The Joy of Grace
I’ve talked about the meaning of grace and the wonder it induces, now I would like to talk about the joy of grace.
Jesus died so that we might live through him to the glory of Our Father in Heaven.
This is how God loved the world: he gave his only son, so that everyone who believes may not perish but may have eternal life. (See John 3:16, Romans 5:8, 1John 4:9)
Paul’s cry from Galatians (He loved me and delivered himself up for me) says Jesus endured the cross and everything it meant, because of his enormous love for us and the joy of reconciling us to God.
It is apt to ask if Jesus had to die, did He have to die condemned as a criminal, next to common criminals. Why did He have to die shivering and naked on a wooden cross on a hill outside the gates of the holy city? Couldn’t He just as easily and much better die a nice death? Couldn’t He die in bed surrounded by friends and family?
Asking this gives us a fresh look at what the scandal of the King of the universe dying on cross for the people who had forsaken Him really means. It should give us pause as to what it means personally to affirm that Jesus died for our sin. To what it means to say, Jesus carried our sin to the cross and separated us from it forever. We put Jesus on the cross. We did it. With that image in mind, doesn’t Jesus dying for our sins, for the sins of the world hanging on that rugged old cross saying, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing” change how we see the whole Christian story.
No one understands the love of God. None quite gets what it means that Jesus so loved the world that He forsook heaven to live a very human life and die on a very real wooden cross. I know I don’t. I like to think I do. I don’t. We don’t get the kind of love that climbs the hill, bears the cross, takes the nails, and takes our place; that gives His life and clears our name. The kind of love that cries alone, that tastes death to bring us home. We don’t understand the love that Gives His Son, that gives hope, dries tears and brings joy. We say we want to know this love, but when it comes to the wonderful, glorious, marvelous love embodied in the broken, bloodied body of Jesus, we start talking theology, justice, God’s wrath, and orthodoxy.
Jesus didn’t die for theology, justice, God’s wrath, and orthodoxy.
Jesus died for love, joy, relationship, so that we might live through him to the glory of Our Father in Heaven.
The Cross stands at the center of the universe revealing God’s love, not that we loved God, but that God loved us and sent his son so that we might live.
To live by grace means to have a deep trust in the redeeming work of Jesus Christ in our lives, understanding that he/she is a beloved child of God, and that God is present and at work in the world at all times. Trusting God is to stand in child-like awe and openness in the mysterious and gracious love and acceptance. A relationship with Jesus drives out fear, doubt, and shame that enable us to be hopeful, joyous, and loving.
We need to be about bringing joy to sadness. Ralph Waldo Emerson advises us to “scatter joy” and Mark Twain advises us to “Let your joy be unconfined!” Scattering unconfined joy is what Christians should be meant for. These two great writers are simply saying to not hide our joy under a basket or keep it to ourselves, but to share our joy and guide others to joy. The more you give something like joy, love, or kindness away the more you will have. We must stay open for joy and happiness. The bible is ripe with exhortations calling us to be of joy and to be not afraid. This life is full of things to fear and grieve, yet the bible implores us to be joyful in all circumstances. (1 Thessalonians 5)
I am not alone in preferring joy to sadness. Sometimes there seems no way out of sadness. Sometimes sadness hovers over us weighing us down. Jesus says he came so we could live life to the full. This means that our joy should be shared that it is a communal thing. We may be the most joyous people, but if we are not sharing our joy and guiding others to joy than our joy is meaningless. Joy should be part of community and cause us to reach out to others. Joy should cause us to widen our circle of compassion. Our joy is only complete when it is shared with others, especially those struggling. Joy is the fruit of a right relation with God. It is not something people can create by their own efforts. Joy is a choice we must deliberately make each day. Smile at people, greet them, make time for them, take friends to lunch, and show others images of beauty and works of literature.
It is urgent that we respond to God in this life.
God’s grace is sufficient for our needs, but this life is all we got and we need to respond to God trusting that God will handle the rest. We each have an important choice to make.
We shouldn’t wait for tomorrow. We can begin today. It’s not only pastors, missionaries, saints, but you and me can know, live, and spread the awesome joy of the god of love and the gospel of grace. Salvation is not just about us. Salvation begins in our heart and ripples outward, for it to be worth anything it needs to be about all of us, not just an elite few. God doesn’t merely want to save Christians, but everyone everywhere.
We need to remember that God is in control. We are not. We don’t have to worry about things working out or not. God will handle it. We just need to respond in sane, healthy, and loving ways to the things and people we encounter in our daily travels. It’s not ours to worry about the future. If we can control something, there is no need to worry and if we cannot control something why worry about it. That leaves nothing worry about. We simply live the best we can. When we value what God has bestowed onto us and who we really are, God will entrust us with more. God will give us more to do and more to become.
Too much energy is wasted by fretting over how we will do what needs doing. We simply show up and God will handle the rest. My experience has been that I get so nervous that I either shut down or shy away from what needs to be done. When I stand up and show up, I find that the doing for the most part is done almost by itself.
Maybe God is calling you to something you have put off for so long that you want to pretend it never crossed your mind. Something you want to do, but you fear will end up in disaster or worse, so you are ignoring it and hoping the desire will pass. There is a reason God has put that on your heart. God wants you to do that thing whatever it is. So do it. Just do it. Step out in faith, show up and let God handle the rest. Don’t worry that you may stumble, that you may fall flat on your face. God will use failure or success for your good and through you bless many others.
The joy of grace isn’t only God loves you personally and powerfully, but that he wants to do life with you.
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