The Praise of His Glorious Grace

At our Sunday night Connect Group, one participant asked about grace.  I’m thankful she wished to have that glorious term clarified.  She mentioned that the time she usually hears about grace is when it came to something like being graceful in one’s movements.

Spurgeon in his work, All of Grace, pens two beautiful paragraphs on the nature of grace, springboarding from Romans 4:5: “And to the one who does not work but believes in him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is counted as righteousness:”  Hear Pastor Spurgeon:

He makes those just who are unjust, forgives those who deserve to be punished, and favors those who deserve no favor. You thought, did you not, that salvation was for the good? that God’s grace was for the pure and holy, who are free from sin? It has fallen into your mind that, if you were excellent, then God would reward you; and you have thought that because you are not worthy, therefore there could be no way of your enjoying His favor. You must be somewhat surprised to read a text like this: “Him that justifieth the ungodly. ” I do not wonder that you are surprised; for with all my familiarity with the great grace of God, I never cease to wonder at it. It does sound surprising, does it not, that it should be possible for a holy God to justify an unholy man? We, according to the natural legality of our hearts, are always talking about our own goodness and our own worthiness, and we stubbornly hold to it that there must be somewhat in us in order to win the notice of God. Now, God, who sees through all deceptions, knows that there is no goodness whatever in us. He says that “there is none righteous, no not one.” He knows that “all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags,” and, therefore the Lord Jesus did not come into the world to look after goodness and righteousness with him, and to bestow them upon persons who have none of them. He comes, not because we are just, but to make us so: he justifieth the ungodly.

When a counsellor comes into court, if he is an honest man, he desires to plead the case of an innocent person and justify him before the court from the things which are falsely laid to his charge. It should be the lawyer’s object to justify the innocent person, and he should not attempt to screen the guilty party. It lies not in man’s right nor in man’s power truly to justify the guilty. This is a miracle reserved for the Lord alone. God, the infinitely just Sovereign, knows that there is not a just man upon earth that doeth good and sinneth not, and therefore, in the infinite sovereignty of His divine nature and in the splendor of His ineffable love, He undertakes the task, not so much of justifying the just as of justifying the ungodly. God has devised ways and means of making the ungodly man to stand justly accepted before Him: He has set up a system by which with perfect justice He can treat the guilty as if he had been all his life free from offence, yea, can treat him as if he were wholly free from sin. He justifieth the ungodly.

(Charles H. Spurgeon, All of Grace, the beginning of Chapter 3.)

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When Grace Takes a Holiday—a Follow-Up

Yesterday, I posted an article on how to deal with disappointment of others (and also when you disappoint others).  I must have had this on my radar, but I came across two other articles that dealt with the same issues, this time toward pastors.

How Criticism of Jay Cutler is Like Criticism of Pastors (HT: Adam Embry):

Pastors just can’t win. They preach too long; they preach too short. They preach too theologically, they preach too shallow. They counsel too little; they counsel too much. They lead too much with a business perspective; they lead too little with a business perspective. They are too sociable; they are not sociable enough.

… Pastors, if they rip on Jay Cutler, who is one of the top 15 best quarterbacks on the planet, then folks will rip you, too.

The Punches I Never Saw Coming

I wonder how many pastors are shocked when they get the first nasty e-mail telling them that they are not a good teacher, a poor fit for the church, or that the last pastor had real vision. I wonder how many enter vocational ministry realizing that some of the people they welcome for dinner, drink coffee with, and confide in will turn around and slander them, gossip about them, betray confidences, and even mobilize support against them.

It’s been a long time since I’ve been on the receiving end of this as a pastor, but I have been there.  Few things sting worse.  And I did not post these articles as a shot over the bow about what has happened to me recently. 

I posted them because I recognize that both myself, the pastors on our team, my fellow pastor friends, and others all over struggle with this.  We want to please Christ with all we have, but there are others who are vocal who also say they want to please Christ, but want them to please them and Christ.  They are not one in the same.  I know that one day, this will happen to me again.  And do you know what I will do?

  • I will grieve over this breach of relationship.
  • I will pray for my own heart in whatever I did to contribute and be gracious in seeking forgiveness and restoration.
  • I will pray for their heart, that they will see if their grievance is to the true proportion of the issue at hand—and that they will be gracious in restoration.
  • Then I will trust God and move on to the next item up for ministry. 

