As I’ve said a few times, God has been at work big time in my life. And the truth is….I want that to ALWAYS be true no matter how long I live or where I go. Because I belong to God and he cares about me, I willingly submit to the sometimes painful process of sanctification–that fancy word for the life-long process of being loved, shaped and taught by God. And as long as I have breath, I want to share and testify to what He’s doing in and around me…what He’s showing me in and through his Word and in ministry opportunities in the lives and places He’s pleased to allow me to serve. I am so blessed.
This past year of my life has been one marvelous, miraculous mess after another as God has been so patiently teaching me about Who I am and Who I belong to–or WHOSE I am. And as I’ve sat and thought about what and how to share from this place in my journey, one phrase has stood out from all the rest: AMAZING GRACE.
As cliche as that may sound and as sweet, simple and beautiful as it is–I still have to be stunned by it– most especially when I come face to face with the fact that I don’t deserve it at all… when I recognize that simply because I belong to him and he loves me, GRACE is God’s reaction to my mess. Then it becomes something quite incredible…quite amazing indeed.
And while I was meditating upon this quite amazing grace one incredible person kept popping into my mind; the Apostle Paul. Although the bible is cover to cover full of people and examples of God’s amazing grace in action, for some reason He kept bringing Paul, his life and ministry to my mind. Here are some things that come to mind when I think of Paul:
• As a young man, he probably could have won “Roman Citizen of the Year”.
• He was sharp and well-educated under the best Teacher of his day.
• He was eloquent and well-spoken, a devout follower of the Jewish law and highly
respected in His community and church.
• He knew his stuff.
• He was at the top of his game, first in his class and so well regarded that when the chief priests and leaders needed something done about this crazy Jesus-following “people of the way” problem…they sent Saul…and he gladly went.
The Bible records at least one execution he stood in watching approval over and further records in Acts 8:3 “…Saul was ravaging the church, and entering house after house, he dragged off men and women and committed them to prison.
Paul was “legally blind” with only one mission in mind (self-advancement for what he perceived as the glory of God and ultimately for himself). And it was in this state of mind that Paul would soon find himself marching with his entourage down the Damascus road, “breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord, (Acts Ch 9)” all legit with papers in hand ready to get the job done —
BUT GOD…. in an amazing grace-filled moment, GOD stopped Saul dead in his tracks, struck down by a blinding light that cut right through the darkness of his heart and then Jesus, by GRACE, through faith and in the power of the Holy Spirit…makes him, Paul, His own. Wow.
On that day Saul went from knowing oh so much to being humbled with so much to learn.
In an instant, Saul went from leading the way down that road for a God he thought he knew so well, to having to be led away.
In that moment, Saul went from having a religion to being embraced by a relationship so real and so radical that NOTHING about his life would ever be the same again. So that later he would write;
“I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me.
And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God,
who loved me and gave himself for me.” (Galatians 2:20)
Recording and confessing his new understanding for us all:
” But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved— and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. (Ephesians 2:4-9)
This is where I’ve been this past year; here in my corner of the world stumbling down the road trying to keep my eyes fixed on Jesus. I’ve had ugly moments of pride, self-righteousness and I’ve been full of religion at times. But GOD with His AMAZING GRACE says “Whoa Nelly!” and reigns me in.
He reminds me of who I am and Whose I am. He’s so patient! And I’m stunned by that–really stunned that God doesn’t just want religion with me…just some cold “you do this and I’ll do that” contract…He seeks me for relationship. For purpose… and I know I’m not alone in this….there are others God’s been seeking as well.
And I have been thinking on this a lot here lately, this AMAZINGLY PERSONAL GRACE…
- What does it look like? For Paul, it was a moment of blindness so he could finally see. (Acts 9)
- What does it smell like? For a certain woman, it was the perfume of her best offering and repentance at the feet of Jesus. (Luke 7:36-38)
- What does it feel like? For a wandering son, it was the strong embrace of his waiting father.(Luke 15: 11-32)
- What does it taste like? It tastes like bread and wine as Jesus speaks “Do this in remembrance of me.” (1Cor. 11:23-26)
And what does it sound like? Like the sound of shackles falling from the sin-sick soul singing….”my chains are gone, I’ve been set free, My God My Savior has ransomed me. And like a flood, his mercy reigns. Unending Love….Amazing Grace.” (Chris Tomlin)