Sunday, April 19, 2015

The True Grace of God

What is the grace of God anyway?

Growing up, I associated “grace” with Mary, the mother of Jesus. “Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with you. Blessed are you among women...” The repeated prayer convinced me grace was something extraordinary Mary had. She was favored by God, unique, perfect, something I could never live up to.

Later I discovered the Bible revealed Mary was surprised and afraid when the angel Gabriel came to her and announced she would give birth to the Messiah. It was Mary’s cousin Elizabeth who greeted her with those words when she went to visit her for understanding and comfort. While Mary was a good woman of great faith, she was not chosen because she was flawless.

When we accept Jesus as our Savior we all receive this blessing called the “grace of God.” It is a free gift. Like Mary, none of us receive it because we deserve anything from God. Grace is “the free and unmerited favor of God, as manifested in the salvation of sinners and the bestowal of blessings.” I found this definition on Google just now, so it must be true, right?

Peter gives us a more complete definition of grace.

Peter’s purpose for writing is reveals in this last chapter: I have written to you briefly, encouraging you and testifying that this is the true grace of God. God’s grace is not merely a free gift to us. It is a gift we receive to give to others. Throughout the book Peter explains how to use grace:

  • Have sincere love for each other, love one another deeply, from the heart. (1 Peter 1:22)
  • Show proper respect to everyone, love the family of believers, fear God, honor the emperor. (1 Peter 2:17)
  • All of you, be like-minded, be sympathetic, love one another, be compassionate and humble. Do not repay evil with evil or insult with insult. On the contrary, repay evil with blessing (1: Peter 3:8-9)
  • Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins. (1 Peter 4:8)
  • Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling. (1 Peter 4:9)
  • Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms. (1 Peter 4:10)
  • Those who suffer according to God’s will should commit themselves to their faithful Creator and continue to do good. (1 Peter 4:19)
This is not easy. Therefore Peter reminds us to be diligent and watchful. Be alert and of sober mind, he repeats three times (see 1 Peter 1:13, 4:7, 5:8). As we continue to pay attention and grow in our faith, the Lord will empower us to use the gift of grace He gave us for others. When we stay close to Jesus as we walk through life, the fruit of love will bloom.

Saturday’s sunshine enticed hundreds of people to walk, bike, and lounge under the blossoming trees in Branch Brook Park. The trees were graced with gorgeous flowers, but not for the trees. Everyone nearby enjoyed the beauty. So it should be with our lives. God gives grace to us and surely we are blessed, joyful, to be envied. But it’s not for merely for us. Everyone nearby should enjoy the beauty of God’s grace manifested in our lives.

This is the true grace of God.

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