Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Grace that is Greater by @ShelleyHendrix #YcantWeGetAlong

Photo by Shelley Hendrix

Grace that is Greater

Shelley Hendrix

But he gives us more grace. That is why Scripture says: 
"God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble."
James 4:6 NIV

God’s grace means more to me today than it ever did when I was growing up and attending different churches. Back then I understood that God’s grace meant that if we accepted Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior, repenting of our sins, and placing our faith in Him, then we would go to heaven when we die and not have to go to Hell. I guess I figured that between the two options, the first one was the only logical one to make.

Most of what I knew back then was that if you were a Christian, you stood against a whole lot of things. Although we did experience some really good times, it was far from “joy unspeakable and full of glory.” (I Peter 1:8) I was afraid almost all of the time. Afraid because I knew that God was watching every single thing I did and He was keeping a record of it all. I was afraid of Him because I only knew Him to be powerful and mostly angry—because we, as His people, were always messing up. I imagined that He was expecting me to mess up. And if He was expecting it, then I was in for it when it actually happened—He was prepared.

I can’t tell you how many times I heard someone, usually an adult in the church, say, “Shelley, I can’t believe you did _____________; you are the pastor’s daughter!” (They didn’t seem to notice or care that whatever it was I was doing, I was doing with their kid!) I didn’t know the God who made Himself known to us in the person of Jesus Christ—to me, the two personalities couldn’t be more different from one another.

In the church environments I was familiar with, our relationship with God was mostly focused on the rules we needed to keep: stay away from secular music and movies; don’t go to public schools; don’t play cards; don’t wear a two-piece bathing suit; don’t swim with the opposite sex; don’t ….don’t….don’t….the list could go on and on. In fact, I heard of one college student (at a Christian college) who was not allowed to graduate with his class because he talked to his fiancé in public without a chaperone present. Yes. Really. I also heard of a church in the US which keeps a barber chair in the foyer to cut the hair of men who might just show up to church with their hair touching their collar or ears. Yes. Really. And these two specific scenarios aren’t pulled from the 1960’s either.

Now, I know things have changed a lot, even in the culture and climate of most of today’s churches. Most of us realize now that what the generation before us (and some folks even in today’s Church) did/do, with good intentions, by the way, didn’t/don’t work for a good reason. God doesn’t initiate this kind of relationship with people!

In addition to what I’ve already mentioned, there is another extreme. For example, it is almost weird in some Christian churches for someone to come to church in a suit and tie carrying a Bible. I’ve heard people wearing jeans and t-shirts who have the Bible in their iPhones make critical remarks about those who are so “old school,” I mean “old church” as to show up to church in a suit and tie.

For goodness’ sake, we wear the same name, so why can’t we all just get along?! For the sake of ourselves, and especially for those who have never had a positive experience with those who claim that Name, we’ve got to do better. And we can!

The truth about God’s grace to us

So, if God’s grace is even greater than the basic truths of changing our eternal destination—which, by the way is no small matter—and goes beyond this to something more, how do we define or explain the grace of God?

Some have used the following acronym:

Consider what my friend, Cindy Beall, shares about her understanding of grace:
“Good old Webster’s defines grace as ‘unmerited, divine assistance given humans for their regeneration or sanctification.’ Here is how I reworded the phrase to help me better grasp what God was trying to say to me: ‘My unmerited, divine assistance given to you is enough.’” 

My son is in Cub Scouts. In the Scouts, there are badges he can earn. These are called “merit badges.” He doesn’t get these simply because he goes to the meetings, because he is so likable or even because he wants them really badly. He has to prove he has earned them. And wisely so. There are some things in life that need to be earned. But Grace is unique. Grace is something that is unmerited, which means that we can’t merit it; we can’t earn it. 
The bottom line is this: if it can be earned it ceases to be grace! 

What were your first impressions of God?

Where did you receive those first impressions?


This post is an excerpt from my soon-to-be-released book, "Why Can't We Just Get Along?" published by Harvest House Publishers. You can read more in a free sneak peek and pre-order/purchase your copy(ies) easily by CLICKING HERE

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