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Friday, July 23, 2010

Receive and Experience

23Receive and experience the amazing grace of the Master, Jesus Christ, deep, deep within yourselves. (Phil. 4:23)


This verse is the salutation of Paul to the Philippian church.  He has instructed them in attitude of being content in all circumstances - good or bad, prosperous or in need.  The church had made a gift to him to support him in his ministry and he is gracious to thank them for their continuous support in the spread of the gospel.  He leaves them with these parting words - received and experience the amazing grace of Jesus.  It is more than just saying "Love, Paul" at the end of a letter.  It is a specific instruction of his hope for the people who love God.


Grace is often described as the unmerited favor of God.  Most of us can even quote that definition when asked what the grace of God is.  I think it carries a deeper meaning, though.  To understand God's grace, we must first know that it is freely given, even when we don't know we need it.  Yes, it is unmerited - but it is also often "unrealized" because we take such a long time coming around to the place that we recognize our need for the love of God to be expressed in our circumstance.  


Favor is an expression of love - the intense love of a father's heart for his dear children - even when their actions or attitudes don't express any sign of "deserving" that love.  We have a hard time understanding that concept because we link love to an action - if you do something "deserving" of the expression of my love, I reciprocate.  If your actions are "pushing away" my love, such as an action that reflects your anger toward me or your mistrust of me, I withhold my love.  God is exactly the opposite of that - he reaches out even more when we are pushing him away or withholding ourselves from him!


Grace carries with it the idea of the influence of God in our lives - operating through his Spirit to regenerate and strengthen us in our daily walk.  Without God's grace being renewed in our lives on a daily, moment-by-moment basis, none of us would be able to live this Christian life.  That is the idea of grace being given even when we don't realize we need it.  We act, think, respond - sometimes almost by rote or without real intention on our parts - all the while with God's grace in the background just waiting to "cover" our action, "change" our thinking, or "regenerate" our response.  


Paul reminds us that we are to both receive and experience God's grace.  To receive it means that we acknowledge our need for it.  To experience it means that in those times when it has been extended without us even asking, we embrace the results of that regenerating and strengthening he has provided. For grace to be fully apprehended, we must welcome it.  We need to have open hearts to respond to God's grace - sure, it is extended even before we realize our need for it - but God wants us to open up to a full experience of what he provides with each new expression of his grace.  


If you find yourself saying that you need some strength to make it through, or some regeneration of your passion, purpose, or pursuit in life - you are saying you are open to the grace of God being poured into your life afresh today.  You can equate God's grace to his love.  They are one and the same - his love reaches out before we realize our need.  His grace is renewed fresh every day. Our strength is as solid as the God of the universe.  Our hope is as deep as the endlessness of his grace!  Receive and experience the grace of God afresh today - deep within your heart.