Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Trampling on His Grace

Trampling on His Grace

By Kevin Probst

We often buy gifts for those we love. When we invest much time and thought into it the gift is an expression of our love. After many hours of attentive analysis and studious reflection the purchase is made and you can’t help feel an excitement as you carry the gift to its recipient. Trying to wrap the gift as perfectly as possible is tedious but it is done with tender care. Finally, the time comes to present the gift and your eyes are full of sparkle as you present something you hope will be pleasing to one you love. The gift is received and the wrapping paper is removed but, alas, the look in the eyes says it all. This is not what was expected. The gift is set aside, a silent awkwardness settles in as one party is disappointed and the other is deeply hurt because the gift is being rejected.

We often talk about God’s gift of grace. Grace is that undeserved favor and love that God gives so freely to us. What must God feel like when we reject his gift of grace? What does it do to the heart of God when we trample on his grace, when we take his gift, a gift of unlimited value, a gift that is precious because it reveals the heart of a God who loves us dearly, and cast it aside?

There are several ways we tread on the grace of God. God’s heart must surely hurt when he extends his forgiving grace and we choose to return to a sin once forgiven. The woman who came to the well did not expect to receive such a wonderful gift. She met Jesus and he offered her saving grace. By faith she received forgiveness and Jesus said to her, “Go and sin no more.” She ran back to her village eager to tell others about a “man that told me all things I had ever done.” It is strongly assumed that she continued in her faith but would it not have been painful for Jesus had she trampled on his grace and returned to her previous lifestyle?

We certainly crush the heart of God when we choose to sin simply because we are under grace and no longer under the law. Paul was saying as much when he asked, “What then? Shall we sin because we are not under law but under grace? God forbid!!” The very thought was repulsive to Paul. A person who sins because forgiving grace is available could be likened to a bride taking the wedding ring of her groom and flushing it down the sewer. When we try to manipulate the grace of God to satisfy our own fleshly desires his grace is ineffectual. Grace is a gift that can be rejected. A gift loses its meaning if rejection is not possible. If we refuse the gift of grace a loving and polite God will never force grace upon us.

We often trample on the grace of God when we expect less than he has to offer. The Bible is full of examples of those who received more. There was a man who had been an invalid for 38 years. He lay beside the Pool of Bethsaida. There were a great number of blind, deaf and disabled people who lay near the pool. This man certainly did not expect Jesus to come directly to him and speak exclusively to him. But Jesus did the unexpected. “Do you want to be healed?” Jesus asked. The man wanted to be put in the pool but what he received was complete healing when Jesus said, “Get up! Pick up your mat and walk.”

A group of Pharisees brought to Jesus a woman caught in adultery. They humiliated her in front of a large group of men. “Teacher, this woman was caught in the very act of adultery. The Law of Moses commands us to stone such women. What do you say?” Jesus picked up a stick and scratched something in the dust. “If any of you is without sin let him be the first to cast a stone at her.” They began to go away, one at a time. I’m sure this woman was expecting to receive what the law demanded, death. But instead, she received grace and forgiveness and a demonstration of unconditional love.

Jesus loved his disciples and all of his followers, he loved his enemies as well. But Jesus seems to have had a special affection for a group of siblings; Lazarus, Mary and Martha. Jesus received word that Lazarus was sick. He turned to go toward Judea and heard his disciples warn him, “But Jesus, they tried to stone you there a short while ago.” Jesus replied, “Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep, I’m going there to awaken him.” The disciples failed to understand that Jesus spoke of Lazarus death.

An amazing thing happened when Jesus arrived in Bethany. He had a short conversation with Martha whose heart is broken because her brother died. Mary then approached him weeping and sorrow permeated the place as friends and relatives grieved. Jesus then wept! But why, he knew that he would soon raise Lazarus from the dead? He wept because he felt empathy for those whom he loved so dearly. Does Jesus weep when you weep?

Jesus approached the tomb and Martha said, “But Jesus, by now he is beginning to have a bad odor.” Obviously Mary and Martha were expecting less than Jesus was about to do. Jesus prayed to the Father and then he shouted, “Lazarus, come out! Take off the grave clothes and let him go.”

When I was growing up we had number of large 30 to 40 feet trees in our back yard. My two brothers and I made an art out of tree climbing. As we climbed ever higher in an attempt to make our father proud we could sense the tension growing in the yard below. Mother was begging us to come down but dad was urging us to conquer our fears and climb ever higher and higher. I always climbed until I saw my father clap his hands and with a big smile on his face motion that I’d climbed far enough.

God provides us a more abundant grace so that we might experience a more abundant life. We grieve him when we are satisfied to climb half-way up the mountain and then stop. He is saddened when we are resurrected to spiritual life but we fail to live abundantly. He is disappointed when we enter and sit down at the gate instead of reaching for the whole experience of full salvation. We traipse on his wonderful gift of grace when we settle for less than he has to offer.

Kevin Probst - Is a teacher of Apologetics and History at Calvary Christian School and Associate Pastor of Crosspointe Nazarene Church church in Columbus, Georgia.

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