If you have been keeping up with my blog, you know that I consider grace as receiving what one does not deserve. It is not earned. It is a gift. And, it tells us much more about the Giver than it does about the one receiving it. Gifts, by their very nature, are most often motivated by love. However, there are other kinds of gifts that are not so noble. There is the gift given to establish or enhance a relationship. There is the bribe given to motivate favorable actions on one's own behalf. But are these truly gifts? Not really, because there are "strings attached." Grace, on the other hand, is a gift given that does not require a response, or presuppose a reaction. When human beings give this kind of gift, it is often given anonymously. These are very rare indeed.
God's grace toward His creation is unlike any of the above examples. When He gave His Son to die for all of creation, He did not do it anonymously. He revealed through His Word that He was the One Who provided reconciliation between His estranged creation and Himself. One might draw from this the conclusion that God's gift of access to Himself was not an unselfish act, in that He was gaining the adoration and gratitude of those who were to become His children. One might even say that there were "strings attached." This, while seeming to be obviously true, is failing to take into account His motive. In the case of humans giving such gifts, the motive is nearly always selfish. God has no such motive. God does not need mankind to worship Him. He has multitudes of angels which do just fine. He does not even need angels for such a purpose, because He is very much aware of His own glory and majesty. God is in need of nothing; He is all-sufficient in Himself. He existed from eternity past without angels or human beings and He needed nothing.
Then what was His motive, if it wasn't selfish? The answer is quite simple. He wanted to share with mankind His friendship and give us the joy of knowing Him. It is like the artist who paints a masterpiece and donates it to a public museum in order to share it. It is as though he understands that his ability, his talent, is a gift from his Creator. God delights in our delight in knowing Him. He enjoys our joy in having Him as our Father. He relishes the sound of our hymns of praise because He knows that our hearts "swell" when we consider His majesty and love for us. He is truly the Father watching His children play and laugh and sing.
God's grace is awesome and complex. It involves the following:
**** God draws mankind to Himself - John 6:44
G * God convicts us of sin - John 16:7-11
R * God gives us faith to believe - Ephesians 2:8-9
A * God regenerates us with the new birth - John 3:3-8
C * God changes us into His likeness - 2 Corinthians 5:17
E * God disciplines us in love - Hebrews 2:3-11; Philippians 1:6 and 2:13
**** God completes the transformation - Romans 8:29; 1 Corinthians 1:8 and 15:49;
Ephesians 2:10; Philippians 1:6 and 2:13; and 1 John 3:2
Because all the work involved in our redemption, sanctification, and glorification is done for us by God, the most obvious characteristic of those who understand His completed work on their behalf, is humility. God must receive all the glory for our salvation. Otherwise, we are taking credit for what He has done and is doing. Such is blasphemy and arrogance. What we received as a gift is to His glory alone. Praise Him!
As Christmas approaches, instead of focusing just upon the giving and receiving of gifts with others, save room for remembrance of the greatest Gift ever given: Jesus. He was given for us by God the Father, and He gave Himself through obedience to the Father's will. Be sure to thank Him and share what He has done with those you love. In fact, share Him with those you have trouble loving. Who knows, you might see a change in them that will make them easier for you to love. Remember, God loves them, too.