Friday, March 27, 2015

More Grace - out of the hearts of old friends

OK, so I make mistakes in spelling.  I work overtime to see there are none, at least not very many, in the body of my posts, but in the title???  Shame on me!

OK, let's go back to my old friend, Major W. Ian Thomas and his book, The Saving Life of Christ.

"God in righteousness has no options but to find you (us!) guilty as a sinner - by nature dead in trespasses and sins,  and pass upon you (again, us!), the sentence of death, the forfeiture of His Holy Spirit and alienation from the life of God.  But more than two thousand years ago, God in Christ stepped out of eternity into time, and there extended to us, the nail pierced hands of the One who suffered. "the just for the unjust" to bring you back to God (I Peter 3:18a)  He bore ours sins on His body on the tree.  (I Peter 2:24a)"

Some of you know that I spent a little over two and a half years, moving about in our Southeastern states in response to a question I prayerfully asked of God, "What would you have me do, now?"  I had finished the work I had been doing, had paid off debts that were long overdue and I really did want to serve Him, full time.  His response, "Go, be with my people."  The only real people I could think of were the many we employed in Los Angeles in the Labor pools.  Men so broken and down and out that they would work for us, daily, at minimum wage, so that they would have $10 to spend at the end of their day.  Some found a bed at the Union Mission down the street and paid for a breakfast the following morning.  Most of the others bought two bottles of cheap wine and slept in the alleys.  And most were - in my opinion, "good" men, so loyal to me and the company I represented that they would do almost anything, we asked them to do.   They were, again in my opinion, the actual "dead men walking."  But alas, all I knew about helping them was somehow lost in Sunday morning sermons I heard at the big Methodist church my family attended, regularly.

Nowadays I read and understand that verse from I Peter 2:24.  "He Himself bore our sins on His body on a tree that we might die to sin and live to righteousness for by His wounds we were healed."  Die to sin and LIVE to righteousness, what a amazing promise!  We have a form of shorthand to describe the process, we call it - Grace, and there are those who still call it 'cheap' Grace.

Thomas goes on, "This is what makes the gospel at once so urgent  Mental assent is not enough, a moral choice is imperative - absolutely necessary.  Christ is God's last word to you and I and He demands an answer."

One of my stops in my journey that I mentioned earlier involved a Pastor who gave me a ride along the way and we got into a long talk about religion.. We stopped at his house and his wife invited me to stay and have lunch with them.  As an aside, I met lots of people like them along the way.  She mentioned they were going to have a "revival" and invited me to stay.  Her husband said he had some jobs I could do and stay with them in the meantime.  So I did.  Then, we learned the Evangelist had taken sick and could not be there, so the three of us prayed and asked God for guidance.  The Pastor announced we would go ahead without him and insisted I join him as the services began.  I think a lot of folks were curious about the "stranger" and so I was invited to give my testimony.  I did and tried to end it with those verses from I Peter.  Most of the church was very gracious after hearing my thoughts, except for one old man who immediately cornered me and demanded my interpretation of those verses.  In short, he believed, "once saved, always saved" and insisted that I agree.  I just said I did not see it that way and before we got to blows, the Pastor intervened.  To make a much longer story shorter, the Pastor invited him and his wife for lunch the next day and that turned into a debate that lasted all afternoon.  We settled our difference when he agreed with us.

I stepped in to talk about that as - since I moved here to Tennessee I have met lots of folks that insist he was right, but I have learned that one confrontation was enough.  I bowed out, grace fully. Besides I would eventually learn more about what Major Thomas and the Bible had to say,''

."..for if, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of His Son, much more, being reconciled we shall be saved - in Thomas' words as a continuing process, by His life."  (Romans 5:10)

I know, I have often heard that Thomas' expression is not in the Bible, per se,   But does the thought that one can go to the altar one night, and be "saved", and head for a bar the next night, get drunk and continue on as a carnally minded person. make sense in the light of God's gracious gift to all who love Him, while ignoring his admonitions about living a life worthy of His call?  I don't think so

Thomas concludes this session with these thoughts.  "It is a divine genius that saves a person from the futility of self-effort.  It relieves the Christian of the burden of trying to pull himself/herself up by their own bootstraps.  If it were not for this divine provision, the call to Christ would be a source of utter frustration, presenting a sorry spectacle of a sincere idealist, constantly thwarted by his or her own inadequacy."

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