If young pastors can last in their ministry five years, through the ups and downs of it all, and still feel a sense of calling from God and are willing to persevere, that is a good healthy sign.

Pray for your pastors.  We will not always get it right, but we do love you and love our churches and love the communities our churches are in.

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When Grace Takes a Holiday: Four Ways to Handle Disappointment in Others

One of the most liberating things I’ve ever heard as a leader and as a follower of Christ is this:  you cannot please everyone.

Along with this, one of the most painful things I’ve realized it this:  you cannot please everyone.

None of us get it right all the time.  None of us.  Not you.  Not I.  None of my friends have.  None of my staff at Arapahoe Road Baptist Church have.  None of my church members have either.

(I’ll give you time to let that soak in before you press on.)

Times will arise when you will be disappointed in others because, in turn, they will not please you.  We all have a filter through which we look at our lives and look at others.  If others do not match up to that standard, you will have a time of disappointment.

It is at this exact moment you have a choice to make.  Will grace make its home in your heart…

… or will it take a holiday?

When someone disappoints you, and lets you down, it can go from sadness, to hurt, to anger or even betrayal.  Some zing past those mileposts faster than others, but others make take their time, allow it to sink in, and the journey still continues.

If you are on this journey, take the Gospel Off Ramp.  What do I mean?  Before you hit those mileposts, apply the gospel of what Christ has accomplished (read Romans 8:31-39).  His love, applied through His atoning work on the cross, has forgiven us of our sins and cleansed us.  The Gospel Off-Ramp means that we refuse by His Spirit to allow that sin and sadness and hurt to dig in.  But how?

In Colossians 4:5-6, the apostle Paul gives some wise counsel:

Walk in wisdom toward outsiders, making the best use of the time. Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person.

So from this verse, here are five ways to make sure grace does not take a holiday in how you deal with others.

1.  Ask God for wisdom (James 1:5-8).

Are you disappointed in others frequently?  Ask God for wisdom to see if the issue is with others, or ultimately with you?  He has promised to give the believer the necessary wisdom to move forward.  You see, when it comes to how God deals with His people, grace never takes a holiday.  Grace is not merely for salvation, but His graciousness moves in us.  (You may say, “Yes, Paul says this is how we should be toward outsiders.”  True, but he brings that out because it’s easier to be gracious to fellow believers that you love.  If you’re having trouble being gracious to your fellow brothers and sisters in Christ?  Ask God for a double portion of wisdom–now!)

2.  Make the best use of your time.

Should someone have disappointed you, how are you using your time?  Are you letting it fester, or are you keeping short accounts (Matthew 5:21-26)?  Or will you take time to pray for perspective?  If it’s legitimate, will you take time to speak with others about the issue at hand.

3.  Should you speak to others about your issue, throw some salt on your speech.  

Calvin helps clarify what this means:  “Profane men have their seasonings of discourse, but he does not speak of them; nay more, as witticisms are insinuating, and for the most part procure favor, he indirectly prohibits believers from the practice and familiar use of them. For he reckons as tasteless everything that does not edify. The term grace is employed in the same sense, so as to be opposed to talkativeness, taunts, and all sorts of trifles which are either injurious or vain.”  In others words, the sarcasm and biting humor should not be used as the culture does.

On the other side of that coin, we should also realize that, among our brothers and sisters in Christ, should others use those devices clearly because they love us, we should have graciousness to respond accordingly.  When my dad is walking with my mom at church, some of their friends will ask her, “What’s that thing following you around?”  On the surface, is it nice?  Not particularly.  But my parents know that these are their friends and that’s how they express their friendship–to joke about something that is clearly absurd.  Take all these into consideration!  Throw some salt on that speech.

4.  Maybe you need to give others a break–maybe.

Yes, people will disappoint you.  Yet, you at some point will disappoint them.  None of us are immune.  But just as God’s grace never takes a holiday in our justification, it never takes a holiday in our sanctification.  Maybe we just need to give each other a break!  Maybe we just need to talk!  Maybe we need to evaluate our standards to see if they lack grace but are all justice and judgment.  If you’re all justice and judgment, may heaven help you in dealing with other mortals.  But if we have been apprehended by grace, we just need to cut others some slack and pick our battles.  If this is the case, refer to #s 1-3.

Has grace taken a holiday in your life and relationships?

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