Grace or Disgrace
This time of year always stirs in me a vast array of emotions. I find myself unable to fathom the amount of torture, pain, suffering, humility, disgrace and inhumane behavior that occurred leading up to the crucifixion and death of God’s perfect son, Jesus. Harder yet is to grasp that Jesus, sinless and perfect in every way, came to earth in human form to be that sacrifice and he did it to pay for all my sins. Knowing that I am unworthy of this gift, I mourn, I am sad, and I am humbled. I know my work is polluted with sin; I think, say and do things every day that disappoint God, I am undeserving; yet this gift is for me, for you and for all who believe. Simply put, this gift is grace, God’s grace poured out for you and me. I stand in awe and I want to loudly proclaim “JESUS! I LOVE YOU, I ADORE YOU, I WORSHIP YOU AND I HONOR YOU AND YOU ALONE! I AM SORRY! Help me be a post-resurrection disciple that models love, grace and mercy–all the things you were when you were here on earth! I want to know you, I want others to know you, I want others to see you in me. Help me Jesus, help me…I need you, I need your grace. Thank you, thank you for the cross.”
Grace is God’s Riches At Christ’s Expense. Grace is unmerited favor; it is kindness from God that we don’t deserve. There is nothing we have done or ever can do to earn this favor. It is a gift from God. Grace is the basis for humility and it declares that all of us are equal in our lost condition.
So how does understanding grace shape our attitude of serving? Does acknowledging the enormous amount of God’s grace in our individual, sinful lives change our posture of serving? Would we be able to serve with a prideful, self-righteous, arrogant attitude if we believe in God’s grace?
An article written by Charles Swindoll expresses grace in two ways.
As a follower of Christ, a post-resurrection disciple, a ministry leader, a deacon, are you demonstrating Horizontally what you receive Vertically in your daily life, in your relationship with your spouse, family members, friends, co-workers, with people in the church, with people outside of the church, with the unlovely, with those who are lost and don’t know Christ? Grace brings conviction to the Heart of a sinner much more quickly than rebuke. If we believe that to be true, how do our behaviors, words, thoughts and actions carry out grace?
I recently spent four weeks at LaGrave Christian Reformed Church as a guest lecturer in their Grow U education series. Together we looked at what it means to provide true love and Godly assistance to those around us and the passage of scripture that we focused on was John 4:1-42, the story of the Samaritan Woman. In this story we find Jesus resting near Jacob’s well. While there He encountered a Vertical Grace The Grace that we receive from God. Horizontal Grace The Grace that we express to others. woman who came to draw water, a woman who was lonely and shunned from society because of her immoral lifestyle. Jesus approached her, asked for a drink of water, talked to her about living water, acknowledged He knew about her life style, and engaged in conversation about the good news of salvation. He then revealed that He is the Messiah. In this event, Jesus broke three Jewish customs when He began a conversation with the woman, yet He approached her and He showed her love, compassion, acceptance and extended grace. The result? The woman, in her joy and excitement, ran to tell everyone about this Messiah that she met. People listened, were in awe and at the request of the people Jesus ended up staying two days longer, teaching. When the people heard, many believed and were saved, just in those two days!
So I wonder…is bringing the lost to Jesus really this easy? Jesus demonstrated love and grace, the woman believed and she could not contain her excitement so she ran to tell others. Imagine if Jesus had not gone through Samaria? Imagine if Jesus followed Jewish custom and had not approached the woman. Imagine if Jesus rebuked or judged the woman for her immoral life and treated her with disgrace. What would have happened to the Samaritan woman? What would have happened to the people in the town?
I love the office of deacon in the church! Deacons get to meet “the woman at the well” often through their work as ministers of mercy. Imagine, if a deacon’s response was showing love and compassion first; what would the outcome be? Imagine if deacons served out of a posture of humility acknowledging their own brokenness and need for grace, just like the woman at the well and others around us. Would our serving take on new meaning? Is it time to take inventory of our own life, our faults, our failures, our sinful thoughts and behaviors? Is it time to acknowledge that we too need grace every day and that our sins also put Jesus on the cross? Would that help us forgive others more easily, help us pass less judgement, help us diffuse arrogance and self-righteousness? Would it help us extend more grace and would the result be, just like in Samaria, increased sharing of the gospel and people coming to faith in Jesus?
My friends, Christ died for all of us; the lovely and the unlovely, the broken and the lost which includes you and me. When the outside world sees you, do they see an image bearer of Christ and if not, what changes do you need to make in your life? Take time to reflect today, for we do not know the time or day of Christ’s return. Don’t put off sharing the good news with someone any longer. Strip yourself of whatever is hindering you and place it at the foot of the cross. Go out with a renewed sense of joy and excitement knowing that Christ sacrificed himself for our sins so we can be free! Hallelujah, what a Savior! (Bernita Tuinenga, Co-Executive Director, Volunteers In Service)