family and as family members, He gives us gifts, the greatest being the gift of salvation (see Ephesians 1:3-14).
Sounds great, but aren’t we saved by baptism or by going to church or by doing lots of religious things? Look back at Romans 3:24, which says redemption is in Christ. How do we get into Christ? Romans 6:3 says we are baptized into Christ. Baptism makes us a part of Christ and thus a part of God’s family. Once we are in God’s family, He gives us gifts.
Can we separate salvation into several steps then isolate one single item as the magic ingredient that saves us? Once isolated can we make it our pill, swallow it and instantly be saved? No, salvation is not like that at all.
Baptism of just “getting wet,” never has and never will save anyone. It’s only useful when combined with the other ingredients that make up salvation. Going to church or living a good life will never save anyone. Only God’s grace can save, and He only gives that to those who accept and obey His will. In so doing they become a part of His family also known as “the church” (see Acts 2:47).
What if I don’t accept? A brother attended a denominational funeral where the preacher claimed that the anyone who is “saved” is going to heaven and there was nothing that they could do to prevent their salvation. Suppose I had run away from home before Christmas and never returned. Would I have still received my present? What if I stayed at home but told my parents that I didn’t like the bike and simply never rode it? You and I do not have to accept God’s gifts. We can refuse to come into His family or, once in it, choose to run away. We could even pretend to be a member of His family while accepting none of our blessings. God forces no one to be saved. Since salvation is a gift, you must want it, accept it, make it your own, or else lose it.
For me? We all need to belong. None of us can survive very long without a sense of belonging; be it to a family, a sports club, a gang, a religious group, whatever. Nothing is worth belonging to more than God’s family. When we are a part of that family, God gives us His grace. No one is ever a second-rate member of His family because all are important to Him.
So let’s get with it. If you don’t belong, then you need to get into the family. If you do belong, you need to act like it and so remain in it. Then you’ll find His grace begins to grow in you. And when His grace grows in you, it will overflow and be shared with others.
The God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet. The grace of our Lord Jesus be with you (Romans 16:20). Let’s make a point of enjoying and sharing our rich blessings this week!
— Lester P. Bagley