God’s Grace ~ Part 19

“Perhaps there is no word in the Bible more precious than Grace.”
~ Rick Countryman, Senior Pastor, Big Valley Grace Community Kehilah
Modesto, Ca.

“The Garments of God’s Grace ~ Part A”

We have come a long way in this series on God’s Grace. Before wrapping it up, I want to take a look at what I call the garments of God’s Grace. By ‘garments’ I mean the characteristics, attributes or virtues of Yeshua that we are to put on to carry out His mandate to become like Him.

The key passage for this mini-series is: “Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with feelings of compassion and with kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with one another; if anyone has a complaint against someone else, forgive him. Indeed, just as the Lord has forgiven you, so you must forgive. Above all these, clothe yourselves with love, which binds everything together perfectly.” (Colossians 3:12-14)

The main thrust of Sha’ul’s teaching in this passage is that we are to clothe ourselves with Messiah-like virtues, what I call “garments of grace.” But he grounds his exhortation on the grace of God – on the fact that we are chosen by Him, holy in His sight, and dearly loved by Him. It is difficult, perhaps impossible, for us to show compassion or patience to someone else if we are not sure God is patient with us – or, worse, if we don’t sense the need for God to be patient with us.  So these garments of gracious Messianic character can only be put on by those who are consciously experiencing God’s Grace in their own lives.

Having experienced God’s Grace, we are then called on to extend that grace to others. The evidence of whether we are living by His grace is to be found in the way we treat other people.  If we see ourselves as sinners and totally unworthy in ourselves of God’s compassion, patience, and forgiveness, then we will want to be gracious to others.

God’s Grace is indeed meant to be a transforming grace. As Sha’ul said in Titus 2:11, “For God’s Grace, which brings deliverance, has appeared to all people.” It teaches us to say ‘No’ to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age.” The grace of God brings salvation, not only from the guilt and condemnation of sin, but also from the reign of sin in our lives.  It teaches us to say “No” to ungodly character traits, but also to say “Yes” to godly character traits.  God’s Grace teaches us to clothe ourselves with “garments of grace.”

Sha’ul listed eight different character traits in Colossians 3:12-14 with which we are to clothe ourselves. I want to focus on five character traits that are particularly related to grace: gratitude, contentment, humility, patience, and forgiveness.

Gratitude

The very first character trait that should flow out of experiencing God’s Grace is gratitude to Him.  Everything we are and everything we do that is of any value, we owe to the grace of God.  This, of course, begins with our salvation.  The longer I live the Messianic life, the more grateful I am for the salvation God gave to me when I was an eighteen-year-old college student.

In the gift of eternal life, God has given us greater treasure than all the accumulated wealth of the whole world. Are we sufficiently grateful for this priceless gift?  Do we take time to actually give thanks to God for the gift that cost Him so much?  Are we as grateful today as we were the day we initially experienced the forgiveness of our sins and peace with God?  If we are truly living by the transforming grace of God in our daily lives, gratitude for God’s gift of eternal life through Yeshua Christ will be a growing experience.  We should have a greater sense of gratitude, and be more desirous of expressing that gratitude to God, today than the day we were brought out of the kingdom of sin into the kingdom of grace.

God has, of course, given us so much else in Yeshua. Have we grown in the Messianic life so that we are a bit more mature today than we were a year ago?  Are we perhaps more loving and gentle today than we were a year ago?  If so, where did this growth come from?  It did not come from ourselves, because as Sha’ul said, “For I know that there is nothing good housed inside me — that is, inside my old nature.” (Romans 7:18) There are only two moral forces within us: our sinful nature and the Holy Spirit empowering our new nature.  If we are more Messiah-like today than a year ago, it is because of the work of the Holy Spirit within us, and this is by the grace of God.

Contentment

An ever-growing attitude of gratitude will certainly make us more content since we will be focusing more on what we do have, both spiritually and materially, than on what we do not have. But contentment is more than focusing on what we have.  It is focusing on the fact that all we do have, we have by the grace of God.  We do not deserve anything we have, materially or spiritually.  It is all by His grace.

Discontent usually arises when we think we are not getting what we deserve, or when we think we are not getting as much as someone else. Discontent is a sign that we are living by works, that we think we deserve more than we are getting, that in some way God isn’t being fair to us.

If we want to live by what we deserve, God could say,“All right, let’s first add up your debits, and then we’ll think about your credits.” Our problem is we don’t recognize our debits.  We don’t recognize how far, far short we come every day in doing what we are supposed to do.  And because of that, we tend to live by works instead of by grace in our daily relationship with God.

Sha’ul said, “Now true religion does bring great riches, but only to those who are content with what they have.” (1 Timothy 6:6). All the wealth and prestige in the world with discontentment results in poverty of spirit.  But contentment arising in our souls from living by grace – that is, from realizing we have not received what we actually deserve, but daily receive what we don’t deserve – brings great wealth of spirit, even if we are living in poverty and obscurity.

Humility

A person living by God’s Grace will also clothe himself with humility. Unfortunately this particular fruit of the Spirit [1] is not eagerly sought after by most believers.  Perhaps that is because it is often confused with self-depreciation, which denies there is any good or worth in us.  Humility begins with God’s Grace and recognizes that the good in us in the form of Messiah-like character, and the good done by us in service to God and other people, is totally undeserved on our part and is due to the work of the Holy Spirit in our lives.  But humility does not deny the evidences of His gracious work in us and through us.  To do so would be to dishonor Him as much as to ascribe the cause and results of His working to ourselves.

Yeshua not only said, “No branch can bear fruit by itself,” but He also said, “If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit” (John 15:4-5).  To remain, or to use the word we are more familiar with, to remain or abide in Yeshua is to set aside our own wisdom, strength, and merit in order to draw all from Him.  In other words, to abide in Yeshua is the same as to depend totally on God’s Grace, both in the realm of ability and in the realm of merit.  But the point I want to make here is Yeshua did say that when we abide in Him, when we depend on the grace of God, we will bear much fruit.  So it is not honoring to God, nor is it a mark of true humility to refuse to see the good produced in us or through us.

We have been looking at humility in a vertical dimension – that is, in our relationship to God – recognizing that all the good we have and do is from Him. But there is a horizontal dimension of humility in relationship to other people.  Pride, in relation to other people, is comparing ourselves with others and seeing ourselves as superior to them in some way – whether it be in character, conduct, or achievement.  One of the worst forms of pride is spiritual pride, an attitude that I am more holy or righteous or faithful or obedient or more fruitful in evangelism than others.

Humility toward others, then, is once again a recognition that all we are and do that is of any worth is a gift of God’s Grace.  Hence, humility turns the temptation to pride into an occasion for gratitude to God for what He has done in and through us.

In my next post, we will cover the characteristics of patience and forgiveness.

Click here for the PDF version.

 

[1] See Colossians 3:12 in conjunction with Galatians 5:22-23 for a more complete list of the Fruit of the Spirit.

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