God’s Grace

“But God is so rich in mercy, and He loved us so much, that even though we were dead because of our sins, He gave us life when He raised Christ from the dead. (It is only by God’s grace that you have been saved!)”‭‭.
Ephesians‬ ‭2:4-5‬ ‭NLT‬

In the last blog post, we considered the enormity of our perilous status before God. Paul reviewed the sinful state of mankind, and the role of the devil in corrupting and contaminating the world, leaving rebellious and sinful people in the firing line for God’s anger. Thankfully, Paul reminded us that there is a “but” in God’s world. “But God…”. And it is when we read this that the realisation that God has a solution to our sinful state brings us to our knees in deep thankfulness. You see, in our sin pandemic, God’s vaccine comes quietly, effectively and completely, bringing healing and forgiveness for our rebellious and sinful natures. 

But what is this “But”? Paul goes on to mention four key words – “mercy”, “love”, “life” and “grace”. God’s mercy is without dispute. The very fact that we are allowed to complete a pilgrimage through our lives, free to make choices in the way we live, in the way we view God, can only point to a merciful God. And not a God who is stingy and mean, dispensing the bare minimum of mercy. Paul emphasises that God is “rich in mercy”. His mercy is present in copious quantities, providing every opportunity and more for a rebellious world. And Paul explains that God is merciful because He loves us. How can God, rejected by so many, love us? Finding that most people effectively shake their fists in His face declaring that He is unnecessary for their lives, even if He exists? But love us He does, again without limit. God never says, for example, that He will only love us on a Sunday if we go to church. It’s all the time. 24/7. Regardless of where we are and what we are doing. Paul then draws an analogy with a corpse. A dead body. Because that is what sinful people are. That’s what sin does to us. It kills us spiritually. The “but” is completed by God giving us life, the same life that came “when He raised Christ from the dead”.

Finally, in these two verses, Paul points out that we have been saved through God’s grace. The acronym, God’s Riches At Christ’s Expense amply describes what this grace is. Unmerited favour. From a God who cares for every human being regardless of race, age, or sex. I recently tried to share the love of God with a man who lives in the village close by. But his sad response was that he had looked into “all this religious stuff”. It wasn’t for him he said – he wanted to join “the party that’s going on downstairs”. There was an opportunity accorded to him to grasp God’s grace and turn towards God, but he rejected it. Sadly, unless the seed planted bears fruit – and there’s always time for that – God is patient, kind and gracious – he will find out that the party he hoped to join might not be quite what he expected.

We have been saved. Well, those of us who have responded to God’s love by embracing the wonderful Son of God, Jesus Christ Himself. Believing in Him. Responding to His love and mercy by declaring His Lordship over our lives. Accepting His Life-giving Spirit. All by His grace. What else can we do other than fall to our knees in deep thankfulness? 

Forgetful People

Don’t kill them, for my people soon forget such lessons; stagger them with Your power, and bring them to their knees, O Lord our shield.
‭Psalms‬ ‭59:11‬ ‭NLT‬‬

Psalm 59 continues the epic journey of David and his thoughts as he focuses on avoiding Saul’s malign attempts to end his life. In this Psalm, David rants before God about the nasty people who are out to get him, waiting for him to return home. They are “criminals”, “murderers”, “vicious dogs”, people with “sinful lips”. David doesn’t have much good to say about them at all. But at the end of the Psalm he again lapses into the comfort of his relationship with God, waiting for Him to rescue him. 

But today’s verse is interesting. David knows what people and their memories and thought processes are like. He knew that if God killed David’s enemies it would be a warning to some at the time but then quickly forgotten. Human nature is still the same today. Take for example someone’s driving behaviour if they see a road traffic accident caused by speeding. Their driving style and speed might moderate for a few miles, but for how long will it stay that way? Sooner or later they will forget or ignore what happened and carry on as they did before. The reoffending rate of people imprisoned for burglary is another example. Many soon forget their period of incarceration and return to their old ways. It is a trait of human nature to forget sinful events committed by others or ourselves, adopting an “it will never happen to me” mentality, or ”I’ll be more careful next time and not get caught”.  

However, David appealed to God to “stagger [such people] with [His] power and bring them to their knees“. He knew that someone repenting of their sins, on their knees before God, would have a far greater impact on the society around them. I know a lovely man in Glasgow, jailed in his teens for a drug offence. He found God in prison and is now the Pastor of a church in the very same community where he committed his drug offences. What an impact he has had! He is a constant reminder to the people in that community of God’s grace being available for all sinners, even him. David knew, and recorded in his Psalm, that a life snuffed out will have no future value, but one redeemed from sin will last forever. If my Pastor friend had continued in a life of drugs and crime, there would have been no lasting legacy, no outpouring of God’s grace, no constant reminder that there is a God in Heaven who cares for all mankind, and particularly those in his community.

So we need to be gracious. We need to pray, and keep praying, for those in our communities, workplaces, families, circle of friends, anyone we know who may be causing us difficulties. These people may not be enemies in the way David describes, but they may be telling lies, or posting unfavourable comments on social media about us. They may be ignoring us in the street. They may even be unpleasant to our faces. But prayer changes things. As we pray God will work on their hearts, and give them the opportunity to kneel before Him, asking for His forgiveness. And as we pray, He will change our hearts too, helping us see these people through His eyes, even loving them as He loves us. I can only say in response to such a gracious God, “What a Saviour!” Do I hear an “Amen”?