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Posts Tagged ‘Jeremiah’

To hear someone tell you that the keyword of Romans is grace is so much less than discovering it for yourself. Since God has been busy revealing grace to me everywhere I look, I should not be surprised to find it again in Paul’s famous epistle. To be honest, grace is such an overwhelming subject that I have been unable to think of one coherent thing to say about it. One facet I’ve been exploring is the concept of being “disciplined by grace.”

Last night at Awana our high school group (called Journey) was studying Romans. We’re actually on chapters 9-11, but a verse from chapter 6 caught my eye. “You are not under law, but under grace.” (Romans 6:14) I’ve studied Romans at least three full times before. Always I’ve been so focused on the first half: not under law. Legalism has been such a danger to the church that its opposite, grace, has been neglected in study.

My Bible turned to Romans 6, I scanned the short two pages (including a bit of chapter 5). There, it seems, is the whole concept of being disciplined by grace. We know that faith produces works, that anyone who is truly saved will bear fruits of righteousness (which are by Jesus Christ). This does not happen on our own, but as a result of God’s grace, the activity of the Holy Spirit in us.

Even at the end of the passage, arguably the key verse, Romans 6:23 talks about grace. In every translation I checked, I find the word “gift” in this verse. Actually the Greek is charisma, which is accurately translated as gift – BUT is a derivative of charis, grace. Charis is used several other times just in Romans 6, let alone the other 15 chapters. So I suggest that we should read gift in verse 23 as “gracegift.” We miss so much in English. What charisma indicates is the product of grace.

In Romans 5-6 we see that grace:

  • Brings salvation. We are justified by faith, which gives us access to the grace wherein we presently stand. Romans 5:16 says that the free gift is justification of many offenses. Finally Romans 6:23 provides the contrast between the consequences for our sin: death, and the great gift we who are justified receive instead: eternal life. (See also: Ephesians 2:8-10, Titus 2:11-12, Galatians 2:20-21)
  • Is the opposite of legalism. Galatians expounds this theme, and is echoed in Romans 6:14: “You are not under law, but under grace.” In Galatians I believe Paul uses “walk in the Spirit” as virtually synonymous with “under grace” in Romans. Galatians also says, “I do not frustrate the grace of God: for if righteousness come by the law, then Christ is dead in vain.”
  • Is not an excuse for licentiousness. Romans 6:1 asks the question: should we sin a lot, so that grace will abound? This is not an accurate understanding of grace. Grace is God’s power in us to walk in newness of life. Grace proves that sin does not have to control our lives anymore.
  • Enables righteousness. Throughout Romans 6 there is a taut balance between the necessity of righteousness as a product of grace and our new life through Christ and the danger of going back to the law, doing good for goodness’ sake. In between is also the horrible ground of doing no good at all, which would equally defeat the point. By grace are ye saved unto good works, which God prepared beforehand for you to walk in them.
  • Is our new master, rather than sin. The end of chapter 5 makes this point, which is then developed by chapter 6. Paul writes in 5:17 – “… much more they which receive abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness shall reign in life by One, Jesus Christ.” Over at the Elect Exiles, Disciplined by Grace explains Titus 2:11-12 with regards to grace. First, it brings salvation. Grace’s second activity is teaching, which is the same Greek word Paul used in Ephesians 6:4: “And, ye fathers, provoke not your children to wrath, but bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.” Thus the word means to discipline, teach, train, rear. The Law was our schoolmaster to bring us to Christ, but now grace is our teacher. Romans 6:14 says, “…Sin shall not have dominion over you, for you are not under law, but under grace.”

Romans 6:23 – “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.”

For refers us back to the rest of chapter 6, all about being presently, as believers, under grace.

Gift is charisma, which I discussed above.

This gracegift is eternal life. Eternal life starts when we accept God’s grace and continues forever. It is life, not just a get out of hell free card. The grace of God gives us the life we now live in the flesh, by faith in the Son of God who loved me and gave Himself for me. The life is through Jesus Christ, in His power, for His purposes, to His glory.

Our Lord tacked on to the end of Jesus’ name is a title of authority. The apostles recognized Jesus’ authority by calling Him Rabbi, Teacher, Master, Lord. John often referred to Jesus simply as “the Lord.” Here Paul is saying something about who Jesus is. He is our Lord, our authority. He is the Master, the giver of all good gifts. While the law came by Moses, grace and truth, John tells us, came by Jesus Christ.

