“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair.” (Introduction to A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens)
Beloved, these words, written over 100 years ago, have never been more true. The Bible is full of contrasts. We see the very worst and the best of humanity. We read of mighty battles fought by heroes of old. The 11th chapter of Hebrews is full of contrasts.
Each person mentioned overcame incredible obstacles (Moses passed through the Red Sea with over a million Hebrews). “For the time would fail me to tell of Gideon and Barak and Samson and Jephthah, also of David and Samuel and the prophets: who through faith subdued kingdoms, worked righteousness, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions, quenched the violence of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, out of weakness were made strong, became valiant in battle, turned to flight the armies of the aliens. Women received their dead raised to life again.’ -Heb.11:32
“And all these having obtained a good testimony through faith, did not receive the promise, God having provided something better for us, that they should not be made perfect apart from us.” (v.39,40)
“And being assembled together with them, He (our Lord Jesus) commanded them not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for the Promise of the Father, “which” He said “you have heard from Me, for John truly baptized with water, but you shall be baptized with the Holy Ghost not many days from now.” (Acts 1:4,5)
I believe the Old Testament heroes had the grace of God in their lives in order to overcome such obstacles without the infilling of the Holy Ghost.
We have all been taught that grace is “unmerited favor”, but our Lord was full of grace and truth and we couldn’t say that he had “unmerited favor” for He is worthy of all praise and honor. I recently read something that takes the concept of grace one step further. Searching out the meaning of grace reveals that it is “divine enablement”, help, strength. In other words grace is a gift from God that enables us to handle any situation we might face when God’s grace is showered upon us.
There was a time when this once great country, United States of America’s national anthem “God’s grace is shed on thee” meant something. This is no longer true ,for the nation as a whole, but on those individuals who have been given grace from God to obey the gospel (repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost; Acts 2:38) still have that grace in their lives. We are growing from grace to grace, strength to strength. When we finally cross over that threshold and enter into our eternal home we will look back and say that we were indeed “Saved by Grace”. The grace of God will finish the good work that He has begun in us IF (and that is a big IF) we abide in the Vine, obey the commands of our Lord and do not “fall from grace” by returning to a works-based salvation. OBEDIENCE TO GOD IS NOT WORKS. It is our reasonable service.
“I do not frustrate the grace of God: for if righteousness comes by the law, then Christ is dead in vain.” Galatians 2:21
“Christ is become of no effect unto you, whosoever of you are justified by the law; ye are fallen from grace.” Galatians 5:4
I would like to tell you a tale of two sisters. One was named Lawra and one was called Gracie. Lawra was older and helped her little sister Gracie. She would instruct her for she knew the laws her Father had written down and spent hours studying his rule book. Gracie, being the younger, respected her older sister but there was no one in her life like her Father. She would love to sit at his feet and soak in the words of love and precious wisdom that fell from his lips. Her sister Lawra was usually very, very busy and considered Gracie to be rather slothful. Especially, one time, when she had prepared a huge supper for Father and needed help in the kitchen. But Father understood the two sisters only too well and he commended Gracie for her devotion not only to His teachings but also to just loving His presence and sitting quietly with Him. He had new revelations to give her that her sister was too busy and full of commandments, ordinances, statutes and judgments to receive.
Father talked at length with Gracie about loving God first and foremost with everything you’ve got and loving your neighbor as yourself, and that if a person mastered those two things he would fulfill all His commandments which were really only detailed instructions on how to love and live. He would say that if a person knows how to love as He loves then they would have an abundant life Oh how Gracie loved her Father, but she knew these quiet and special times with him would only last a little while and she would be needed in the kitchen to help her sister once again.
Gracie and Lawler had two brothers. Since Father was very wealthy he had stored up quite an inheritance for the family. Prodigalus, the younger brother became very restless as a young man and decided he wanted to leave the warmth and love of the family. He was weary of the laws and rules that were also required. Without the rules there would have been no order in the home and the rules were not grievous. One day Prodigalus begged Father for his portion of the inheritance, and the rest of the family was amazed when Father gave him a large sack of money. Everyone cried when younger brother left home. He was gone a long, long time. Father never went after Prodigalus because he always told the rest of the family that he had lessons to learn and that one day his son would return. Daily the family would watch Father walk outside and look down the long road from their mansion to see if younger brother was on his way home. The family’s heart ached for their father as he longed for his son and it was hard not to envy the attention Father seemed to give to this one “lost” boy.
There were rumors that came to the mansion that Prodigalus was living a very dissolute life – gambling, drunkenness, drugs, and even sleeping around with many women and prostitutes. Of course when his money ran out so did his extravagant lifestyle. Father would tell the family to keep praying for Prodigalus because he would come to his senses one day. Prodigalus was gone a long time – it seemed like years. The family heard that his situation had become critical and that he was wasting away physically. They even heard a rumor that he had sunk so low as to eat corn husks that had been thrown to the pigs. This was the ultimate horror to hear, as pigs were the most unclean of all animals in this family. But Father seemed to know something the rest of the family did not know. He knew that one day his son would come to the end of himself and the shackles on his mind and hardness on his heart would all be dissolved. On that day Father knew that Prodigalus would realize that life was far better at home with his loving family. Sure enough, one day Prodigalus woke up from his slumber (nightmare) and saw clearly the contrast of living in a pig sty (which was not the freedom he thought it would be) or living by the rules of his wonderful home. Home never looked sweeter and he was homeward bound.
Father was there to meet him and when he saw Prodigalus off in the distance he ran to him and threw his arms around him. When Prodigalus and Father returned arm in arm there was such joy. Father announced that the family was going to have a huge feast to celebrate Prodigalus’ return. He wanted the best of everything and even went so far as to give Prodigalus (now renamed Redeemed) a blood red robe.
In this beautiful happy family something unexpected disrupted the festivities. Elder Brother (Lawler Sr.) became very envious and spiteful towards “Redeemed” and confronted Father. Lawler Sr. had always been a hard worker in the mansion and obeyed every single one of Father’s rules. It really upset him that his younger brother had been given all of this “grace” from Father. The two sisters looked on and Gracie sided with younger brother. Her sister Lawra, on the other hand, sided with Lawler Sr., because she felt if she and her brother just worked hard enough they would win Father’s approval and it was terribly annoying to see him lavish so much affection on one so unworthy as Prodigalus. Amazing Grace!
I hope you’ve enjoyed this little parable. It is a little different than my usual editorials. Let me know how this story affects you. The bottom line is that we need Law but when we are filled with the Holy Ghost the law will be written in our hearts on fleshly tablets and not of stone. The way we serve our Lord is in our attitude and He responds to our need for Him and trust in Him. Beloved, let us grow in grace and in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. -Sister Vicki