Refreshment in Refuge
by Gina Burgess
Being a Christian since I was six years old, I guess it was inevitable that I should take God's Grace for granted. I know absolutely that God has a purpose for everything and that includes me. So, I was sitting there one day feeling incredibly sorry for myself... trying to pray and realizing that my prayers weren’t even getting off the ground. Not, because there was unconfessed sin, but because I was focusing on my depression rather than on God's grace. We all have that problem at one time or another, there is nothing unique about it. David lamented about it, too.
Tony Evans, author of Totally Saved says, "A Christian can't have a casual, long distance relationship with the Savior and then expect to find grace in [the] time of need." What? God is always there uplifting those bent beneath their loads and lifting the fallen! I know because God said it in Psalm 145:14
Yes. But it isn't the same thing. Think about it a moment.
Grace begins one-sided. While we were yet sinners, He loved, lived, and died for us. Nothing deserving on our part at all. Grace expands two-sided. Our personal relationship with God is Two Way Street. It begins, truly, when we draw near to God. It is possible to have salvation and still be casual with God. That happens when we are still very immature in Christ, which is precisely why Paul wrote two letters to the Corinthians. Some folks never grow up which is why Peter tells us in his last letter, his last words,
2 Peter 3:18 But grow in grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. To Him be the glory, both now and to the day of eternity. Amen.
Grow in grace and knowledge. He urged it because first it is a choice, a deliberate decision to strive for something, to study for something. This is because without a solid understanding of what Grace is, we can't live the Christian life. Without Grace, we can't Live... really live. That word "grow" in the Greek means basically to wax, expand, enlarge or to grow up, give the increase. If we remain casual in our relationship with God, the Grace remains one-sided.
It is impossible to live the Christian life under our own power. We just can't do it.
Because we can't do it, God steps in with all His grace, all His power, and all His might. There is still an element of deliberate choice. We can bend our necks, bend our knees and submit to His will. Or we can take the bit between our teeth and run like the wind within our own will. Now, God is prepared for this because He knew what we would do before the foundation of the world. He saw the completeness of my life and your life while He was writing our names in the Book of Life. He knew whose name would be blotted out of the Book, and whose names would still be written there when Jesus took possession of it after He rose from the dead and ascended to sit at the right hand of the Father. Therefore, God will let the wild child or the rebellious teen (it does not matter the age of the person, we still go through these stages in our Spiritual life, too) run into the wind until his legs give out. The Holy Spirit keeps working and eventually, the Corinthian will accept the yoke. What is so amazing is that once we bend our neck to the yoke, we find out that Jesus is holding it up, all we have to do is walk beside Him, He is doing all the work.
Our bona fide freedom kicks in with all our willingness to allow Him free reign in our lives and that is the only way we can really live the Christian life.
Resting in Him is not sitting on our duffs eating bonbons and watching soaps all day. Resting in Him is letting go of the ungodliness, the worldly sirens and letting Him step in front of us as our shield, protecting us, but more importantly giving us the strength to and live through Christ's power, energy, holiness, strength, humor, blessings and Grace. Total Freedom! Is that hard to do? Absolutely, unless you decide to do it.
What does that mean, exactly?
God made an irreversible decision to love us. It had nothing to do with feelings and everything to do with a decision because we certainly were not worthy of love, nor did we deserve it. It was like looking at a rack of ribs covered in dirt and muck and deciding to love it, clean it up, feed it, lavish tender care on it because one day it just might be a champion dog. (Remember, it’ all dog food to God.) Yet, while we were yet sinners, Christ decided to die for us so that we might live. He looked beyond the shame of the cross to the joy beyond (Hebrews 12). It was a decision.
We cannot earn it. It is a gift freely given and a gift that is offered to all.
In order to receive the gift, we have to recognize that God shut us all up in sin. (Romans 11:32). That means that there is no way out for any of us on our own. We can't work our way out, we can't jump out and if we die there, we stay in sin.
Grace happened. Grace was the plan all along. Compare Ezekiel 33:11 “God takes no pleasure in the death of the wicked,” and Psalm 116:15 “God takes great pleasure in the death of the saints.” [shock] Now... 2 Peter 3:9 God did not purpose that all should perish but that all should come to repentance.
Jesus said in John 3 that the Light came into the world, but men loved darkness better than the Light for their deeds were evil. This is why they fail to believe Jesus. They just don't want to. There is all kinds of evidence God means what He says, but men love their own selves, their own pleasure more than they do the Light. The Lost are not lost because God chose for them to be lost... the Bible never says anywhere that the lost are lost because they are NON-elect. They are lost because they choose not to believe. John 3:18 “the one believing in Him is not condemned; but the one not believing is condemned already.” And in Romans 1Paul tells us that because they choose in their own reasoning to not believe, God gives them up to their own impurities.
However, those who respond are placed in Christ. Ephesians 1 emphasizes this quite explicitly. The election is centered in the perfect life, the death and the resurrection of Christ. No where else because it is His work that benefits us and it came to us through God's Grace. He created a plan before the foundation of the world to provide the only way out of the second death.
The message of the Cross most definitely is foolishness to those who are perishing (1 Corinthians 1:18) because they put their faith in worldly things rather than in godly things. They do not understand. This does not mean that God is withholding understanding, it means that the lost do not ask for understanding...actually, that isn't it, either. The Lost are not even interested in understanding because their faith is focused in a different direction. Their faith is focused on stuffing everything of this world into that God-sized hole trying to fill it when the only thing that will fill it is God Himself. James is explicit: if you do not have wisdom, ask for it; you do not have because you do not ask. We should all take the lesson from Bartimaeus (Mark 10). Let us all recognize our own blindness and boldly ask for our sight in whatever area we are blind.
The Bible is unmistakable. God loves all peoples. He loved the world. He gave His Son. Whosoever believes will have eternal life. The quality of life begins when one believes God. It does not begin after physical death, for we are created eternal creatures (our souls are eternal), to live with Christ, or to die the second death. Moses told the Children of Israel: Deuteronomy 30:19 I am now giving you the choice between life and death, between God's blessing and God's curse, and I call heaven and earth to witness the choice you make. Choose life.
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She is the author of several books including: When Christians Hurt Christians, The Crowns of the Believers and others available in online bookstores. She authors several columns, using her God-given talent to shine a light in a dark world. You can browse her blog at Refreshment In Refuge.
If you'd like to take a look at some Christian fiction and Christian non-fiction book reviews before the books hit the book store shelves, check out Gina's book reviews at Upon Reflection
Gina is a partner and COO of Common Sense Marketing Strategies, LLC that owns Authors Community and eBookChristian.com
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