September 7, 2013

Grace = never alone

Total aloneness happens, also the feeling of it in a crowd. Abandonment is a different thing, the sense that no one hears, cares, or notices. Sometimes others deliberately turn their back even on friends because of fear, hatred, or other personal concerns that seem more important than loyalty. It happened to Jesus. He warned His disciple that they would do it.
Then Jesus said to them, “You will all fall away because of me this night. For it is written, ‘I will strike the shepherd, and the sheep of the flock will be scattered.’ (Matthew 26:31)

Christ stood His ground and went through the suffering even when abandoned. For the joy set before Him, He endured the Cross.

Paul was abandoned too. He preached the Gospel of grace to the Gentiles and many Jews strongly resisted his actions. He said…

At my first defense no one came to stand by me, but all deserted me. May it not be charged against them! But the Lord stood by me and strengthened me, so that through me the message might be fully proclaimed and all the Gentiles might hear it. So I was rescued from the lion’s mouth. (2 Timothy 4:16–17)

Notice that Jesus stood by Paul, never leaving or forsaking this man who was alone and without support from anyone else. He knew abandonment and knew Paul needed His support.

Today’s devotional reading says, “To be faithful to God when abandoned by people, to be a Lot in Sodom, a Noah in a corrupted generation—how excellent it is! It is sweet to travel over this earth to heaven in the company of the saints who are going there with us, but if we meet no company, we must not be discouraged to go on.”

The good news for this writer and for all who know Jesus is that even if we are the ones who do the abandoning, He picks us up. The disciples forsook Christ, but He picked them up and made them secure from a final apostasy and ruin. Whatever side of the fence I might be on, Jesus’ promise to me is…

…whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again. The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life. (John 4:14)

God’s unchangeable determination to save through grace in a New Covenant, and the intercession of Jesus Christ gives me abundant security against the danger of a total and final defection. I may stumble, and certainly do, but my salvation is settled in unchangeable things, not in my performance. This does not mean that I sit secure without obedience, but that I am secure even when I drop the ball. Again, the devotional writer says it well:

…the fear of God in our hearts pleads in us against sin, so our potent intercessor in the heavens pleads for us with the Father, and for that reason we cannot finally miscarry.

If my salvation depended on me, I would not have made it past day one. That initial confidence of being invincible fades quickly, and Jesus teaches me never to rely on me. I cannot save myself; if I could, I would not need Him.

The amazing reality is that the less confidence I have in me and the more helpless I feel, the more confidence I have in God and the more I see His grace and power, whether alone or in a crowd, abandoned or supported. 

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