Thursday, September 8, 2011

If not for grace.....

Philippians 4:23

May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit.

     As I read this final verse in the book of Philippians, I tried to understand and comprehend its meaning. Why would Paul close out his letter in this manner? Why not just say, “May God bless you?” or “Blessings on you and your family?” Could it be that Paul had a specific reason and purpose for stating those particular words? Did he have an understanding of grace that others didn’t fully comprehend?

    We know that God’s “grace” simply means “His unearned favor, benefit or blessing.” As Christians, we hear that term so much, that I think we tend to take it for granted. We sing about it, read about it, and loosely throw the term around until it becomes common, ordinary and expected.

     Let’s look at it a different way. Instead of thinking of grace as an added benefit that God throws in because we’ve joined the born-again club, let’s come at it from a different perspective. Say someone broke into your house while you were at work and stole every valuable thing that you own. Two days later, the thieves are caught and thrown in jail to await their court date. Meanwhile, your possessions could not be returned to you because they were resold and unable to recover. When the court date rolls around, you are asked to come and testify against them. During the proceedings, great compassion and empathy for the thieves overwhelm you and you decide to drop all charges against them. Everyone walks out of the courtroom that day free and clear, able to resume life any way they see fit.

     This is a fictitious example of true, ultimate grace. You, as the victim, did not give the thieves what they truly deserved, but rather, extended grace to the greatest extent, regardless of their response to it. You extended favor, benefits, and blessings to the thieves, even though they didn’t deserve it.

     So yes, the definition of grace definitely means, “God’s unearned favor, benefit or blessing”, but when you think of it in this context, it takes it to a new depth in its meaning. His favor, benefit and blessing is in not giving us what we truly deserve, which is punishment and death for our crimes of sin. Jesus Christ took that punishment for us through his death and resurrection, and we walk out of the courtroom free and clear, able to resume life any way we see fit.

     If we were those thieves in the courtroom and all the charges against us were dropped, how would we respond to the one who dropped the charges? Wouldn’t most of us be so joyful, thankful and grateful, and even go and thank the one who held our fate in their hands? How much more should we go to God and express the same response for His grace toward us? Each of us deserve death and destruction, but God’s grace spares us of that punishment. God’s grace truly is amazing and we need to stop walking around taking it for granted and expecting it as an added benefit to our salvation. It is because of His grace that we can receive salvation in the first place!

     I think Paul understood that God’s grace was not necessarily to be a benefit to the human flesh, but rather to the spirit man. For the spirit is the one that will spend eternity somewhere. So when he wrote this verse, he was speaking and praying “grace” over everyone’s spirit because that’s the place where grace was needed. It’s only through God’s grace that we will be allowed to spend eternity with Him rather than where we deserve to spend eternity.

     My prayer for you today is that you will gain a deeper, more knowledgeable understanding of grace and what it means for you personally and through that understanding; you will gain a deeper, more meaningful relationship with the one that holds your fate in His hands.

      May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit.

     What has your view and understanding of grace been in the past? Have you taken it for granted and received it as an added benefit? Take some time to reflect and reread today’s devotion. Then ask God to help you to truly understand what His grace means for you personally.

Have a great day!

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