May 15, 2013

Grace that is greater than all my sin…

Grace, as it is used in the Bible, is a word not often heard. A preacher from nearly a century ago said this is because the word ‘sin’ is also disappearing from our vocabulary. As soon as that word is banished, the other one will not remain, for grace is the only antidote to sin.

The word ‘sin’ bites deep because sin bites deep. Like other unpleasant words, we create easier and less distressing euphemisms, words without teeth. Death is the common one. Instead we say ‘passed away’ or ‘gone to a better place’ and so on. ‘Divorced’ becomes ‘no longer together’ or ‘gone our separate ways.’ Cancer becomes that ‘c’ word among other things, in an attempt to avoid associated pain.

Sin is painful because it prevails in every part and is the root of all our troubles. If we don’t sin with our mouths, we do it in actions. If we don’t sin with our actions, we sin in our attitudes. Envy, malice and wrath can fill our thoughts, desires, and wills. Yet no one likes the word ‘sin’ and many give it other names to avoid using it.

Christianity does not do that. Its task is not to weaken the sense of sin but drive the bite deeply into every part. As today’s devotional reading says, there is no delicate way to describe the natural condition of my life. The Bible is clear and uncompromising; sin reigns in me. Apart from Christ, this horrid guest masters me, is my tyrant. I am dead in sin, not at all like a boat with power to drive through adverse winds and storms, but like a piece of driftwood with no self-initiative and self-direction, a “pitiless prey” of hostile wind and waves.

Christianity exposes the problem, but does not leave sinners without a solution. To my sin-burdened and sin-poisoned life flows the riches of God’s grace…

In (Jesus) we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace, which he lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insight... (Ephesians 1:7–8)

Grace fills my life with answers to the devastation of sin. Grace brings redemption, which is the power of liberation. I am set free from the slavery that before I had no ability or desire to resist.

Grace also brings wisdom, which is illumination from God, the ability to see sin as it is, but also to see the wonder of Jesus Christ and the joy of delighting of His grace.

Grace also brings understanding, which the Bible describes as a God-given enablement to apply the illumination He gives to the difficulties of my life. That is, when God reveals a sinful attitude in my heart, He also grants a way of escape so that I can overcome that sin, a way of escape that I understand. Whether the battle is won by a simple “no” or a much longer struggle, the victory is guaranteed, all because of grace.

How did I get here? How did I learn to know my sin and to hate it? How did I find this way of escape so sin has lost its bite and is no longer my master? The answer is in those verses from Ephesians. It is by being “In Jesus.” He is my abiding place, my source of redemption and wisdom. I have no other place to stand, but to be alongside my Savior, trusting and enjoying Him. He is the source of all that I need, and as these verses say, I am His redeemed and forgiven child and He lavishes the riches of His grace upon me.

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