Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Lions and Tigers and Bears....and Grace!

He will swallow up death forever. The Sovereign LORD will wipe away the tears from all faces; he will remove the disgrace of his people from all the earth. The LORD has spoken - Isaiah 25:8

There we stood.  Only a 1/4 inch of glass separated Maggie and me from three black bears at Tyler's Caldwell Zoo.  It was Labor Day and we'd decided The Zoo would be a perfect family outing yesterday morning.

We ran into another family who had the same idea. As we stood before the new Black Bear Exhibit,  I mentioned to my friend, "it would be hard to overstate how much difference this glass is making right now".

The Bible tells a horrific story of God's judgement of some rotten youth who mocked the Prophet Elisha and were dealt with (as shocking as it sounds) justly...

Then he went up from there to Bethel; and as he was going up by the way, young lads came out from the city and mocked him and said to him, “Go up, you baldhead; go up, you baldhead!”  When he looked behind him and saw them, he cursed them in the name of the LORD. Then two female bears came out of the woods and tore up forty-two lads of their number. 
- 2nd Kings 2:23-24

Without that glass we would have been staring certain death in the face.   Our beautiful day with our families would have instantly become a nightmare were the glass removed.   Our cool, calm demeanor overcome by panic-stricken fear would have had us racing away with our wives and children to avoid being mauled.   Thank God for the glass!

Yesterday we were able to stare death in the face without fear because of the security the glass provided.  This is the power of The Gospel that enables Christians to respond to rejection, suffering and disappointment with a faith that overcomes fear.   Indeed, the Christian alone can echo Paul who said "to live is Christ, to die is gain" (Phil 1:21).   If the afterlife for the Christian is preferable to life in the body, than the Christian can move out into the world without fearing death or rejection because they've been granted eternal access to the love and acceptance of The Father.   

But how?   Paul is clear that those who follow the law will be judged righteous before God and therefore gain eternal life (i.e. justified)....

For God shows no partiality. For all who have sinned without the law will also perish without the law, and all who have sinned under the law will be judged by the law. For it is not the hearers of the law who are righteous before God, but the doers of the law who will be justified.  - Romans 2:11-13

But who has really followed The Law?  Paul goes on to say that "all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God (Rom. 3:23)".  He then quotes King David who wrote centuries earlier to the Jews that....

The Lord looks down from heaven on the sons of men to see if there are any who understand, any who seek God.  All have turned aside, they have together become corrupt; there is no one who does good, not even one. - Psalm 14 2,3

Like a man before a black bear all men are dead in their transgressions unless they are made alive in Christ by his grace (Eph. 2:5).   Paul shares testimony of God's goodness to him in a letter to  Timothy...

Though formerly I was a blasphemer, persecutor, and insolent opponent. But I received mercy because I had acted ignorantly in unbelief, and the grace of our Lord overflowed for me with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus. - 1 Timothy 1:13, 14

It is because of God's great love for his people that He pitied us providing a virtual protective glass between us and His coming wrath against sin.   We were like The Ninevites to whom Jonah was reluctant to preach because he knew that God would save them...

And should not I pity Nineveh, that great city, in which there are more than 120,000 persons who do not know their right hand from their left - Jonah 4:11

God is literally saying to Jonah here that these people are so spiritually dead that they don't know their right from their left!  What a gift of grace and mercy it is then that God sought to soften their hearts to his truth and wisdom.   Is it any different with us?

Consider where you would be without the grace of God and then try being ungrateful.  Every time I confess how patient, good and faithful God has been to me I not only declare it to others but also am reminded of it again myself.   I'm instantly encouraged. Because God's character is unchanging, I can expect the same from Him for eternity.

John stressed in the book of Revelations just how important was the testimony of the early church going so far as to put it alongside Christ's shed blood.....

And they have conquered him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, for they loved not their lives even unto death. - Revelation 12:11

In a like manner our testimony has great power to preach to others and to ourselves.  I preach to myself the grace of God in Jesus Christ because it is so truly amazing that I can't "get it" unless day by day I talk it out, think it out, pray it out and work it out (Phil 2:12).   If my mind and heart are not saturated with His grace, I start to forget that the "glass of protection" is there and I begin to live in fear of the future or become paralyzed with guilt from my past.  Thus we must abide in His Grace....

I am the vine; you are the branches.  If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing - John 15:5

God's grace sets us free from our fear-and-guilt-ridden flesh - but only to the degree that by His Spirit we allow Him to knead The Gospel into the dough of our hearts that when the fire comes (temptation, rejection, suffering etc...) what rises up is not our flesh but our faith in His power to protect, provide and pull us through the struggle of this life into His peace in the next.  

For now the bear of sin remains at work in the world!  But for the Christian who takes refuge in "the glass of grace" the bear is not to be feared!

For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace. 
- Rom. 6:14
Grace and Peace,


Couldn't resist this.....click here

This Week 
* Wednesday Men's Group - NEW BOOK!  
Andrew Murray's Classic Humility - Chapters 1 & 2 tomorrow! 
@ 2 American Center, 5th Floor (Ritcheson Law Firm)

Please pray as we are meeting with couples this week who seek to strengthen their marriages for their families' sake and for God's Glory!

Next Week...   
* Monday Men's Lunch - Dakota's 12pm - Chapter 17 of Tim Keller's Kings Cross - discussion and prayer.

* The Magills - Lone Star Salute to Benefit The East Texas Crisis Center -  Thursday Sept. 15th at Bushman's Event Center - Bullard, TX 

* The Magills@ Meadow Baptist Church - Plano, TX - Sunday Morning 8am and 10:45am services -
www.meadowsbaptist.org - 3001 Los Rios Boulevard, Plano, TX

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