Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Grace of God means this, too!

The obvious dimension
What is grace? One of the definitions of grace is that when we received something by grace, it meant that we receive that something without us meriting it. For example, salvation is by grace (Eph 2:8), meaning we receive it without us doing anything to merit it or we do not work for it; we just receive it as a gift from God.

My grace is sufficient for you
The dimension of grace in the 1st paragraph above is absolutely correct, but yet because of exposure of erroneous teaching of a Christian’s life following born-again is to just bask in grace, the dimension of grace (G5485) as a goodwill, loving-kindness and favor of God to influence upon us, having turned to Christ, to increase our knowledge, affection and faith in God, and to exercise the Christian virtues, has increasingly being overlooked.

Yes, I am referring to the dimension of grace as in, “My grace is sufficient for you”, as found in 2 Cor 12:9, on the Apostle Paul’s affliction of thorn in the flesh.

7 To keep me from becoming conceited because of these surpassingly great revelations, there was given me a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. 8 Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. 9 But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me (2 Cor 12:7-9).

Two dimensions of grace
I believe it is appropriate for us to look at grace in 2 dimensions, one being salvation grace {grace to enter into salvation}, and the other post-salvation grace {grace after born-again}. As salvation grace, it all culminates in the greatest gift of being born-again, by water and by the Spirit (born-again) {John 3:5}.

Post-salvation grace is not exactly this!
But what do you understand by the post-salvation grace? Is it, now that we are children of God, being born-again of the Spirit, we just get any kind of gifts we want from God? In other words, what is our mindset supposed to be; that we have arrived, therefore, there is nothing for us to do or learn or to grow, but only to bask in grace all our lives? If your theology of the entire salvation is such, then, post-salvation grace to you would be God’s meeting your expectations, whatever, they might be. If you are sick, God should just heal you; if you want to be materially and financially rich, God should oblige you, too; if you want to be highly looked-up by men, God should arrange for that; if you just want to bask in the sun whole year round and do nothing, God would be more than happy to see to it; if you want a gorgeous mate, the Lord should immediately arrange for you, that too; everything should be “smooth and swell” for you. When it is all like that, the grace of God is sufficient for you? What is “My grace is sufficient for you”, trying to paint? No more suffering, no more pain, no more trials, no more afflictions, no more mishaps, no more calamities, no more disasters, no more temptations, no more troubles, and no more trying? If it is not along such lines that post-salvation grace of God be interpreted, how should it be interpreted?

It is in the definition
If one looks at the Greek word for grace (G5485), “charis”, this meaning is given:

“goodwill, loving-kindness, favor of the merciful kindness by which God, exerting his holy influence upon souls, turns them {souls} to Christ, keeps, strengthens, increases them {souls} in Christian faith, knowledge, affection, and kindles them {souls} to the exercise of the Christian virtues”

We can see that God does not cease to render grace upon salvation. Yes, initially it would lead to one turning to Jesus, enter into salvation, but God does not consider the “job” as finished, see what it says, “{afterward} to keep, to strengthen, to increase the person in the faith, in knowledge (of God and His ways), in affection (in love), and to move the person to live out the Christian virtues.

Purpose of post-salvation grace
In other words, we do not reach “arrived state” on salvation, rather we embark on a journey of growth in knowledge, affection and faith in God, and live out our Christian virtues, and the grace of post-salvation is rendered to help us to achieve that outcome of growth in a Christian life. Therefore, while post-salvation grace has everything to do with the continuing salvation journey, it pointed NOT of God’s “smoothing and swelling” a believer’s life. God’s desire is that every believer overcomes until the end and receives the crown of life.

Although Rev 3:21 was referring to the Laodicea church, it carried the intent and purpose of Jesus, “To him who overcomes, I will give the right to sit with me on my throne, just as I overcame and sat down with my Father on his throne.” This means that we are to imitate Jesus, follow after His footsteps, and that will be that we are to live a life with the spirit to overcome all the time, for that was what Jesus did (as a man, on earth, then), continued to overcome, and did not sin. In other words, believers are to be over-comers, and stay as over-comers until the end (death or Jesus’ 2nd coming). The exhortation is perseverance.

In 2 Cor 4:8-9, we read this:

We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed.

The Apostle Paul was saying that the scenario of 2 Cor 4:8-9, that we are hard pressed on every side, perplexed, persecuted, even struck down, are very real. Yet as gospel bearers, and having entered into salvation with the Holy Spirit indwelling our body, we are to shine for God, to live out the Christian virtues {1 Cor 6:19-20 said our bodies are not our own anymore. We belong to God who purchased us with the blood of His Son, Jesus}. Paul said we have the ministry of the Holy Spirit (2 Cor 3:8), and with that we are able to show the all surpassing power of God working in and through our life. We are not to lose heart; by the grace of God, in the form of goodwill, loving-kindness and favor, even when we are hard pressed on every side, we are not crushed; perplexed, we are not in despair; persecuted, we are not abandoned; struck down, we are not destroyed.

