Grace Beyond The Cross

Grace does not come easily for me. Besides being ridiculously clumsy, I’m also unaware of the abundant grace I receive nor do I display it as often as I should. We are not called to live in ignorance of grace. This detrimental way of living hurts me, hurts others, hurts God.

The greatest display of grace was shown through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. If you know Jesus personally, you’ve received this grace. But, believe it or not, God’s grace extends even farther than the cross. Salvation is truly the greatest gift of grace you could ever accept, but it doesn’t stop there. Often, we neglect living in God’s grace past the point of being saved. Everything we have is from God – the creation surrounding us, the people in our lives, the roof above our heads, our jobs, our stuff, the very breath in our lungs.

“For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever.” Romans 11:36

But, do we give him the glory? Or do we carry the burden of discontentment and selfishness? I’m selfish. I tend to think about what God isn’t giving me or revealing to me rather than glorifying Him. How can I change that? Well, I’ll let John Piper speak – “God is most glorified is us when we are most satisfied in Him.” We must respond to God’s bountiful grace with contentment, thankfulness, joy. Unless you’re the one who keeps this universe functioning, I have no one to thank except God for the sun rising each morning. Imagine receiving the most wonderful present and later on having a conversation with the person who sent it, but without saying “thank you.” I can assume that friend would experience extreme hurt. Sadly, that’s exactly what we do to God with all the grace He bestows on us. In another sense, how frustrating is it when someone rejects help or a favor? You know that there’s better for someone, but get stubbornly pushed away. The situation proves more discouraging when you know exactly how to help or solve the issue. This scenario results in stubbornness, bitterness, and unfinished business on one end and feelings of rejection and disheartenment on your end. So often I try to handle life myself and end up stubborn and bitter. That puts God at the rejected, disheartened end. Ouch. God delights in helping us through our day. He wants us to know helplessness so we rely on Him and His grace more and more. Not only does that bring God glory, but life usually works out better for us when living in His grace day in and day out. Yes, “we greatly rejoice” (1 Peter 1:8) because of saving grace manifested in Jesus Christ. But as God’s grace is seen in all else, so we respond continually in gratitude.

Recently, I’ve been overwhelmed with recognizing the grace shown to me by others. My first reaction is defensive because it doesn’t feel right to get so much from others that I don’t deserve, both material and immaterial, but that’s exactly what grace is. And then defense mode softens into heartfelt appreciation. This turn of emotions challenges me to grow in grace myself.  If human grace is enough to motivate me, God’s grace certainly abounds. Receiving grace is not enough. God lavishes us with more grace than we even comprehend and with that overflow of grace we must pour it onto others. Of course, this requires consistently receiving the grace God gives as discussed previously. Without receiving it, we have none to give on our own. When I’ve tried that in the past (and will continue to mess up in the future), people pleasing rather than grace is the result. But, when living in God’s grace, we have more than enough to expend on those around us. This is our call. To love sacrificially. In other words, to love graciously. If He calls us to love this way, He won’t fail to equip us to do so.

“And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that having all sufficiency in all things at all times, you may abound in every good work.” 2 Corinthians 9:8

A willingness to share grace is necessary, though. It won’t come naturally. Our flesh does the opposite. We love being self-centered and pointing out the faults in others. Going out of our way for others wellbeing doesn’t sound appealing. Grace seems to be going extinct in our individualistic society, but is it disappearing in the Church as well? Point fingers all you want, but the end of the matter is we don’t want to extend grace. Holding onto our desires seems greater than “counting others as more significant than yourselves” (Philippians 2:3). By neglecting to love graciously, we’re missing some of the first part of the equation too. We aren’t living fully in God’s gracious love because living in that transforms our hearts. But we put up barricades against that transformation. Boy are we missing out just because our worldly longings pull us away from living in and pouring out God’s grace. To begin breaking down those barriers, awareness of God’s grace is essential. Once we begin recognizing God’s grace in every aspect of our lives,  our “needs” dwindle. We see that, by God’s grace, we already have exceedingly more than we need. With the dwindling focus on our needs, it’s much easier to focus on the needs of others. Here’s where you become a grace bearer. So many people don’t even know what grace looks like. We have the opportunity to give glimpses of God’s grace to others, those who know Him and those who don’t. This task becomes no longer an obstacle, but a joy.

Let go of the burden(s) of discontentment, selfishness, people pleasing, and whatever else comes with living outside of God’s grace. Instead, look for His grace, live in it, love it, and lengthen it.

Grace and peace be yours in abundance through the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord.” 2 Peter 1:2

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