In The Grip Of Grace
In an earlier article, we looked at the fact that God’s grace saves us. Now I want to look at grace from a different angle. As I research the internet, many religious leaders have passed their judgments on who receives God’s grace. On FaceBook, people do not just share their religious beliefs but pass harsh judgments on others for their beliefs. It seems as if some people view themselves as God’s advisors on granting grace. He is capable without our assistance.
How far does God’s grace reach? Some people believe it stretches far enough to cover themselves, families, and friends. They are not so sure who else it may stretch to cover but feel pretty comfortable that they personally are under the canopy of grace. They are not as willing to share God’s grace with others as much as I believe he is. Maybe, just maybe it covers you and me if we believe as they do.
I attended church several years ago with a man who I’ll describe as the ultimate legalist. I was using Max Lucado material in my classes to which he objected. Lucado taught too much error, according to Aubrey. Aubrey was a believer in using Johnson’s and Clarke’s commentaries as his reference material. I asked him if he ever thought these men might be wrong in their beliefs and interpretations of the Bible. The answer was, “yes.” My question to, Aubrey: “why would grace extend to Mr. Johnson and Mr. Clarke and not to Max Lucado?”
After a mission trip to Mexico, I told the class about the way the church there served communion. The leader handed the servers the bread, then prayed. Next, the cups were handed to the servers, and once again, the leader prayed before both the emblems were passed to the congregation at the same time. Aubrey said this was wrong and further explained that the church in Mexico should adopt the manner we used. The correct manner was to pray for the bread pass it to the congregation and then pray for the juice and pass it. He stated that the church in Mexico was in error.
After Aubrey’s comment on communion, we read Luke’s account of the last supper. Luke reports that Christ took the cup first and the bread second. Is God concerned with the order we pass the emblems or the condition of our hearts as we partake? He’s looking for praise and thankfulness for the sacrifice of Jesus’ body and his blood. I don’t believe he is disappointed by the order.
Aubrey was a good man, kind, a strong Christian in his convictions, but his reply to how far does God’s grace reach was, “not that far.” He tended to be selfish with God’s grace.
In The Grip Of Grace, Max Lucado writes about the conversion of Jefferey Dahmer. Mr. Dahmer was a vile human being if you can call him a human being. He was convicted of killing seventeen men and boys even cannibalizing some of his victims. Mr. Dahmer found God in prison, put his faith in Christ, and was baptized. Does God’s grace cover Jeffrey Dahmer? Max writes: “Our response? (Dare we say it?) We cross our arms and furrow our brows and say, God, won’t let you off that easy. Not after what you did. God is kind, but he’s no wimp. Grace is for the average sinners like me, not deviants like you.”
Paul writes to the church Rome about the wickedness of man. These wicked people knew God but had no relationship with him. Paul then, in Romans 2:1 cautions the church about passing judgment on others because they too are guilty of some of the same sins. Max says the church in Rome is “filtering God’s grace with their own opinion.” They are “diluting God’s mercy with their prejudice.” Max points out the prodigal son’s brother refused to attend his brother’s feast to celebrate his return. The attitude of the ten-hour worker was selfishness because the one-hour worker got the same wage. Judgment was passed on God’s grace by these two men. They decided that prodigal son and the one-hour worker were not worthy of God’s grace. None of us are that’s why it’s called grace.
Max writes: “The keyword here is judges. It’s one thing to have an opinion. It’s quite another to pass a verdict. It’s one thing to have a conviction; it’s another to convict the person. It’s one thing to be repulsed at the acts of Jeffrey Dahmer (and I am.) It’s another to entirely claim that I am superior (I’m not) or that he is beyond the grace of God (no one is.)”
I believe that baptism is essential to our salvation. A lady I worked with several years ago asked me about my religious beliefs. A brief version of what I told her is: God is the father, Jesus is his son and the only way to God, baptism is essential and commitment to serve God. Her reaction was: “you just told me that I’m going to hell because I’m not baptized.” My reply: “ NO! you asked me what I believed, and I told you. God is the only one that can decide where you spend eternity!” He alone decides how far his grace reaches.
When I was about 8 or 9 one of the elders’ sons, Derry, age 16, decided to be baptized. There was a complication. Derry was deathly afraid of water. Our baptistry held way too much water for Derry. One evening Derry’s father called all the other elders to his home to witness Derry’s baptism in their bathtub. Many people in the congregation did not accept Derry’s baptism because there was certainly no way his dad got his entire body under the water in a bathtub! The baptism was, therefore, not scriptural, and grace would not extend to Derry according to the legalist. I tell the story because of the impression it left on me. If one of Derry’s toes did not make it all the way under was there a problem? Is God that legalistic with his grace? If he is, then I wanted to make sure Brother James got every square inch of my body pushed under the water when he baptized me.
Baptism has much to do with the condition of the heart. The water holds no spiritual magic. The words pronounced before the immersion have no saving grace. Even the person performing the baptism holds no power of grace. My obedience to God in the act of baptism and my commitment to serve him invite his grace into my life. He alone decides about my grace! No one else holds that right!
I don’t know how far God’s grace extends, so I’m unwilling to make a judgment about what’s not mine to give. We need to teach about Jesus and his saving grace. Share with them our beliefs in love and let them reach their own decision to be a Christian. If God is unwilling to shove his grace down someone’s throat, then I am not willing. The Bible teaches us that when a brother strays to restore one another with gentleness, not with harsh judgment.
Be bold in telling the story of Jesus and him crucified for our sins, not in making a judgment. Study the Bible with them to help them grow their relationship with God and Christ! Let God decide on grace!
When we get to heaven, we’ll be surprised at some of the folks we see. And some of them will be surprised when they see us. Max Lucado
God Bless You!
In the Grip of Grace by Max Lucado – Published by Word Publishing – Used with permission
His Grace Reaches Me
Deeper than the ocean and wider than the sea,
Is the grace of the Savior for sinners like me;
Sent from the Father and it thrills my soul,
Just to feel and to know
That His blood makes me whole.
Higher than the mountains and brighter than the sun,
It was offered at Calvary for everyone;
Greatest of treasures and it's mine today,
Though my sins were as scarlet,
He has washed them away.
His grace reaches me
And 'twill last thru eternity;
Now I'm under His control
And I'm happy in my soul,
Just to know that His grace reaches me.