We walk by faith and under grace. Faith talks about leaning not on our own wisdom, yielding control, following instantly and without explanation. Grace talks about leaning not on our own strength, praising and thanking God, obeying, but not because of rules – because we are filled with the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit produces fruit in our lives, and “spiritual” gifts, and sanctifies us from sin. This washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit is as much God’s work as the mercy by which we’re saved. I sigh just in re-reading this paragraph, because the words and themes are found all over the Bible, not only in Romans. How exciting!

My life reminds me that walking by grace is the path of thanksgiving and rejoicing and humility and prayer often. All those we are commanded to do. Though I am not theologically a legalist, I sometimes find those hard to do, when I am depending on my own resources to accomplish anything, rather than seeking God. When I am, how impossible not to rejoice, to say with Jeremiah, “His mercies are new every morning; great is Thy faithfulness!”

To God be all glory,

Lisa of Longbourn

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Strength and tenderness are complementary virtues, just like might and grace. 

Sunday evening I was listening to Ravi Zacharias’ message, Brittle Clay in Tender Hands.  This week was just the introduction to this series on Jeremiah, a study of Jeremiah’s call in chapter 1, though the title is taken from chapter 18.  Look at the progression.  God set Jeremiah apart to be His prophet before Jeremiah was even born.  In response to this glorious and sovereign truth God spoke to this man, the pre-prophet informed God, “I cannot speak…”  So Jeremiah had to learn two things.  The first is that when God calls you, He is strong enough to command your obedience.  The second is that when God calls, He is tender enough to equip.  He knows our weaknesses.  I still remember a friend in high school quoting, “God doesn’t call the qualified; He qualifies the called.” 

 

If you study the prophets, when they ran, God pursued them.  Writing about Jacob, Michael Card observed, “Love will fight us to be found.”  Usually we think of the unsaved when we hear the poem or phrase, “Hound of Heaven.”  But in Brittle Clay in Tender Hands, Ravi Zacharias points out that Jeremiah 18 could just as easily illustrate those who have already trusted in God.  Whether you’ve considered Jesus’ pursuit in this light before or not, I expect you will be able to remember times in your life, however short, when you would have preferred God not go through with His plans for you, when you resisted like the clay on the Potter’s wheel.  And I’m guessing that like Jonah, not even running to the other side of the world rid you of His call. 

 

Corresponding to strength is might.  Near the end of Jeremiah 1, God warns the prophet that if he is more afraid of the people and their reaction to the message he is delivering, God will simply make Jeremiah more afraid of Him – in front of the audience.  A proper understanding of grace cannot come without a view of God’s might.  How holy is He?  How glorious?  How powerful?  Where does that leave us?  Aside from leaving us unwilling to reject Him (even for fear of any one else, puny in comparison), it reminds us of how unable we are to obey Him ourselves.    

 

I want to suggest that what happens both in the conviction of the soul’s need for a savior and in the pursuit of His children, is a grace chase.  To abide in His will is better for us.  Grace prevents God from giving us up to our own wisdom, and from releasing His just wrath upon us.  Instead, He tenderly paces after us.  Sometimes the tenderness is so filled with strength that we know we are experiencing discipline.  For example, some mornings I turn off my alarm and want so much to get more sleep that I do drift off into a shallow sleep, and as much as part of me wanted to get more rest, I’m grateful when God wakes me back up just in time so that I won’t be late.  Likewise I am so glad that He doesn’t let me wander from Him forever. 

 

Once we His servants are apprehended in the chase, we are also given grace to complete “that for which [we are] apprehended of Christ Jesus.”  Jeremiah professed his inability to speak, and once God had a hold of him, having cast aside the excuses, God graced Jeremiah with the ability to speak in God’s strength God’s own words.  The question was never one of Jeremiah’s ability. 

 

The more I seek God for understanding, the more I think I’m catching on.  I’ve been asking what “disciplined by grace” means, and I think this is another answer. 

 

Paul wrote one of God’s messages to him, “My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness.” 

 

To God be all glory, 

Lisa of Longbourn  

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