Mercy and Morality

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There is a tendency to think that the ardent freeness of grace should not be diminished or clouded by ethical demands. This is contrary to the logic of the gospel of Christ. The most striking thing about our Lord, as Lewis comments, is the union of great ferocity with extreme tenderness. We should not separate mercy and morality, or disconnect justification from sanctification. Both need to be stressed side by side in creative tension. It has been pointed out that “the essence of orthodoxy is paradoxy.” We cannot overstate the vast abundance of grace or the strong demands it makes upon us.

We are now called to wear the regal robe that was purchased with blood and custom-made by God. It is our high privilege. We can relax within the luxurious folds of this magnificent garment. When our conduct is out of character for a member of heaven’s kingdom, we must not throw off the royal robe. We should throw off the unrighteous behavior. We are learning to live in a new way. We are learning to enjoy the gift that was fashioned for us before the foundation of the world.

–Jurgen Schulz
What Jesus Wished People Knew About God

Artwork:
Guercino, Return of the Prodigal Son

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Compelled by Grace

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It is forgiveness that sets a man working for God. He does not work in order to be forgiven, but because he has been forgiven… An unforgiven man cannot work. He has not the will, nor the power, nor the liberty. He is in chains. Israel in Egypt could not serve Jehovah. “Let my people go, that they may serve Me” was God’s message to Pharaoh; first liberty, then service.” It is forgiveness that sets a man working for God. He does not work in order to be forgiven, but because he has been forgiven… An unforgiven man cannot work. He has not the will, nor the power, nor the liberty. He is in chains. Israel in Egypt could not serve Jehovah. “Let my people go, that they may serve Me” was God’s message to Pharaoh; first liberty, then service.”

A forgiven man is the true worker; the true lawkeeper. He can, he will, he must work for God. He has come into contact with that part of God’s character which warms his heart. Forgiving love constrains him. He cannot but work for Him who has removed his sins as far as the east is from the west.

―Horatius Bonar,
Holiness and Peace

Artwork by Vincent Van Gogh

Bewildering Grace

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In Christ, we are adopted by God, 
we are chosen without deserving,
loved without earning,
and saved without effort.

–Nick Lannon

Absolute Ideals and Absolute Grace

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The Sermon on the Mount proves that before God we all stand on level ground: murders and temper-throwers, adulterers and lusters, thieves and coveters. We are all desperate, and that is in fact the only state appropriate to a human being who wants to know God. Having fallen from the absolute Ideal, we have nowhere to land but in the safety net of absolute grace.

–Philip Yancey,
The Jesus I Never Knew

Stronger Cords

Praying

Grace binds you with
far stronger cords than
the cords of duty or obligation
can bind you.

–E. Stanley Jones

Preposterous Grace

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Grace is the word that sums up the heart-grabbing essence of the gospel. And the illustration that stands head and shoulders above the rest is found in Jesus’ prodigal parable.

The rascal who did everything possible to break the heart of his father deserves flogging—but the red carpet is rolled out for him. Extravagant privileges are heaped upon him in what looks like a lottery win. The father can’t find enough gifts to shower on the boy.

Admittedly, it’s unwarranted. It’s ludicrous.

The kid is clobbered by kindness. It’s the scandalous peripety of grace.

Grace is divine prodigality gone wild. It is ridiculous generosity, reckless open-handedness, audacious extravagance. It is goodness on steroids.

Grace shows flagrant disregard for moderation, fairness, or bookkeeping. It dishes out in outrageous excess to those who don’t have it together and have nothing to give in return.

Michael Spencer put it like this: “Real grace is simply inexplicable, inappropriate, out of the box, out of bounds, offensive, excessive, too much, given to the wrong people and all those things.”

Grace completely abolishes any idea of merit. It floods the undeserving with blessing. Grace is love shown to the unlovely, favor bestowed upon the unworthy. It is indiscriminating, uncoerced, and delightfully gratuitous.

It doesn’t keep score.

–Jurgen Schulz
What Jesus Wished People Knew About God

 

Outrageous Grace

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When people realize that they have received a gift they can never repay, they notify their faces and their actions, and the tenor of their lives becomes one of humble and joyful thanksgiving. They simply rejoice in the gift. “Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good, his love is everlasting” (Ps. 107:1).

–Brennan Manning,
Ruthless Trust

Published in: on 05/30/2017 at 16:59  Leave a Comment  
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The King’s Grace

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Published in: on 04/20/2017 at 8:35  Leave a Comment  
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This is Grace

water-cascade-1024x1024-wallpaper-1129-copyGrace is more than mercy and love. It super-adds to them. It denotes, not simply love, but the love of a sovereign, transcendent Superior. One that may do what He will. That may wholly choose whether He will love or no. Now God, who is an infinite Sovereign, who might have chosen whether ever He would love us or no; for Him to love us, this is Grace.

–Thomas Goodwin
(1600 – 1680)

Published in: on 10/14/2016 at 16:06  Leave a Comment  
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Not Wild Enough

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Published in: on 06/18/2016 at 16:48  Leave a Comment  
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Ridiculous Idea

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Grace has to be one of the most ridiculously straightforward bargains a market idolizing culture could ever be offered, you’d think. Instead of buy one get one free, the invitation to come buy bread without money would be a game losing own goal for Supermarkets, but the ridiculously obvious life disposition of those who follow Jesus.

–Jim Gordon

Published in: on 01/06/2016 at 7:57  Leave a Comment  
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Grace and gratitude

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Grace evokes gratitude
like the voice an echo.
Gratitude follows grace
like thunder lightning.

