The Application of Grace
As a youth group leader, teaching "the whole counsel of God" (Acts 20:27) caught my attention. So, in 1976, with that phrase as the title, I made a list. Among the Top Ten were, "The Christian Life" and "Faith", for I saw them as incredibly important. But my list was an attempt to categorize something that would not be contained, and the contradictions began to slap my perceptions silly!! If I told you that I learned this approach from my teachers it would only be partially true, the fact is that their teaching only reinforced my own perceptions.
It was natural for me to separate those Christian Life teachings from their application because it made sense. Fortunately, God loves to mess around with what appears sensible to me as He turns it upside down! How else would I view the Bible except as God's truth needing to be applied as principles for living when those around me as saw it the same way? Is it any wonder that the Christian bottom-line turns out to be no different than the world's - except for the particulars of the principles?
I have often been accused of ignoring the application verses of the Bible, but ironically, for the past 20 years, I have spent more time examining those particular parts that are often used to propagate the bondage of living by Christian principles. I have to remind myself that Paul ALSO wrote of grace in the FIRST half of Ephesians, or the FIRST portion of Romans, and so on. How's that for a twist? Lately, I've read more from Matthew or John, and I hear the words screaming out regarding the GRACE to come. My formula of making application came from the separation of truth from life. I figured that unless I did it, it wouldn't happen. God must have considered Himself very lucky that I was there to make up for His inability to produce His work in those who have the Spirit, don't you think?
How did we really come to understand God's grace? Were we just fortunate enough to learn a particular teaching or viewpoint? Is it because we now have our grace ducks in a row? Is it because we have attained? Or is it because God made us alive through Christ in the giving of His Spirit? You see, as long as we keep thinking it's up to us to make God's word real we will continue to view God's miracle as a delicate balance between finding the true truth and getting the correct handle on how to live it. And somehow, we will attribute our latest success to our current truth instead of to the miracle of Christ.
What if it is only our former principle-based mindset that haunts us with the notion that this grace we received in Christ needs our application to make it work? What if it is only this illusion that keeps us thinking and acting as if we are hanging in the balances between flesh and Spirit? What if the true message of Christ is actively smashing this illusion by the declaration of His life in us? Sounds a little too good to be true, don't you think?