Vessels of Grace
Aaron lifted his hands toward the people and blessed them; and he came down after sacrificing the sin offering, the burnt offering, and the offering of well-being. Moses and Aaron entered the tent of meeting, and then came out and blessed the people; and the glory of the Lord appeared to all the people. Fire came out from the Lord and consumed the burnt offering and the fat on the altar; and when all the people saw it, they shouted and fell on their faces.
Good Stewards of God’s Grace
Since therefore Christ suffered in the flesh, arm yourselves also with the same intention (for whoever has suffered in the flesh has finished with sin), so as to live for the rest of your earthly life no longer by human desires but by the will of God. You have already spent enough time in doing what the Gentiles like to do, living in licentiousness, passions, drunkenness, revels, carousing, and lawless idolatry. They are surprised that you no longer join them in the same excesses of dissipation, and so they blaspheme. But they will have to give an accounting to him who stands ready to judge the living and the dead. For this is the reason the gospel was proclaimed even to the dead, so that, though they had been judged in the flesh as everyone is judged, they might live in the spirit as God does.
Grace is not free. There is always a price paid. Deitrich Bonhoeffer may have helped win the term “cheap grace”, but the concept, and the question that drives it are far older than this 20th Century revolutionary of the faith. That question is: How do the forgiven act? In more theological circles the question has been narrowed down to: Do Christians sin? John writes about this. Paul writes about this. Peter writes about this as well.
In all accounts, there is an expectation that our acts of sin and rebellion against God will cease. If they did every time, there would be no need for the question. Since they do not, we all typically start splitting hairs, semantics, doctrines, and churches right at this point. We split passionately because we do not know how God will judge us for sure, but we think and feel our own salvation depends on us being “right’‘. Thus, we as churches fall for the same adage we often tell newlyweds: You can either be right or be married.
That sin-focused view of faith ultimately leads down a road of Self-condemnation and/or Self-justification leaving no one happy or in relationship at the end of the day. Can Christians sin? Yes. We all know it and most of us prove it daily. The issue is not sin or our apparent vulnerability to it. the issue is that we are asking the wrong question.
What if we asked a different question? What can a Christian do? No, I don’t mean what list of sins can we get away with doing without losing our place in Heaven? I mean, on a much more basic level, what is the benefit to following Jesus? Is it just the promise of paradise when I die, or does He make any difference in my life now? When I am tempted to do things I know I’ll regret, can He help me, or am I pretty much lost? When I’m hurt, broke, sick, and tired, will He bring me any help, comfort, peace, or provision? Scripture answers this question many times as well. Here are two of my favorites:
“Jesus said to her, “Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, but those who drink of the water that I will give them will never be thirsty. The water that I will give will become in them a spring of water gushing up to eternal life.””
“I rejoice in the Lord greatly that now at last you have revived your concern for me; indeed, you were concerned for me, but had no opportunity to show it. Not that I am referring to being in need; for I have learned to be content with whatever I have. I know what it is to have little, and I know what it is to have plenty. In any and all circumstances I have learned the secret of being well-fed and of going hungry, of having plenty and of being in need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me. In any case, it was kind of you to share my distress.”
It is not that our sin does not matter. Everything matters. It is that grace matters too and anytime we find ourselves stuck trying to choose only one or the other, we have lost track of the only hope we have. Either we are vessels of God’s grace, or we are not.
Do you carry the grace of God in you?
If so, what difference is it making in your life today?