Monday, July 29, 2013

Taking Grace for Granted

This month we've tasted grace, through searching, story, and study.  We've rejoiced in our redemption and praised God for his free and abundant gifts.  With all this talking about it there's no danger that we'd take it for granted, is there? 

Recently I realized that my girls have been taking things for granted.  Because of busy school schedules, preschool for the little one, 7th grade for the elder, I've done the majority of the housework. They've been responsible for their chores, but far too often when those little things were done, they've calmly watched me flit around and pick up their things, put away their clothes, and get their snacks and drinks.  What I offered as grace to two tired and busy girls, has become a stumbling block to their growth.  So that grace is going to disappear.

As summer came, I withdrew a bit.  Chores are divided between the three girls in our family.  One girl cooks, one girl cleans and one girl sets the table.  One girl washes and dries clothes, one girl folds, one girl puts away.  Although the little one requires quite a bit of assistance in completing her tasks - she is still 4 after all - they are re-learning that families work together.

As Paul wrote to the Romans, he was worried that they might be taking grace for granted. Since the forgiveness of their sins was readily available, why put themselves out to stop sinning?  Or as Paul puts it, "Are we to continue in sin so that grace may increase?" (Romans 6:1).  But we would never act like that would we?

The Hebrew writer is afraid we might.  He urges his readers to hold on tight to what they confessed (that Jesus Christ is Lord) and not to go on sinning willfully.  He points out that disregarding the Law of Moses brought the death penalty.  Then he asks this terrifying question, "How much severer punishment do you think he will deserve who has trampled under foot the Son of God, and has regarded as unclean the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified, and has insulted the Spirit of grace?" (Hebrews 10:29).

Stomped on Jesus. Considered his holy blood a dirty thing. Insulted the Holy Spirit by disregarding grace. That's what we've done when we go on sinning willfully.

But we wouldn't do that.  Would we?

Sinning willfully means to do what we know is wrong on purpose.  In other words, it's not a mistake; it is a deliberate step into the darkness.  It's picking up the phone, thinking to ourselves, "Well, I probably shouldn't gossip..." and hitting dial anyway.  It's looking over at our dusty bible, thinking to ourselves, "I guess its been a while since I read, huh...," and then turning on NCIS.  It's having two more drinks (or bowls of ice cream) than we know we need.  It's excusing our selfishness to ourselves again and again in defiance of that nagging voice that reminds us we are supposed to love other people.  

We sin. I do.  Everyday.  I am proud.  I am hard-hearted, lacking in compassion and without a shred of patience.  I hide my sin.  From you, from my family, from myself.  

We sin.  But we do not have to go on sinning.  Every sin we see deserves our attention, confession and sorrow.  Not because God won't forgive us, but because of what it cost God to forgive us.  His grace is a free gift to us but it cost him everything.  

Not only should be we ashamed of taking his grace for granted, but we should be terrified of it.  The Hebrew writer states flat out that there is no sacrifice for willful sin (Hebrews 10:26). In other words, the grace God gives us is predicated on our participation.  When we willfully sin, we say to God, "No grace for me thanks!" Although it is a free gift, it is a gift we can reject both before and after our redemption.  

We echo God in his work.  He gives forgiveness and we forgive others.  He gives us spiritual gifts which we pour out on his children.  He pays for our righteousness in blood and we spend the rest of our lives trying to grow into the righteousness he bought for us. His grace encompasses all these things and more, shame on us if we ever take it lightly.
Scripture taken from the NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE(R), Copyright(c) 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission.

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