Friday, June 22, 2018

Pass me that plate, will ya?

Receive and experience the amazing grace of Jesus.  It is more than just a saying. This is the specific instruction of hope for the people who love God - that they both received and then begin to experience very deeply the intensity of the love that extends such magnificent grace. We can 'receive' a lot of things in this lifetime, but none of these things 'received' really matter until we begin to experience something as a result of what we 'received'. Think for a moment about the dishes passed around the table at a huge family meal, such as Thanksgiving or Christmas meal. If your house is like mine, there are a variety of dishes, all prepared with tender-loving care. Some are quite simple - like the mashed potatoes. Others are a little more 'fancy' - like the corn casserole or baked green bean casserole. We might just allow those dishes, received into our hands, pass us by because our plate seems too full already, or we don't really need two starches on our plate at one time. We received them into our hands, but we never really experienced the bounty that was offered. Receiving does not always equal experiencing!

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

Grace is described to us as the unmerited favor of God - something not earned or deserved because our actions were inconsistent with what was received. To understand God's grace, we must first know that it is freely given, even when we don't know we need it - but things 'given' must be 'taken in' in order to have the greatest value or impact in our lives. Yes, grace is unmerited (unwarranted), but it may also be "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 circumstances of life. It is like we let the plate pass us by because we think our plate is full enough, or we may not have need for what is offered so freely to us. 

Favor is a definite 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 equally 'deserving' action - if you do something "deserving" of the expression of my love, I will reciprocate with similar actions of love.  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 until you prove that you 'deserve' it again. God is exactly the opposite of that - he reaches out even more when we are pushing him away or withholding ourselves from him! He isn't going to let the plate pass us by - we find it coming around again simply because it has something on it he desperately wants us to experience!

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. We have to 'experience' many 'helpings' from the grace plate! 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. 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 - he passes the plate more than once because he knows once we experience what he offers, we will want seconds and thirds and even more! 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. Just passing the plate one more time!