The Bible is the love story of God’s revelation of himself in pursuit of wayward humanity. This pursuit reaches its climax in the cross with the gift of God’s Son, Jesus Christ. (Discipleship Essentials pg. 88)
And he said, “There was a man who had two sons. And the younger of them said to his father, ‘Father, give me the share of property that is coming to me.’ And he divided his property between them. Not many days later, the younger son gathered all he had and took a journey into a far country, and there he squandered his property in reckless living. And when he had spent everything, a severe famine arose in that country, and he began to be in need. So he went and hired himself out to one of the citizens of that country, who sent him into his fields to feed pigs. And he was longing to be fed with the pods that the pigs ate, and no one gave him anything.
“But when he came to himself, he said, ‘How many of my father's hired servants have more than enough bread, but I perish here with hunger! I will arise and go to my father, and I will say to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son. Treat me as one of your hired servants.”’ And he arose and came to his father. But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and felt compassion, and ran and embraced him and kissed him. And the son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’ But the father said to his servants, ‘Bring quickly the best robe, and put it on him, and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet. And bring the fattened calf and kill it, and let us eat and celebrate. For this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found.’ And they began to celebrate.
For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will scarcely die for a righteous person-- though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die- but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God. For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life. More than that, we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.
For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God.
A thought for today:
The empowering force of God’s Kingdom, like the gasoline in an automobile, is God's GRACE which we define as God's prevenient favor (i.e. love to the undeserving) for sinful man, the gift freely and spontaneously given to us without reservation or conditions, revealed and made effective in Jesus Christ. We do not deserve or merit this grace and we cannot earn or repay it. By grace, god forgives our sins, stirs our hearts, enlightens our minds, and strengthens our wills.
A wonderful example of this is found in the parable of The Prodigal Son, in Luke 15:11-24. In it, we see a son gone wayward. He disrespects his father and dishonors his family. He treats his father as if he were dead, wanting only the material wealth the father has, and not a relationship with his father who loves him dearly. Then, in the son’s ruin, he heads back to the safety of family, seeking only provision, and is richly gifted with love, celebration, and restoration to his family because of the father’s love. This love knows no limits, will pay any price, even the price of putting away pride and self-esteem for the sake of the son whom he loves. The Apostle Paul captures the essence of this parable in his letter to the Romans Chapter 5 (above). While the son was weak and steeped in his brokenness, the loving father runs towards him with unwarranted favor to welcome him and restore him as his son. In the grand picture of the redemption of all creation, Jesus, the complete gift of our heavenly father, gives his all for us so we can be restored to the relationship our heavenly father so desires for each of us. Even we who are enemies of God, the worst among us, are welcomed back into the fold as Jesus paid the price once for all, for each of us and all creation on the Cross of Calvary. We can know his forgiveness, his love, and his acceptance of who we are.
One of the powerful ways the Lord has gifted me with the experience of his grace, his unwarranted love and favor is through my loving wife. At a time in my life, many years ago, when I went wayward, was disrespectful, and unloving, she forgave me when the world said “don’t”. She accepted me back and showed me unconditional love when I least deserved it. It was transformative for me. I came to see in a new and life-changing way what grace was. If she could love and forgive me, how much more does my heavenly father? There was hope for me. Part of my response was a renewed commitment to her, and my heavenly Father. Another important response was to forgive and offer grace to those who hurt me deeply. What else could I do?
As you contemplate the gift of grace, recall all the unwarranted favor the Father has shown you. Perhaps it was through others, perhaps just a deep sense of knowing you are loved, accepted and forgiven, consider the hymn, Amazing Grace which was composed by a slave-trader turned pastor, John Newton. Although he felt unforgivable because of the way he profited by the trading of human souls, he came to a place of realizing he was forgiven by the grace of God and memorialized that realization in song:
Amazing Grace, How sweet the sound
That saved a wretch like me
I once was lost, but now am found
T'was blind but now I see
May you have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God. Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen.
by Joseph Acanfora