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Friday, February 21, 2014

Products of Grace

When a company is just about ready to introduce a new product, the term "going public" might be used to suggest the steps they take in revealing their new concept.  Much effort is put into putting forth the right message so that the public at large will be aware of the new product, beginning to form the impression of "need" which will cause them to desire the product.  As the new product is finally readied for market, the public will have a curiosity as a result of "having gone public" some time prior - a technique we call marketing. There are times when the best "marketing" we can actually experience is the "marketing" of a life transformed because of something.  When we see the advertisements for the surgery which lifts the wrinkles away and draws the loose skin tight again on our faces, making us look 20 years younger, there is an appeal because the "transformation" was so totally apparent.  Before and after pictures speak very clearly of the possibilities of the procedure - making us want it more than ever.  I think God doesn't necessarily "market" a "product" so to speak, but he does "model" his work in each of us.  It is this "modeled" work which speaks very clearly of the hope of transformation we can all have as we embrace Christ and he embraces us.

God’s readiness to give and forgive is now public. Salvation’s available for everyone! We’re being shown how to turn our backs on a godless, indulgent life, and how to take on a God-filled, God-honoring life. This new life is starting right now, and is whetting our appetites for the glorious day when our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ, appears. He offered himself as a sacrifice to free us from a dark, rebellious life into this good, pure life, making us a people he can be proud of, energetic in goodness.  (Titus 2:11-14 MSG)

God stands ready to GIVE and FORGIVE.  This is the message he wants to "go public" with through our transformed lives.  Each of us is a billboard of God's grace - revealing the depth of his love and the generosity of his "giving" through his Son's completed work on our behalf.  Each of us is the best form of "advertisement" God could employ to show the graciousness of his forgiveness.  Nothing speaks louder than transformed lives.  Nothing quite expresses his love more than lives touched deeply by it.  The message we proclaim - "Salvation's available for everyone!"

Looking at what God does within us to make this change possible on the outside of us is quite revealing.  First, he gives the ability to turn our backs on the old way of living.  This may not seem very significant at first, but if you have ever tried to break a bad habit such as nail biting, smoking, or drinking you know how difficult it can be to do this in your own effort.  It is like we need a supernatural ability to break free from the hold of the old way of living. This is what Christ provides - freedom from the bonds we have to the past way of making decisions, choosing what will exercise control in our lives, and where our focus will be directed.  We don't "work up" to the place of being free - the gives us this freedom and the ability to turn our backs squarely on the old way of living.

If this isn't enough to cause us great delight, he also gives us the ability to take on this new way of living.  It is this constant renewal of his grace within which helps us up each time we fall, sets us straight each time we wander, and encourages us each time we feel defeated.  Some of us expect the "instant overnight fix" of our life problems.  In case it didn't dawn on you yet, it took you your lifetime to this point in life to create those problems, so getting out of the routine of living "within" those problems may take us a little longer than we hoped for.  It doesn't mean we aren't made new in Christ just because we have some of the old stuff hanging around giving us a little bit of a problem today.  It means we have an opportunity to rely upon Jesus to help us realize our freedom from those old ways of living - we are declared and made free instantly, but we need to have our minds and hearts (emotions) transformed so we can actually live free of those old ways.

I like the illustration my pastor frequently uses to show this example.  He turns to his left and describes what he sees as his old way of living.  Then he turns clearly and fully to the right, changing not only the position of his body, but the focus of his eyes.  Turned to the left, he saw the old way of living. Turned to the right, he sees the new.  This is repentance - a change in focus. This is salvation - a change in focus.  The old lays behind, the new is right in front of us.  If we maintain an "attitude" of focus on the old, it is quite hard to rise above it.  When we determine to see only what God provides through the new, we tend to move toward what we see in our focus.  This is God's work of giving and forgiving - of taking on a God-filled, God-honoring life.

Most companies don't market their product by "giving it away", but God reveals the "products of his grace" by giving grace to those who put it on display for others to see.  Why?  To whet the appetites of many to receive this gift of grace.  What God gives and forgives become "products of his grace" and are "billboards" showing the possibilities of what he can do in the lives of all who will embrace his gift.  We are "products of grace" - on display for a world to behold - revealing the ever-increasing possibilities of grace and forgiveness when it is embraced fully.  When we turn our backs to the old way of living and face squarely the revelation of grace and forgiveness, the possibilities are endless.  We can focus on not being able to break free of sin's pull, or we can focus on the gift of grace which has already done the work of setting us free.  I don't know about you, but I think I will choose to focus on grace!  Just sayin!