LIVING IN GRACE
has destroyed death
and has brought life to light
through the gospel.
II Timothy 1:10
After Jacob died, the ten sons who had sold Joseph into slavery fully expected the worst. They knew Joseph had every reason and the power to punish them for the evil they had done to him. They did not understand the power of God’s grace. Nor did they realize Joseph’s intention was to shower them with the very best of the land in which he was the ruler. They believed they would have to bargain their way past his righteous anger. Like isolated soldiers in a war that has ended, they didn’t know the war was over and peace had been declared.
Is this where you see yourself with God? You would like to be God’s friend but you know that you have offended Him. Much like Joseph’s brothers and John Newton you feel wretched. How can you come to a God who is totally righteous and powerful?
On the other hand you may be thinking that when this life is all over you will appear before God with your good deeds and charitable acts. You will offer these to balance the debt you know you have. In either case, you are not alone.
Millions of people are living their lives as if God’s grace did not exist. They haven’t heard that God has declared peace! They are stumbling through life with the mistaken idea that God will evaluate them on what they have done. Not so! Understand there is nothing you have done that is so bad that God can’t forgive you. John Newton the slave trader knew his own wretchedness and he received God’s grace in his life.
The Creator’s Plan
Likewise, there is nothing you can do that is good enough to earn His grace. You see, God is not going to judge us on what we have done. God will judge you and me on what He has done. We are reconciled to God by His initiative and by His grace alone. If there were some other way to salvation and eternal life, He would have told us about it. Why send His Son Jesus to be born and live and die among us if we could work it out on our own? That is the point of God’s grace: Without His grace, we are without hope. With His grace, there is eternal hope. That was the Creator’s plan from the beginning!
Our questions are not new. They are faced by every generation. Listen to the Apostle Paul writing to people who thought that keeping the law of Moses could earn them God’s favor. He writes, “Therefore no one will be declared righteous in his sight (right with God) by observing the law; rather through the law we become conscious of sin.” In other words, Paul is saying that the law just shows us that we are law breakers. It cannot bring us forgiveness and reconciliation with God.
In the next verse, the apostle presents God’s plan to rescue us: “But now a righteousness from God, apart from law, has been made known, in which the Law and the Prophets testify. This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe–there is no difference.” It makes no difference whether a person thinks they are good enough or believes they are too sinful. The writer let’s us know we are all in the same boat–there are no first class or second class sinners. The Scriptures leave no doubt. “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God (that’s the bad news), and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.” (That’s the good news.) Romans 3:20-24.
You and Joseph’s brothers
In light of these verses, let’s review the circumstances between Joseph and his brothers. For seventeen years while their father Jacob was still alive in Egypt, the brothers were fearing the day of his death. They mistakenly thought that once their father was gone Joseph would get even with them for their cruel hatred.
Why were Joseph’s brothers so fearful? The reason was two-fold: They knew they had sinned against Joseph and they couldn’t believe Joseph loved them. They admitted they were “unlovely.” They were bankrupt financially and had no moral credit to offer anyone. They were hopeless and their hopelessness fueled their fear.
Whether we like to confess it or not, isn’t that where you and I find ourselves? In God’s eyes, we are much like Joseph’s brothers. We are guilty and we are fearful. Yet, He is waiting to shower you with His grace for salvation and for living. Then, He wants to carry you through death into His eternal home where He will continue to exhibit the wonders of His grace in your behalf. Wouldn’t you like to be there to see Him do that?
So you ask, How can I begin living in God’s grace? Whether we are a John Newton or like Joseph’s brothers, we all begin at the same point: We admit to the truth—we are sinners in need of God’s mercy and grace. That is the first step. David, king of Israel, writing over 2,500 years ago, spoke to encourage us today.
“The Lord is compassionate and gracious,
slow to anger, abounding in love.
He will not always accuse,
nor will he harbor his anger forever;
he does not treat us as our sins deserve
or repay us according to our iniquities.”
Can you picture Joseph and his brothers in those verses? Can you hear John Newton singing Amazing Grace? Do you see yourself standing before God? Would you like to see more of what God’s grace will do for you?
David, the man who had a soldier killed so he could steal his wife, threw himself before God’s mercy and embraced God’s grace to the full. Through his own experience he shows us a more complete picture of grace. (Where you see the word “fear,” read “love, honor, obey.”)
“For as high as the heavens are above the earth,
so great is his love for those who fear him;
as far as the east is from the west,
so far has he removed our transgression from us.
As a father has compassion on his children,
so the Lord has compassion on those who fear him . . .
From everlasting to everlasting
the Lord’s love is with those who fear him,
and his righteousness with their
with those who keep his covenant
and remember to obey his precepts.”
Remember David’s sin, John Newton’s background and the ten brother’s hatred for Joseph. All of them knew they were unworthy, But once they realized that God was there to forgive and receive them, they seized the grace that was offered. Like any other gift that is offered, you will never take possession of it until you reach out and accept it.
What’s ahead for you?
That question is often asked and the answer is always the same: No one knows.
Recently, the world was awakened to the reality of evil around us. Nineteen men, dedicated to the destruction of innocent people, boarded four commercial aircraft on the morning of September 11, 2001. Thousands of people went to work that morning just like any other day. They had no idea whatsoever that would be the last time they would see their loved ones.
Yet, with all the evil from the hateful decision of those nineteen men the world has witnessed courage and love and generosity on a scale rarely seen. While on ground zero thousands risked and gave their lives, an entire nation was turned around. Even today, you are I are still seeing the results from that morning. We can’t deny there is evil, but the good still surrounds us.
When John Newton repented of his sinful ways and accepted God’s grace into his life, he did not know what was ahead for him. Who would have guessed that he would be God’s instrument to help overthrow the horrible slave trading business and end slavery itself in Britain?
What did Joseph know when he threw aside his wounded ego and right to revenge, forgiving his brothers and providing so graciously for them? His actions nurtured that generation and gave the world a nation that produced Moses and Elijah, David and Daniel, the Old and New Testaments, and the Suffering Servant, Jesus, who stands by you this moment to offer you His grace.
Only God Himself knows what’s ahead for you. One thing is for certain–you cannot take part of the grace of the Creator God and not be forever changed. His grace is real and living. You cannot partake of His grace and not have new life surging through the veins of your soul. For sure, friend, you will be changed. That change will take you through all of your tomorrows and through death and the grave into His eternal home.
As a final thought, note what the Apostle Paul wrote to a group of people who were new to the grace of God. He wanted them to understand the commitment that God Himself had given them. We who will accept His grace into our lives have the same promise. Like John Newton and so many others, you will be transformed and amazed at what God’s grace will bring about in your life.
“May our Lord Jesus Christ himself and God our Father, who loved us and by his grace gave us eternal encouragement and good hope, encourage your hearts and strengthen you in every good deed and word.” II Thessalonians 2:16, 17.
Yes, God’s grace is transforming grace. But when God sees what His grace has brought about in your life and mine, He will speak as He did at the first creation: “God saw all that he had made, and it was very good.” Genesis 1:31.
Live in God’s grace and be at peace.