Why it Had to be Grace

I couldn’t believe I’d forgotten about the mustard stain. As usual I’d thrown on yesterday’s jeans conveniently lying on the floor, black belt already threaded, in hopes of reaching Mr. Destructo before he emptied all three bathroom drawers.

Devotional Scripture: Genesis 21:8-34
Key Verse: “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus.” Romans 3:23-24

Now we were at the first of two grocery stops and there was no goin’ home (not without food). All in all it was your typical Tuesday. One boy hung off the side of the cart while the other begged to get out. Until it happened. A hair pulling, high pitched screaming, we’re-the-loudest-people-in-the-store fight over a stupid styrofoam rocket I let Mr. Three-Year-Old bring inside. Oops.

I wanted to run or hide or at least make a disclaimer. And that’s when I saw them. A perfectly quiet, well behaved, Amish family pretending not to notice the spectacle unfolding in front of them. Now don’t get me wrong. I love the Amish! I may or may not even have a small fascination with them. But at the moment I didn’t feel so giddy. I felt guilty. As if somehow I didn’t measure up.

Fighting the urge to hide in the freezer section and eat ice cream we finished our shopping and headed to the checkout. Unable to resist his demands any longer I let Mr.-Almost-Two-Year-Old out of the cart. Big mistake! A small taste of freedom and the little guy booked it straight out the Aldi door – leaving me no choice but to scream and run. Snatching him just before the parking lot I scurried back inside. Only to see the watching eyes of my perfectly proper new friends right behind me in line. Mustard stain and all I felt covered in shame. Because next to what I saw as “perfection” it was crystal clear, I didn’t measure up.

And you know what…it’s ok. Because no one does. “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” As hard as we might try – no one measures up. Not to God’s perfect standard. It’s impossible by any works of our own flesh – to be justified before a holy God. Justification is a gift. A work of grace. And has nothing to do with me or you.

We gain the blessings of God – an inheritance for beyond comprehension – merely because of grace. Not because of what we do or don’t do or can do or will do. But by beautiful, undeserved, uncommon grace.

Not by works of our flesh, but by a work of HIS flesh.

This is why Ishmael had to be cast out. He was a product of Abraham’s flesh. The result of human effort, not faith. He could have no part of the inheritance because the promised inheritance was to come by grace through faith alone.

Isaac, on the other hand, didn’t earn it. He merely received it. Through an act of God’s miraculous power. The fulfillment of a promise. Just as we don’t earn it, but merely receive it through an act of God’s miraculous power. The fulfillment of a promise when we’re born again through “the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit…so that being justified by his grace we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life” (Titus 3:5,7).

Therefore, we “like Isaac, are children of promise” (Gal. 4:28). Can we just celebrate this for a minute or two or forever? “But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God” (John 1:12-13).

“By grace you have been saved” (Eph. 2:5). Not by effort or hard work or because of ethnicity or lack thereof but because of God’s grace, we are heirs of the world, just like Isaac (Rom. 4:13). With no reason to be ashamed. No reason to hide in the freezer section and eat ice cream. Because in Christ we’re forgiven, declared righteous, and living under a massive umbrella of grace.

Yet how often do we still beat ourselves up? Because I’m not good enough. Because I yelled again when I said I wouldn’t. Lost my patience. Messed up. Ate chocolate. And didn’t get my workout in. How often do we feel defeated? Ashamed? Not enough?

We must learn to accept the grace handed to us! Otherwise we will lack the confidence to be effective ambassadors of the gospel of Christ. How could we expect anyone else to accept the grace of Jesus when we ourselves refuse to live under it?

Conviction is one thing but condemnation is another. For “there is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (Rom. 8:1). None! Only grace. Yet condemned is how the enemy wants us to feel – unfit for any good use, a failure who can’t do anything right. Don’t let him win! Rise up and remind him you’re under grace.

I wasn’t the only one in Aldi with stains. We’re all stained – every one of us! Yet Christ covers my stains with his righteousness. No I’m not perfect, but He is. Therefore in Christ I do in fact…measure up. Grace, grace, God’s grace…amazing grace indeed.

Contemplate and Evaluate
Do you allow yourself to live under the grace God has gifted you? Or do you tend to live under the assumption you’re not good enough and never will be?
Do you view salvation as something you must earn or merely receive?



