16 Nov 2000

The Grace of an A

Submitted by theshovel
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When I was in Bible college in the early 70’s a discussion began after a student said something about deserving an A on a recent test. A friend of mine took issue with him on the premise of grace. He argued that such a good score was nothing less than a gracious gift of God and that to think in terms of what you deserve was law and legalism, and he quoted a verse or two from Romans 4 about grace vs law. The guy who brought it up didn’t take it too well. Inwardly, I also disagreed, for I couldn’t see how grace had anything to do with giving someone an A on a test they had studied for. But I said nothing. After all, how can you argue against grace without taking the side of Law? My Bible College years were not exactly grace-oriented, but fortunately God didn’t wait for me to get my ducks in a row when it came to revelation. The fact is that I still don’t agree with the grace of an A, and now I know why. Why? Because an A is better than a B, which is better than a C, which is better than a D, which is better than an F. It’s simply the top level of a grading system by which man strives to be seen as better than others. [Now, I’m not advocating a rebellion against the system, for even a better system is STILL based on performance.] Of course it is a legal mindset that thinks in terms of deserving the highest score, but is it any different to call man’s highest score grace? The result of such a premise is confusion and such confusion leads to disaster! A grace that has lines and degrees that can be numbered or lettered is not grace at all but is merely the rebuilding of that which was destroyed in Christ. In rebuilding a system of performance, relationships are severed. For we not only find ourselves at odds with one another but also with our own selves - and we also insist that GOD relates to us on the same basis. But the grace of Christ is measureless. His riches cannot be determined by any standard of man. And it has no lines by which to attach a score. So, how are we to live in a world that is built upon such a system of measure? Simple. Live as one who has been made alive. Don’t you know that the measuring system of the world is NOT your measuring system? Don’t you know that you ALREADY have within you the life that the world only PRETENDS to achieve? If we are going to operate within the world we will often be forced to take its tests, but the world’s evaluation of you is irrelevant, for your worth is in Christ. Don’t spiritualize the world’s system. Instead, see it for what it is. The difference between grace and law will become increasingly obvious!! Until next time ….. scoopfully yours, the shovel (aka Jim)
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Posted: November 16, 2000 by Jennifer

hey!!!!
wow!!! this is exactly perfect to hear today!!! what a relief as always. so u got to go on a trip it sounded like fun except for the cold u got.(your right,yuk!) anyways, i'm glad to hear from u and i wanted to say hi.
love you,


Posted: November 16, 2000 by John D

Jim;
This is the first newsletter I have received and I'm looking forward to receiving more. During the past 9 months Jesus has removed everything other than Him in my life. I mean all that I once considered my "life" Galatians 2:20 has been revealed to me and I now know that I don't have a life. It's so amazing to know that Jesus WILL accomplish his will through me WITHOUT me. Life is awesome and HIS Love teaches me to say no to things that I use to say yes to.
My wife and I are Jr High Counselors at a large local youth group. I Love Jr High students and I KNOW the Lord wants us there. I absolutely despise 90% of the teaching that goes on but the Lord won't allow us to move on. The Lord reminds me that Grace is needed in the "Organized" Church as well as other places. I believe He is opening up many opportunities to share His UNCONDITIONAL Love to kids and others at the Church.
I don't know why I rambled on but I appreciate your letter and site. Thank you and have an awesome day.