In 2 Cor 12:7-9, we read of the Apostle Paul’s affliction, thorn in the flesh. It does not matter, what interpretation you give to “thorn” in that text (in v7), still it was something that greatly affected Paul; it tormented Paul (v7). God was not removing the “thorn” despite 3 times Paul pleaded with God. Paul was obviously an elect, but still in this instance, God did not “heal” him {“heal”, if you believe he was diseased, “set him free”, if you believe the “thorn” was a person, or a bondage, etc}. God just insisted that His grace was sufficient for him, Paul. It meant that God would be there with Paul as he continued in his affliction; God did not see it as necessary to remove the affliction from Paul.

Proper mindset
A couple of questions surface from here: Is it not right for me to pray for my affliction be removed? Yes, it is right for one to pray for one’s affliction to be removed. The Apostle Paul did that, in fact, 3 times. Even someone like Moses, pleaded many times with God, for something he felt difficult to accept, but that is another story (Those who wish, they can read my separate article of “Do you know why Moses did not enter the Promised Land?”). Whatever your affliction, be it sickness, loss of job or inability to find a job, marital woes, heartaches and headaches with your children, etc, etc, you can always pray to God. I always tell people to continue to pray to God and to seek prayers from others for healing of their sickness, especially, chronic and terminal illnesses. I tell people, that my prayers did not result in God’s healing them, does not necessarily mean God will not heal them when another offers prayers for them. You should continue to pray and seek prayers unless God tells you specifically not to seek removal regarding your affliction, like He did with Paul or how He answered Moses, concerning he, Moses, was not to enter the Promised Land, despite he having led the Israelites for 40 years.

But I prayed and prayed, and sought prayers over and over again, but still my affliction was not removed, does it mean that God has decided not to remove the affliction, and if so, what must I do? Of course, firstly, we have to check the reasonableness of our terming of something as an affliction. For example, if you own and live in a public housing flat in Singapore, and you prayed and prayed for you to own and live in a private condominium, and you term your “not owning and living in a private property” as an “affliction”, when more than 85% of the citizens are staying in public housing, you have better re-assess your priorities, before God (although I am not saying that one cannot live in a private condominium). But if indeed, you are in affliction (e.g. people with chronic or terminal illnesses are in affliction), and your affliction is not removed over “extended time”, it is not unreasonable to wonder what is happening. If you TRULY hear from God, then, it is easier, you just have to accept it, or if you still want to, you can do what King Hezekiah did – bargain with God some more (2 Kings 20:1-6). But if it is silent for you, meaning you do not hear, my suggestion is that you continue to seek the removal of the affliction by God (please note that on-going medical treatment etc, etc are NOT excluded), AND understand that, in your affliction, He is with you, AND His grace is sufficient for you, which means that you may continue to be hard-pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed, because He is there bearing you up.

Is there nothing I can do at all? I suggest what one can do is to attract the grace of God, and for understanding of this, one can read “The key – we can attract the grace of God” from my separate article – “Hold on, for the grace of God

Apart from compassion, there is still grace
What I am trying to get at, here, in this article, is that, apart from compassion, there is still the grace of God. If God has not compassion for your situation, and remove not your affliction, or remove not your affliction YET, there is still His grace which He will continue to extend to you in your struggle. Just like for Apostle Paul, God may be saying to you, for the time being, His grace is sufficient for you. I believe, the Apostle Paul, in 1 Cor 13:12-13, was saying that, despite the Kingdom of Heaven living is NOT fully reflected in earthly setting (only a reflection, meaning there are still aberrations; olden days’ mirror not as clear as that used currently {Paul’s analogy of “as reflection in mirror”}), still 3 things we need to hold fast in our Kingdom living on earth. They are that we are to hold fast to faith, hope and love; they are keys to our Christian living, and they are the keys for attracting the grace of God, in my understanding. So, even as we continue in life’s afflictions (we persist), we are to live out our lives, attracting the grace of God which will see us through.

Even though God will have mercy on whom He have mercy, and He will have compassion on whom He has compassion (Rom 9:15-16), we can always look to His grace and attract it by living in faith, hope and love.

Anthony Chia, high.expressions – Lord, may this article help your children to see your post-salvation grace as more, of you, helping us, in our trials and afflictions of life, rather than as you, blessing us, that we may just bask in grace or just live out a “smooth and swell” life, for our transformation did NOT complete upon our being born-again. In Jesus’ name, I pray. Amen.

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