Is God Really Faithful?

The moment they had anticipated for 25 years had finally come. God “was gracious to Sarah as he had said, and the LORD did for Sarah what he had promised” (Gen. 21:1; NIV).  Just as he said he would.

Devotional Scripture: Genesis 21:1-7
Key Verse: “Know therefore that the LORD your God is God, the faithful God who keeps covenant and steadfast love with those who love him and keep his commandments, to a thousand generations.” Deuteronomy 7:9

At the exact time appointed. At ninety years old – Sarah gave birth to Isaac. With her body as good as “dead”, far past the years of childbearing, God brought life out of death. A picture of the miraculous life God gives all who come to him through faith in Jesus Christ.

But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ – by grace you have been saved.” Eph. 2:4-5

Not because of anything we have done. Not because of who we are but in spite of who we are. He bestows his grace upon us, just as he did Sarah. Who did not deserve to be the focus of God’s loving affection. In fact neither Abraham nor Sarah are seen at their best in these passages. Yet God brought laughter into their home, literally in the form of a sweet baby whose name (Isaac) meant “Laughter.”

Because He who promised is faithful.

Even when hard, impossible, terrible things happen because of sin. God is still faithful. To be near those who seek him (James 4:8). To work all things together for good for those who love Him (Rom. 8;28). To comfort his children (2 Cor. 1:4). To sustain those who cast their burden upon him (Ps. 55:22). To guide those who trust him (Prov. 3:5-6).

In 2 Corinthians Paul wrote of his afflictions in Asia. “For we were so utterly burdened beyond our strength that we despaired of life itself. Indeed, we felt that we had received the sentence of death. But that was to make us rely not on ourselves but on God who raises the dead.”

Hard, unthinkable things happened to Paul. Ultimately he was tortured and beheaded in Rome. Yet he preached God as faithful (1 Cor. 1:9). Because he experienced God as faithful.

Neither fate or fortune define God’s faithfulness.

It’s simply who He is – “the faithful God who keeps covenant and steadfast love with those who love him and keep his commandments, to a thousand generations” (Deut. 7:9). Faithful to make us children of Abraham; heirs according to the promise. (Gal. 3:29). Faithful to set us free from our bondage to sin through faith in Jesus (Rom. 6:18). Faithful to give all who trust in Christ everlasting life (John 6:47). And protect us from the wrath to come (1 Thess. 5:9).

But what about now you ask? What about the Pastor whose pregnant wife was murdered last week? What about the people in France? What about my precious friend who buried her husband next to her daughter? What about the hard things? Where is God’s faithfulness to those who suffer?

It’s there. It’s still there. My precious friend looked at me after her sweet baby girl went to be with Jesus and said “God is still the same good God today that he was yesterday.”

Yes. Yes he is. Because no matter what happens here and now all who come to God through faith in Jesus have an inheritance beyond any comparison (2 Cor. 4:17). A place in God’s eternal kingdom (Matt. 25:34). A living hope (2 Peter 1:3-4). Because God in his mercy has declared us his children. And if his children then heirs with Christ (Rom. 8:37).

And those moments. Those hard moments when life falls apart. When it shatters into a million tiny pieces. When it hurts too much. And seems unfair. Unthinkable. Impossible to move on. Those are the moments God gets to prove himself faithful to you and those watching. Those are the moments we get to say I can’t do this but God can.

And then we get to watch him do it. As we lean hard on him for strength to get up the next day. To persevere. To heal. To be our very present help in times of trouble (Ps. 46:1). Our shield. And our Savior.

Attaining a story of God’s faithfulness the world cannot deny. I don’t understand why things have to be the way they are. I don’t understand why some suffer and some don’t. But I know every trial and tribulation put in the path of a believer is an opportunity to prove God faithful to a hurting world.

So cling to Jesus. Hold tight and don’t let go. He will prove himself faithful because it’s who He is. And maybe you’ll even find that God brings laughter into your home. Just as he did for Sarah.

Because He who promised is faithful.

Contemplate and Evaluate:
Do you believe God is faithful, even in the hard things?
How has God proven himself faithful to you? Are you seeking and trusting God to be faithful?