Monday, October 7, 2013

The Gift That Keeps On Giving

By Kristen Leigh Evensen
What is the best gift you have ever received?
One of the most thoughtful gifts ever given to me by my mom was a quilt made out of old t-shirts. But these were not just any old t-shirts; these were all of my high school theater shirts, the titles of favorite musicals boldly and colorfully strewn across the front. Taking hold of this quilt one Christmas, I could almost picture myself in the midst of the memories—the preparation of rehearsals, the thrill of opening night, the characters coming to life, and the music. Oh, the music!

I still love examining the quilt to this day because it holds so many sweet, nostalgic, formative memories. It is as though the gift continues to give to me each time I pull it out to use it, wrapping myself up in those corners of life I never want to forget.

There is another gift—a gift from the Father of lights--that keeps on giving…and giving…and giving.

Oh, how true this is! My perspective was enlarged the other day when I realized a magnificent truth about God’s grace: His gift of grace is not just a one-time-truth; it is the gift that keeps on giving. I now realize that thinking solely of God’s grace as “favor” and “kindness” (although those are truths of His grace when He saves us by faith in Christ) is not fully fleshed out to completion. His grace is so much more! It is the gift that keeps on giving throughout our faith journeys.

Grace is so much more wonderfully complex! Yes, believers are saved by grace through faith. Once for all, Christ defeated sin and death, redeeming His children through His blood by forgiving our sins. We once were saved. But we are also being saved. We are in a process of becoming more like Christ each day. This is called our sanctification.

And in that very sense, God’s grace is also continually full of riches, which He pours out upon believers as we mature in faith and know Him more deeply.  Paul writes in Ephesians 1:7-10:

7 In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace, 8 which he lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insight 9 making known to us the mystery of his will, according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ 10 as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth.

By God’s magnificent grace, which He lavished upon us (read that again—lavished. Wow.), believers get to be part of His plan to unite all things to Christ, things on heaven and things on earth. Part of this plan of uniting all things to Christ involves our sanctification and others' sanctification. And sanctification involves more and more grace, the gift that keeps on giving. 

Think about it: When you mess up, when you sin against a brother or sister, it can seem completely negative and guilt has the potential to take over. But Scripture challenges us to think of these moments as grace-opportunities! In our grievous sin, God’s grace is magnified. We would not need His grace if we did not sin. Grace, in times of our desperate need for a Savior, turns us back to Christ and then sanctifies us more deeply in Christ-likeness.

Now, please do not hear me say that grace makes sin acceptable! That is exactly what the Apostle Paul warns against when he says:

What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? 2 By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it? 3 Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? (Romans 6:1-3).

No—in the heart of a believer pursuing Christ, grace is the ongoing gift we cling to while lamenting our sin. Grace is also the ongoing gift we give to others, because we realize how much grace has been lavished on us by the Father! How can we hold another’s sin against them when we, though we never deserved it, have been rescued from sin and death?

Consider also how difficult circumstances and seasons, and perhaps changes of life plans, reflect God's continued grace. When I consider where certain paths could have led me, I shudder at the thought that my own "ways" were wrapped in selfishness and my own human wisdom. God's grace is sufficient, even when we do not realize the gift that is being given to us in His sovereignty leading us elsewhere, even when we do not understand His ways. 

Pastor and author Paul David Tripp once said something to this effect: God's grace purposes to take us where we never intended to go, ourselves, to accomplish in us what we could never do for ourselves.

That is grace. And the Father keeps on giving it!

For our sanctification and His glory, God’s grace is continually being poured out upon His children. Where is the gift of grace being worked out in your own life today?

Gracious Father, Your grace abounds every day! Thank You for Your Son, that He willingly submitted to Your will, so that grace could be lavished on us. Help us to see Your grace being worked out, strengthen us to live as forgiven children, and then teach us to be vessels of grace to others. 

Amen!

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