Going Back To The Basics: We Are Saved By Grace, And Grace Alone

grace

So, I truly believe the Lord has been working His will in my heart and has been gently convicting me on something that is a real struggle for me. I have always been a bit of a critic about pretty much anything and everything (Shame on me, I know) and have had a tendency towards being a bit judgmental….okay, OK a lot judgmental. The problem with this is, I have found that being in a constant state of criticism and being judgmental has lead me to have a spirit that is dry. I might have referenced this phrasing in my Soul Detox Series, but Groeschel, the author, would call something like this issue “a poison that I am ingesting every time I engage in such an attitude.” So, before I go further I feel compelled to pray for forgiveness, not just from my Heavenly Father but for those I have judged or criticized  aloud or in my thoughts.

Dear God,

I thank you so much for the life you have blessed with me, and all of the wonderful gifts you have bestowed upon me and my family. Thank you for the grace you have given to me, such a wretched sinner and someone who is so unworthy and undeserving of you love, forgiveness and mercy. Lord, if you have bestowed such grace upon me then who do I think I am that I should be exempt from extending the very same grace you have given me? God forgive me of my pride and my sinful attitude. Help me to turn from this attitude and spirit. Help me to forgo my pride, and in humility go to those I have offended and ask for their forgiveness. God, might they be more gracious then I have been, and in extending grace to me show me more about what grace truly looks like and strive to do the same in the future. Remove in me all things that get in the way from Your work and sharing the Gospel. Remove in me anything that is not of you and will hinder my testimony. God cut me, mold me, make me, and shape me into what you would have me be, all for Your honor and glory.

Amen

There has been a couple of different instances that have kind of poked at me and have brought my attention to this particular issue, but the one that has really brought me full circle is the sermon that was preached in my church today. Well, first let me bring this full circle before I delve into everything. You see, I have always believed and agreed that God’s love, mercy and grace are HUGE in the Bible and obviously necessary to understand for salvation. I mean, when you are sharing the gospel to an unbeliever, the go to verse is John 3:16, “For God so LOVED the world that He sent His one and only son, that whomsoever believes upon Him shall not perish BUT HAVE ETERNAL LIFE.” The issue I have been struggling with lately is forgetting the other parts of the Bible, but I am coming to find that when it comes to winning hearts for God the focus should be upon sharing the gospel with others. So, I am going to do a quick overview of the sermon I heard this morning and then explain how it helped convict me and reminded me that grace is HUGE and should not only be shared but should be exhibited and given freely to those around me.

The message was preached from Acts 16:6-40 and was titled, “Christian Conversion.”

My pastor preached about the conversion and baptism of Lydia, the slave girl, and the Philippian jailer. He spoke about how vastly different each individual was: Lydia being someone of wealth and presumably good character, the slave girl who was obviously repressed, poor, and taken advantage of by her owners, and then the jailer who was presumably a regular, working class man. Although each person was individually so very different they could all join together because Christ was what they shared in common. They, though being so radically different from each other could come together as a  community and family of believers. I love how he said if he had to sum up Acts 16 into one sentence it would be, ” The Gospel Is For ANYONE!” That if someone thinks, “I have too many skeletons in my closet or so many things wrong with me that I am not worthy”, that they should look to the conversion of the slave girl. Her story is one of encouragement and a testimony to the power of God.

My pastor preached about the conversion and baptism of Lydia, the slave girl, and the Philippian jailer. He spoke about how vastly different each individual was: Lydia being someone of wealth and presumably good character, the slave girl who was obviously repressed, poor, and taken advantage of by her owners, and then the jailer who was presumably a regular, working class man. Although each person was individually so very different they could all join together because Christ was what they shared in common. They, though being so radically different from each other could come together as a  community and family of believers. I love how he said if he had to sum up Acts 16 into one sentence it would be, ” The Gospel Is For ANYONE!” That if someone thinks, “I have too many skeletons in my closet or so many things wrong with me that I am not worthy”, that they should look to the conversion of the slave girl. Her story is one of encouragement and a testimony to the power of God.

So you might be asking, “How in the world did this story apply?” Well, in the portion of the message about the jailer, he (our pastor) points out the part where the jailer, who was the same man that shackled them in chains, after being converted washes Paul and Silas’ wounds and invites them into his home to eat and fellowship (16:33).

This message was more to remind us that God can use anyone and draw anyone to Himself, and this is so very true, but for me it was just another gentle reminder to me that it is only God who can open people’s hearts to receive His message and our main purpose is to share the Word in truth and love. I know God was working to open my heart today because before the sermon we sang a song called  “Grace Alone” and the lyrics are:

“I was an orphan lost at the fall
Running away when I’d hear your call
But Father, you worked your will

I had no righteousness of my own
I had no right to draw near your throne
But Father, you loved me still

And in love before you laid the world’s foundation
You predestined to adopt me as your own
You have raised me so high u above my station
I’m a child of God by grace and grace alone

You left your home to seek out the lost
You knew the great and terrible cost
But Jesus, your face was set

I worked my fingers down to the bone
Nothing I did could ever atone
But Jesus, you paid my debt

By your blood I have redemption and salvation
Lord, you died that I might reap what you have sown
And you rose that I might be a new creation
I am born again by grace and grace alone

I was in darkness all of my life
I never knew the day from the night
But Spirit, you made me see

I swore I knew the way on my own
Head full of rocks, a heart made of stone
But Spirit, you moved in me

At your touch my sleeping spirit was awakened
On my darkened heart the light of Christ has shone
Called into a kingdom that cannot be shaken
Heaven’s citizen by grace and grace alone

So I’ll stand in faith by grace and grace alone
I will run the race by grace and grace alone
I will slay my sin by grace and grace alone
I will reach the end by grace and grace alone”

There is nothing good in me outside of Christ and it is only by God’s great grace that I stand in the faith. So, I have been humbled to two things: focus on the grace He has bestowed upon me and ask Him to open my heart to the changes that I need to be making, and share the gospel with others but then standing back and trust that God will open their hearts to hear, receive, and change if it is His will to draw them to Himself.

I’m learning, only by the grace of God, that there may be instances in which correction or reproof are needed but the overwhelming message that needs to be shared ALWAYS is His love, mercy and grace.

1 Peter 4:1-10 says,

“Since therefore Christ suffered in the flesh, arm yourselves with the same way of thinking, for whoever has suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin,  so as to live for the rest of the time in the flesh no longer for human passions but for the will of God.  For the time that is past suffices for doing what the Gentiles want to do, living in sensuality, passions, drunkenness, orgies, drinking parties, and lawless idolatry.  With respect to this they are surprised when you do not join them in the same flood of debauchery, and they malign you;  but they will give account to him who is ready to judge the living and the dead.  For this is why the gospel was preached even to those who are dead, that though judged in the flesh the way people are, they might live in the spirit the way God does. The end of all things is at hand; therefore be self-controlled and sober-minded for the sake of your prayers. Above all, keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins.  Show hospitality to one another without grumbling.  As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace:”

We are called to be stewards of God’s grace and I think I have forgotten this and have really been in need of a reminder of this truth. I hope this truth might find you and serve as a helpful reminder, as well as an encouragement if you too are struggling with the issue of criticism being judgmental.

 

 

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