Posted: November 16, 2000 by Becki

Jim,
Thank you for what you wrote in this week's shovel letter. The last two sentences caught me by surprise as they succinctly summed up everything I've been trying to sort through for awhile now.
You said once that most of what you write is your own issues. Is that's what's been happening to you too? Has the gap between the two systems been widening for you too? How do you keep your balance?
Becki

~~~~~|||||) Hello Becki, my sweet sister in Christ!!!!
«You said once that most of what you write is your own issues. Is that's what's been happening to you too? Has the gap between the two systems been widening for you too?»

Oh yeah! It is what has been happening to me for many years now as the gap never seems to keep spreading wider and wider.
«How do you keep your balance?»

Well, I had learned as a baby that if I fell down enough times and keep getting up that I would eventually be able to balance myself and stand up for longer periods of time without falling. hahahaha! That's only partial in jest, for the lesson is that to concentrate on balance is the surest way to lose it. Have you ever walked along a narrow path (such as a sidewalk curb or on a 2x4) and pretended that you were high above the ground only to discover that you would most likely be one of the fatalities in high-rise construction? haha! And then have you walked a path without thinking about it only later to find that you couldn't do it again if you tried? I can remember many occasions of throwing an article and accidentally hitting a target that had I TRIED to hit would never in a million years!! My point is that "balance" can never be the focus for it will flee far from you. For me, continually remembering the difference between life and death, grace and law, light and darkness, Christ and ... everything else, is the only security. I have learned to let the distinctions DEMAND the reality.

To use Romans 13 as an example, I have come to realize that Paul HAD TO deal with our interconnection with this world system because the truth of the gospel forced the issue for him. Romans 13 has nothing to do with trying to put us back under law, but with the very distinctions I mentioned in the Shoveletter. It actually has been the pattern I have used. If we are NOT under law then how are we to view the world's law system but as the NECESSARY administration of God Himself in keeping a lid on a society that would tear itself to pieces without some kind of outward control. I heard a tale of an Amish man who had cornered a burglar at the bottom of the stairs with a shotgun. He told the would-be thief, "Sir, I mean thee no harm, but thou standest where I'm about to shoot!" haha! The story was easily used in a legalistic way at the Bible college, but when we see that we are no longer of this world, nor are its law our laws, nor its approval our approval then we can walk in it, even keeping within its accepted boundaries because we KNOW who we are and what our life truly is. (|||||~~~~~


Posted: November 16, 2000 by Jason L

Hey Jim
I'm just beginning to understand how to follow god. I've stumbled across your webpage while I was attending a bible as literature which started me down a faulty path. Your page has been greatly helpful and ask that you continue your work in the shovel. Wanted to let you know that you are making a difference.
God Bless,


Posted: November 16, 2000 by Natalie

I most definately have to read this most excellent shoveletter to my students! :) love ya,


Posted: November 16, 2000 by Mike

Oh Jim
When will we get it that what Paul wants us to stop doing in Romans 12:1-2 is not smokin' or drinkin' or chewin' (or any other words that end in -in'). He wants us to stop thinking the way the world thinks. He wants us to using the world's graceless template as the compass for our lives. The Shovel Letter this week is sooooo good! Apply grace to any situation or better still apply the situation within the pattern of grace and whoa.......what a difference! Thank you for the encouraging word at the end of the week! Bless you and yours. Glad you had a good time away. Hope your throat and all of your other body parts are doing better! :-)
In Abba's love -


Posted: November 16, 2000 by Heather

Jim,
Allow me to share with you a story of the grace of an "a".
A few semesters ago I was really really screwed up. Sin had ruined my life, my walk with God, my relationships with others, and I was in a deep deep depression. I was completely nonfunctional and largely suicidal. I was failing all my classes and I saw no hope for me or my life or anything, and just kept begging God for mercy.

I went to a conference on "grace" and started daring to hope..a little. I kept begging God for mercy. It was near the end of the semester and I realized I was failing every class. I went to the counseling center and begging them to help me and to intercede for me with my professors for extra time to finish. The counseling center wrote letters to my professors and instructed me to go and speak with each one of them. I continued to beg God for mercy, this time for my schoolwork. One by one, each professor refused leniency and guaranteed me that I would receive an "E" in their class. The only professor I didn't beg for mercy was one guy who I never even ONCE went to his class the entire semester, so that one wasn't even worth trying to beg. So I sat down and did the calculations: I needed to keep a 2.5 GPA to not get kicked out, and this would put me below that. I did more calculations: I needed an "A" in one of the classes to even hope for a 2.5 In the meantime my email account went crazy, and where it tells me how many days of grace I have to be over my email quota, instead of the 7 allotted days, the numbers started going into the 35,000 days of grace. (something like that) I worked for computing at my school and they had NO IDEA what was making my account give me that many days of grace and had never seen it happen in anyone else's account. Well, grades were in and I checked on the computer just to see the final analysis. There on my screen, on the one class that I never went to the professor to beg for cause I never went to one day of his class, was an "A". I almost fell on the floor. I didn't know if it was a computer glitch, a mistake in the grade sheet, or what, but at the moment, i wasn't asking any questions. I enrolled for the next semester before they could change their minds and prevent me from registering for classes! I couldn't believe it, I was still in school. I didn't get mercy...I got something that I truly didn't earn and didn't deserve..an "A". God made a powerful statement to me that day - that HE was in charge of my life and the giver of my life and that He wanted me to stay in school and that He had a plan and a purpose that He wasn't going to let the enemy steal from me, even though I was a total screw-up. I started to believe that God had a future for me, from that day. After I was all re-enrolled I went to that professor's office. I knocked on the door and he answered and was like, "can I help you?" I was like, "yes, I'm Heather W...." He was like...."uh..ok." You see, he didn't even know who i was at first. THen I said, "You gave me an 'A' in a class I never went to." He said, "oh, yeah. I remember now." I said, "You saved my life." He said, "Well, I think the Lord actually had something to do with that. That grade sheet sat on my desk for about a week and I prayed about what to do with you and I felt like something must have happened to you...and I prayed about and did what I felt God was telling me to do - how many people have you told?" I was utterly amazed. I didn't even know this professor knew the Lord, and he didn't even know who I was. Yes, he had gotten the note from the counseling center, but their recommendation was an incomplete and extra time, not free "A's." So anyway, I believe A's can easily be the grace of the Lord.
Just wanted to share.
your sister
heather

~~~~~|||||) hahaha! Hello Heather,
Any and every illustration breaks down and has exceptions (which includes every parable and story that Jesus told). Of course, I knew SOMEBODY would have a story about getting an "A" that they did not deserve. :) I almost stuck a little side note about the difference between what I was writing about and one of those occasional miracles. I just didn't want to sidetrack the point by including an exception that was illustrating an entirely different matter altogether. As a matter of fact, I was pretty much going to give a hypothetical situation EXACTLY as you described where the undeserved score would make a radical difference. Thanks for sharing that with me. Please know that my story was not written to invalidate a story like yours. Your story fits into the same category as those miracles of receiving enough money to pay the rent when you're flat broke and are about to get thrown out on the street. I hope your excellent story of God's working doesn't keep you from seeing the measureless, gradeless grace of Christ that I described.
Big bro, Jim :) (|||||~~~~~

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Random Shovelquote: The living side of the grave (view all shovelquotes)

there is no advice in this world – even if it comes from a Bible verse or a preacher’s sermon – that can produce God’s work within you. Oh, it might make you appear more spiritually productive, but the working of God doesn’t come from the practical side of the grave … but from the living side that has risen past it. When I tell you that Christ is your life, I’m telling you about the one and only present-tense reality that causes you to live as one who is truly alive in this world. source