Tag Archives: justification

What is Grace? pt.3

(This blog will be offline for a couple of weeks while I travel.  Please enjoy these posts from the archives.  Feel free to comment or ask questions.  I will be able to respond when I return.)


There are so many definitions of grace out there today… and some of them don’t look like grace at all to me.  When I say grace, I mean the sufficiency of Jesus Christ in all aspects of the Christian life.  John Newton wrote that “’tis grace that brought me safe thus far and grace will bring me home.”  This is more than saving grace.  It is grace that called out to me when I was in sin.  It is grace that justifies me in the sight of the Almighty God.  It is grace that works sanctification in me.  It will be grace that glorifies me in that wonderful day.  And the whole thing is the work of Jesus!  Grace is God’s activity in us, for us, and through us

So, I believe that there is no life in me but the life of Jesus Christ (Galatians 2:20).  I was lost – unwilling and unable to live spiritually – and He gave His life for me.  My life, in a sense, was exchanged for His. 

That has serious meaning.  It means that I can do nothing on my own, as Jesus said.  It means that I depend on Him alone for strength, righteousness, wisdom, love and everything else.  If these things are seen in me it is because of the life and activity of Jesus within me.  And that is grace.

So there is saving grace, grace that reaches into my life and saves me from my sinful state, but there is calling grace, sanctifying grace, relationship grace, grace for daily living, and so much more.  I depend on the activity of God’s love for every part of my life – in fact, the ultimate activity of God’s love (Jesus) is my life.

I am beginning to think that grace is something experienced a little differently by each of us.  That would make some sense, because God is a real Person and does relate to us individually.  The activity of His love will be seen in different ways in each of our lives and some will find it easier or even wiser to focus on particular aspects of His grace for their own hearts.  That just makes it even more wonderful!

No wonder they call grace “amazing”!


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Our Passionate Lord

In order to communicate the character of our Lord, the Scripture uses words with which we are familiar.  It says that He is jealous, for example.  But that hardly communicates the same thing as the teenage girl feels when she sees her boyfriend talking with the cheerleader.  It actually means much more.  It means that He recognizes the danger for us in any relationship that pulls us away from Him.  He acts with passion toward those who would deceive us and He acts with passion toward us.

There is some discussion today about the wrath of God.  Some people make a big deal out of the anger God feels toward those who reject Him.  Some even speak of God’s anger toward us when we sin.  But is that really what God communicates to us?  Doesn’t He love us and didn’t He deal with our sins by His own sacrifice?

God is passionate toward us.  He hates the effect sin has on us because He loves us.  He strongly desires to remove sin from us, but gives us the freedom to choose or reject His offer of salvation.  This passion, called “wrath” in the Scripture, is much more than anger.

Would you be passionate about your child playing in the middle of a busy street? Would it look like anger if you warned your child and pleaded with your neighbors to drive more carefully? Would you experience passionate grief when your child was hit by a car? Of course! This is the passion God has concerning sin.  It is grief beyond measure, loss of great magnitude, frustration over inability to control the situation, and, yes, anger without direction or focus.

God has chosen to allow us to go our own way.  We are, and always have been, free to play in the street.  But when we get hurt, He grieves.  He is passionate about us.  So that passion against sin and that passion for us led Him to provide the way of salvation.

Think of Jesus as the lightning rod that absorbs that incredible passion God has stored in His heart. Yes, it was anger, but not anger toward us, nor toward Jesus. Anger toward sin, I suppose, but I think that misses the real point. Jesus took our sins, the consequences of those sins, and the penalty for our sins on Himself. Never separate from the Father, Jesus was the outlet for all that passion. With no onus but love, the Father poured out His wrath on Jesus.   As He did that, He turned that wrath, that passion, away from us. Those who will come to Jesus will never see God’s wrath. There is no more anger or grief or frustration. Only joy. All because of Jesus.

But what about those who refuse to come to Jesus?  What about those who remain in their sins?  When God looks on them, His passion remains.  The Scripture says that the wrath of God “rests” on them.  All that grief, that anger, that love and frustration is still there when God considers them.  Does He love them?  Of course.

But will He destroy them in His anger?  No.  Remember the true message.  God doesn’t send anyone to Hell.  Those who end up there were already on their way, just as we were.  Sin has condemned all of us to separation from the Lord who loves us.  But Jesus is the way back to God.

God’s passion is something beyond our understanding.  Wrath is too small a word.  Anger is only part of it.  Let’s just say this: God is passionate about you and me and He takes our human predicament very seriously.  After all, He sent His only Son to the cross for us.


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The Scarlet Letter


Some will remember the story of Hester Prynne, Nathaniel Hawthorne’s tragic character who had to wear the scarlet “A” because of her adultery.  And some understand what it is like to carry a symbol or record of sin.  Sometimes the consequences of sin are with us for the rest of our lives.  And, if the reminder of our sin is always with us, how can we know that we are forgiven?

Well, for sins committed before we came to Jesus, we take great encouragement in the fact that we are born again, new creations.  That which we were is washed away and today we are different persons.  The Bible speaks often of the new life we have received in Jesus.  That new life means that our past sins are gone from us.

But what about those things we do while we are believers?  After we have received this new life, we still make some pretty stupid and self-serving decisions.  Some people actually teach that there is no covering for sins committed by believers, that those sins must be dealt with through our good works.  I guess I would have to say, “Good luck with that!”

No, we can’t pay for our sins after we are saved any more than we could before we are saved.  And let me say this bluntly: Our good works have nothing to do with our sins.  No amount of good works will cover even one sin.  It doesn’t work that way and it never worked that way.  For those who see a distinction between the way of salvation in the Old Testament and the New, which I do not, there is still nothing that teaches that sins are covered by good works.  Someone will point to the sacrificial system, I suppose, but making an animal die for my sins is not a good work.  It is an act of sacrifice.

So how are our sins covered after we become believers?  The same way they were before we were believers.  And when are our sins covered after we become believers?  At the same time they were covered when we became believers.  In other words, Jesus took all our sins on Himself at the cross.  He justified us by His sacrifice.

On the cross, Jesus paid a price big enough to cover all the sins of the whole world forever.  Yours and mine—past, present, and future.  When we come to Him for salvation, for forgiveness, we bring the account book of our lives and He wipes away all record of sin.  He removes the record from us forever.  All He asks is that we come.

“Come now, and let us reason together,” Says the LORD, “Though your sins are like scarlet, They shall be as white as snow; Though they are red like crimson, They shall be as wool. Isaiah 1:18

Come and reason with the Lord.  Enter into a relationship with Him through Jesus.  Then all your sins—past, present, and future—will be washed away.  Even the scarlet letter.

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