Saturday, May 20, 2017

A Deluge of Grace, Grace, GRACE!

Here are reflections from my morning quiet time with God today. To see how I approach quiet time, see here.
Look: “Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.” (Romans 5:3-5, NIV)

“And that’s not all: We throw open our doors to God and discover at the same moment that he has already thrown open his door to us. We find ourselves standing where we always hoped we might stand—out in the wide open spaces of God’s grace and glory, standing tall and shouting our praise.” (Romans 5:3-5, The Message)

“Deep and wide / Deep and wide / There’s a fountain flowing deep and wide.” It’s the words of that old Sunday School and camp song that come to mind as I read these amazing words of Paul, beautifully rendered by Peterson in The Message.

In the first two verses of Romans, chapter 5, Paul comes to one of his important therefore statements: “Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we boast in the hope of the glory of God.”

When I compare my life and how I conduct it to the Law of God, I fall short (Romans 3:23). As we confess on Sunday mornings, “We have not loved You with our whole heart; we have not loved our neighbors as ourselves.” But, just like Abraham, the patriarch of Biblical faith, Paul says, we are accounted righteous by God through faith in God, Who has now revealed Himself to all the world--Jews and Gentiles--through Jesus, true God and true man. God graciously offered His Son for us so that all who believe in Jesus--Jew and Gentile--share in His victory over death and enjoy eternal reconciliation with God (Romans 5:10).

Paul says that I not only can now boast in my hope of a life of perfect righteousness beyond my grave because of Jesus and my faith in Him, I can even boast about Jesus in the midst of my sufferings.

Why? Because, God forges my character and fits me for authentic human living in this world and in eternity in the midst of suffering as I keep following Jesus!

This results in hope that doesn’t disappoint or put me to shame.

When I go through the worst that this life dispenses, when I experience God’s grace and forgiveness even when I am my own worst enemy and the creator of my own heartaches, I know that God is real. I experience, intimately and first-hand, that God’s grace is real. I know that Jesus’ death and resurrection were for me too.

This is how I have experienced You, God: As the gracious Father, Son, and Holy Spirit Who still loves me, still hears my prayers, still stands by me when I have failed You and I turn back, when I suffer and I rely on You.

It’s through the dark times, as we cling to Your hand, that deeper peace, deeper hope, deeper certainty, and deeper faith are won.

I have come to realize that You love me in spite of me--” just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly” (Romans 5:6). Wow!

Listen: All of which is why, Peterson’s rendering in The Message caused me to stand up and take deeper notice of Your Word in Romans 5:3-5 today.

When my suffering--real, imagined, or attributable to the devil, the world, or my sinful self--leads me to a deeper walk with You and often in my life, hopelessness is dealt a fatal blow.

Grace gets the last word over my sin.

Life gets the final say over death.

I find myself, as Peterson renders Paul’s letter to the Romans “...standing where [I] always hoped [I] might stand—out in the wide open spaces of God’s grace and glory, standing tall and shouting [my] praise.”

When I trust in You, You set me free to be who You made me to be--Your son--and do what I was made for--reflect Your glory and goodness.

You grant a life-giving tidal wave of living water, slaking my troubled soul with grace. Grace. Grace. Grace! GRACE! 

When I connect with You each day, I find that taking in Your grace and love is far more challenging than the proverbial drinking water from a fire hose. It’s like trying to take in an ocean of fresh water in one gulp. You bring a deluge of grace that Paul talks about in Romans 5:5, observing (in Peterson’s rendering): “...we can’t round up enough containers to hold everything God generously pours into our lives through the Holy Spirit!” (A particular challenge for us who are simple jars of clay or paper cups, 2 Corinthians 4:7.)

And, amazingly, that’s in the midst of suffering, as Your grace uses that suffering to forge our characters and deepen our hope. (In the Peterson rendering, “alert expectancy,” is hope, a fantastic way of portraying Christian hope.)

As You daily prove Your faithfulness to me, Lord, I find myself increasingly empowered to live today and am given to standing on tip-toes in alert expectancy of what You are going to do today, tomorrow, and in eternity.

I have often disappointed You, others, and myself. I have sinned. I am a sinner who sins. But when I place my life in Your hands, the hope that You create within me never puts me to shame (Romans 5:5). I, by my actions and thoughts, am the only one who can shame Mark Daniels. But, I thank You, God, that my shame need not define my life nor my eternity. When I trust in You--Peterson renders it as opening the door to You--my shame is erased. My sins are forgiven. You give me new starts. (Romans 5:2, The Message)

Respond: Thank You, God, for undeserved grace. Thank You, Christ, for setting me free from sin and death. Thank You, Holy Spirit, for incessantly pounding through this thick skull of mine that my life is not about what I do, it’s about what You, the three-in-One God have done and are doing for me, doing in me, and my trust in You. I surrender. Now let me bathe in Your deluge of grace. Amen
[Blogger Mark Daniels is pastor of Living Water Lutheran Church in Centerville, Ohio.]

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