Monday, March 17, 2014

Growing in Grace

Over the 30 plus years I have served the Lord, I have heard Bible verses, quotes and statements made by many believers about growing in grace. However, recently, this idea came alive to me. I am currently enrolled an a theology class being taught by my Pastor. Over the years I have heard him on multiple occasions give the definition of grace (unmerited favor) and even heard him expound on how grace is not a license to sin. Recently, however, he has repeatedly taught us the difference between mercy and grace. Even though they are in some instances very interchangeable, they are two distinct and different characteristics altogether. In rather simple terms, he defines the difference this way: Mercy is what I need when I fail. Grace is what I need so I won't fail.

In our theology class last night, Pastor mentioned that the more intimately we are acquainted with Christ, the more grace we receive. I meditated on this for quite some time and of course this makes perfect sense. The more I know Him, the greater my understanding is of what pleases and displeases Him. I thought of the perfect example: After work on Friday, I ran several errands and decided to stop at Saladworks for dinner. I purchased my meal and sat down at a table and began eating and was interrupted by a man seated at a nearby table with his girlfriend:

             Man: Excuse me?
             Me: Yes?
             Man: I was wondering if I offended you just now?
             Me: Ummm, no. Why?
             Man: Well, my girlfriend said that she believes you would be offended by my using
                       the "F" word moments ago.
             Me: Oh, well, I didn't hear you.
             Man: Oh, good. I didn't think you were offended.
             Me: Well, if I HAD heard you, I would have been sad because I am a follower of
                    Christ and believe in using words for good and ones that promote peace.
             Man: (Surprised look on his face) Oh, well then I'm glad you didn't hear me.

As Pastor discussed the idea of growing in grace by knowing Christ more intimately, I thought of this encounter. You see, this man did not know me. He did not know me at all. Had, he known me, he would have been well aware that foul language would be offensive to me. In the same way, the greater we know Christ, the better we understand what grieves Him and what pleases Him. We cannot simply assume that He is well pleased with us. Rather, through spending time in the scriptures and prayer, we are afforded the opportunity of seeing His heart and getting to know Him on a level that subdues us from participating in things that would grieve Him and focusing our time and heart on things that bring Him honor. Thus, the process of "growing in grace."

In the same way, I have shared in the past that there is a difference between knowing ABOUT someone and knowing on a level that you have an intimate relationship with them. If I were the leader of Tim Tebow's fan club, I would more than likely know a lot about him, probably more than the average person. I may even know his address, his favorite color, his favorite Bible verse, his birthday and even some childhood stories. Yet, I've never met him.  Even if I have met him, I've never spent time intimately with him. I've never heard him speak from his heart or built a relationship with him. In the same manner, we must be diligent to know and love Christ intimately and not simply know OF him. Even the demons know of Him. I encourage you dear brother, dear sister, grow in the grace of God by becoming more intimately acquainted with Christ and knowing Him in an even greater way. 

"You therefore, beloved, beware lest you also fall from your own steadfastness, being led away with the error of the wicked; but grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.  To Him be the glory both now and forever. Amen." 2 Peter 3:17-18