“But my life is worth nothing to me unless I use it for finishing the work assigned me by the Lord Jesus—the work of telling others the Good News about the wonderful grace of God.” Acts 20:24
One of the most difficult things to comprehend as a Christian is that Christ is in me. In my frail jar of clay dwells the holy God who created the universe. And, not only does He dwell in me but He assigns me work (“…telling others the Good News about the wonderful grace of God”) for His glory. He has given me a lot to tell!
Most recently, on September 9th, 2017, my husband and I celebrated our 25h wedding anniversary by renewing our vows. The theme, “God is Gracious,” permeated every aspect of the day. From the sun piercing through the majestic clouds at the very moment we renewed our covenant to the abundant joy experienced throughout dinner as we celebrated God’s goodness, His grace was evident. But, honestly, without God’s grace we would have been divorced twenty years ago because the first part of Ephesians 2 described us perfectly. But God, being rich in mercy…
“And you were dead in your trespasses and sins, in which you formerly walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, of the spirit that is now working in the sons of disobedience. Among them we too all formerly lived in the lusts of our flesh, indulging the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, even as the rest. But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up with Him, and seated us with Him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the ages to come He might show the surpassing riches of His grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them. Ephesians 2:1-10
True, we were “indulging in the desires of the flesh and the mind,” destroying our marriage in the process. But, worse still, we were dead to God and His great love for us. It was here, twenty-years ago, steeped in rebellion, pride and self-righteousness, that God broke into my house built on the grainy sand of perfectionism and shame and set my feet upon the Rock of Righteousness. During this transformation I was overwhelmed by my own sin, confessing all to Him, and, simultaneously, freed from all guilt as the blood of the Lamb washed me clean. The grace, like a shield, enveloped my heart and I knew I was forgiven. In his song, Lord I Need You, Matt Maher confesses his need for God in the same way:
“Where sin runs deep Your grace is more
Where grace is found is where You are
And where You are, Lord, I am free
Holiness is Christ in me.
Lord, I need You, oh, I need You
Every hour I need You
My one defense, my righteousness
Oh God, how I need You”
This profound grace is both a verb and a noun. The verb: “do honor or credit to someone or something by one’s presence,” means God graces us with His presence (Christ in me). In addition, the noun: “the free and unmerited favor of God, as manifested in the salvation of sinners and the bestowal of blessings,” is the gift of grace. In the opening scene of the movie The Prince of Persia, both the presence and the gift were depicted beautifully. The King of Persia ventures into a village near his palace, gracing the peasants with His presence. He then notices a poor orphan and takes pity on him. The king reaches down from atop his horse, takes hold of the orphan, hoisting him upon the royal stallion, and upon returning to the castle, adopts him as his own son and co-heir to the throne, demonstrating unmerited, unearned favor. That orphan was me. That orphan was you too if you have accepted the gift, allowing yourself to be carried off by the King and adopted into His family (1 John 3:1). This is here and now grace, both His presence and His gift.
However, the phrase, “so that in the ages to come He might show the surpassing riches of His grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus,” (Ephesians 2:7) reveals the existence of a great frontier of grace that we have yet to experience… a joy-filled eternity with the King of Grace.
“And Christ lives within you, so even though your body will die because of sin, the Spirit gives you life because you have been made right with God. The Spirit of God, who raised Jesus from the dead, lives in you. And just as God raised Christ Jesus from the dead, he will give life to your mortal bodies by this same Spirit living within you.” Romans 8:10-11
Lord, I Need You by Matt Maher