Tag Archives: receiving

Check the Receiver

Grace 101

 

“Something’s wrong with the receiver!  I can’t tell if anyone is there.”  Some of us remember when a broken telephone was a big deal.  Today we almost take for granted that some of our calls will drop.  But 30 years ago calls didn’t drop unless they were very expensive overseas calls.  And, to be honest, if you still had a phone from the phone company, very little ever went wrong with the phone.  Telephones were relatively simple appliances and were made tougher than almost anything in the house.  So when the receiver went bad, it was a big deal.

Of course, the idea that something might be wrong with the receiver was not limited to the phone.  Televisions were just fancy receivers—ones that sometimes didn’t receive anything.  Radios had receivers that could go bad.  Even people had bad receivers sometimes.  People?  Well, of course, some can’t hear and others don’t listen.  So, in a sense, the receiver is broken.

You have probably had a conversation with someone who is hard of hearing.  They say something to you and you answer and they can’t hear.  For them, it seems like a one-way conversation.  Sometimes that happens on the cell phone, doesn’t it?  You begin to tell a story and, by the time you are finished, the other person is gone.  The call dropped and you have been talking to no one.  When you reconnect, the other person says, “I lost you just as you were starting your story.”

Many Christians, if they are honest, will admit that prayer is sometimes like that.  They bring their requests, tell their stories, but there doesn’t seem to be anyone on the other end of the line.  They end their prayers wondering if they were ever heard.

The natural response to this one-way prayer seems to be to try to fix the transmitter.  We assume that something is wrong with getting our message to God.  So we try to be better on our end.  We work harder, confess more, and come up with formulas to increase our spirituality.  Maybe God will hear us if…

And some teachers will tell us that we are praying incorrectly.  We have to use certain words or a certain posture or even a certain volume.  If you really want something, they may say, you have to repeat it over and over.

But the problem isn’t the transmitter, the problem may be the receiver.  If you pray for forgiveness, receive the forgiveness.  If you pray for wisdom, receive the wisdom.  If you pray for assurance, receive the assurance.  The Lord is giving you what you need, but you may not be receiving it.

If I can push the illustration further, I think that sometimes we mess with the transmitters so much that we turn the receiver off.  We assume from the beginning that we have to do something in order to be heard by God, so we focus on what we have to do and we don’t listen for His answer.  The formulas, standards, and rules become so important that we dismiss the love of God in favor of our manipulation of God.

So when Jesus taught His disciples about forgiving others, the disciples were challenged.  They asked Jesus to increase their faith.  They understood that it was difficult for them to receive the truth of His teaching and apply it in their lives.  Their receivers were broken.  So they asked for more faith.  And Jesus told them about the authority of God.  He told them that the things of this world are under God’s authority and they were also.  In other words, the authority and character of God was the key.

They didn’t need a lot of faith.  They just needed enough to see that God was strong and good and wise.  They just had to know they could trust Him.  If they asked Him for something He already said He would give them, they simply had to trust in His authority and power.  If He said He would do it, He would do it.  If they asked Him for something He had not promised, they could come in faith trusting that He would hear them and do the right thing.  It didn’t take a lot.

Do you find it hard to accept that you have been forgiven?  Check your receiver.  Trust in God’s authority and promise.  The problem isn’t in what you do, your transmitter.  The problem is that you are not believing the Word of God that says you have been forgiven.

Do you find it hard to trust for the future?  Check your receiver.  Your future is in the hands of the Lord who loves you.  He says many times in Scripture that you can trust Him.  Believe in His authority and power.  Believe in His love.

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Receiving

Grace 101

 

It is a fundamental of the grace message that what we receive from God we receive as a gift.  That which is earned by hard work or deserved by good behavior is not a gift, but a wage, and is not of grace.

I do not consider the act of receiving to be work, at least not in the sense of earning that which is received.  So to strive to become holy or to work toward forgiveness is something different from reaching out to receive the gift God gives.  Jesus told His followers to consider the birds of the air in Matthew 6:26.  He pointed out that they do not do the normal work of planting and harvesting, yet the Father feeds them.  He pointed out the lilies in Luke 12:27 and says that they do no work, yet they grow in glory.

Faith is trusting or believing.  Faith in the Lord opens our hearts to believe that He loves us and wants to give us what we need.  Faith opens our hearts to God’s grace.  Receiving is an act of faith.  Some would say that obedience is an act of faith as well; but, if obedience comes from a desire to earn or deserve something from God, then faith is not in the love of the Lord but in the effort of the person.  In other words, if you are still working for your salvation, then you are not trusting in what God has done for you.

Some people ask what our part is in this whole relationship.  They have been taught to believe that God does His part if and when we do our part.  For some, God’s part is contingent on our part.  For others, our part is required after God does His part.  If we fail to do our part, perhaps God will rescind His part.  But all of that is contrary to the message of grace.

If you want to say that we have a part, say that our part is to receive.  To reach out and take what is offered is not a good work, but just an act of faith.  You don’t get spiritual points for receiving what God offers, but you will get what He offers.  I know that even saying this bothers some grace teachers because they want to make the strong point that we do nothing toward our salvation or sanctification or glorification.  But saying that our part is to receive is only semantics.  It satisfies the need for two active sides in the relationship but still acknowledges that the whole work and initiative is on God’s side.

So what if you do not receive?  There are some people today who say that we don’t have to receive what God has done in order for it to be ours.  He just does it for us and to us.  In fact, they say, He has done this for everyone and most people just don’t know it.  After all, they say, if being saved is contingent on receiving, then we have made receiving into a work.  And, if it is a work, then we are somewhat saved by works.

I find that to be an unfortunate argument.  It lacks reason and common sense.  But let’s go back to what Jesus said about the birds and the lilies.  We love to watch birds and it sure seems that they work.  Some of the little ones pick up a seed from the feeder and fly away to eat it.  Then they return for another seed.  We wonder how they can have a net energy gain from what they eat.  The lilies push their roots toward food and water, grow their leaves, and open themselves to receive the sun.  Yet, Jesus points all these things out as evidence of the Father’s provision.  That’s because receiving is not work.  Receiving is an act of faith in the One who provides.

But if there is no faith, then the gift is not received.  Faith moves us to reach out and take what is offered.  If we do not believe, we will not take.  And, contrary to what some are teaching, if we do not receive the gift, then the gift does not become ours.  Those who will not receive salvation, because they do not believe, are not saved.

The work of grace, on our side, is to receive.  I know that is an uncomfortable statement for some people.  The meaning is obvious by now.  The study of grace is to learn how to receive.  The heart of grace is a heart open to receive.  Grace, from our perspective, is about receiving.

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