–Karl Barth

Photo credit: chrlngeer

Published in: on 10/22/2015 at 10:38  Leave a Comment  
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Who can stay away?

looking out window1 copyGrace is the ultimate attractor.
Who can stay away
from someone
who sees everything
wrong with you
and loves you even
more for it?

–Eric Nels Ortlund

Published in: on 10/18/2015 at 4:26  Leave a Comment  
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Freedom to serve

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This verse has long fascinated me. “O Lord, truly I am Your servant . . . You have loosed my bonds” (Psa. 116:16). The psalmist makes a intriguing connection between bondage and freedom. He claims to be a “servant” yet “loosed.” Is this not the beautiful paradox of the Christian? Loosed, but bound. Free, but still a captive. Released to be ruled by Love. The glorious liberty of slavery to grace!

–Jurgen O. Schulz

Knowing Christ

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To know Jesus
is the shortest description
of true grace;
to know him better is
the surest mark
of growth in grace;
to know him perfectly
is eternal life.

–John Newton
(1725—1807)

Wonderful, plentiful grace

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Christ’s boundless grace confronts our deep necessities. Christ’s promised presence confronts our sad and gloomy loneliness. Jesus thus filled with grace so overflowing, with love so tender, with sympathy so exquisite, with power so illimitable, with resources so boundless, with a nature so changeless, stands before us and says to each trembling heart, “Fear not!”

―Octavius Winslow
Evening Thoughts

Embracing both messages

a861c76fbad61f0e2eef5ab379dcd953The gospel presents both high ideals and all-encompassing grace. Very often, however, the church tilts one direction or the other. Either it lowers the ideals, adjusting moral standards downward, softening Jesus’ strong commands, rationalizing behaviour; or else it pulls in the boundaries of grace, declaring some sins worse that others, some sinners beyond the pale. Few churches stay faithful both to the high ideals of gospel and its bottomless grace . . . I am convinced that unless we embrace both messages we will betray the good news that Jesus brought to earth.

–Philip Yancey
Soul Survivor

Abundant supply

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“Oh, how great is Your goodness,
Which You have laid up
for those who fear You,
Which You have prepared
for those who trust in You…”

–Psalm 31:19 (NKJV)

Not only wild and wonderful

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And if there is a God who can take the dead and, without a single condition of credit-worthiness or a single pointless promise of reform, raise them up whole and forgiven, free for nothing—well, that would not only be wild and wonderful; it would be the single piece of Good News in a world drowning in an ocean of blame.

–Robert Farrar Capon

Art: Mikki Senkarik

Published in: on 01/24/2015 at 8:20  Leave a Comment  
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Clinging to grace

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I am throwing all
my good works overboard,
and lashing myself
to the plank of free grace;
for I hope to swim
to glory on it.

–C. H. Spurgeon

Published in: on 12/28/2014 at 5:00  Leave a Comment  
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Gift of righteousness

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At last meditating day and night, by the mercy of God, I began to understand that the righteousness of God is that through which the righteous live by a gift of God, namely by faith. Here I felt as if I were entirely born again and had entered paradise itself through the gates that had been flung open.

–Martin Luther
(1483-1546)

Bridge of grace

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The bridge of grace will bear your weight, brother. Thousands of big sinners have gone across that bridge, yea, tens of thousands have gone over it. Some have been the chief of sinners and some have come at the very last of their days but the arch has never yielded beneath their weight. I will go with them trusting to the same support. It will bear me over as it has for them.

– C. H. Spurgeon
(1834-1892)

Published in: on 10/13/2014 at 13:37  Leave a Comment  
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The severity of grace

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The Law was severe but Grace is severer still. The Law demanded much but Grace demands all. The Law regulates the act. Grace purifies the motive. The Law left the people at the foot of Mount Sinai but grace brings us to the seat of Mount Zion. Jesus time and again utters these words, “You have heard that it was said by them of old . . . but I say unto you . . . “ Where the Law did not intrude, Grace is determined to control. The Law of Moises said, “Thou shalt not do this or that . . . ” —a negative prohibition; Grace comes to us in Jesus Christ and says, “I will make you to become . . . ” involving a positive recreation.

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Striving to obey the Law seeks to put God in our debt. Grace redeems us, teaching us that we are now totally in debt to God.

He does not look
for any legal repayment
but only loving response.

We are not our own, we are bought with a price. Ours is now the discipline of glorifying Him in our body and in our spirits which are God’s. It is no longer a question of seeking to keep the letter of the law but of having fulfilled in us the spirit of Jesus Christ. The Law was written on tables of stone but God has written now His own word upon our hearts. This is the difference between the Old and New Covenant. The “Old” started with our hands asking something from us—but the “New” begins in our hearts giving something to us.

–Geoffrey T. Bull
The Sky is Red

Grace upon grace

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“From his fullness we have all received,
grace upon grace” (John 1:16).

The achievements of the Saviour, resulting from His becoming man, are of such kind and number, that if one should wish to enumerate them, he may be compared to men who gaze at the expanse of the sea and wish to count its waves.  For as one cannot take in the whole of the waves with his eyes, for those which are coming on baffle the sense of him that attempts it; so for him that would take in all the achievements of Christ in the body, it is impossible to take in the whole, even by reckoning them up, as those which go beyond his thought are more than those he thinks he has taken in.

–St. Athanasius
(296 – 373)

Image: Tim Curtis

Abundant & undeserved

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“And if by grace, then is it no more of works;
otherwise grace is no more grace.”
(Romans 11:6)

The whole essence of grace is that it is undeserved. The moment we have to do something to make ourselves more acceptable to God, or the moment we have to have a certain feeling or attribute of character in order to be blessed by God, then grace is no more grace. Grace permits us to come (nay, demands that we come) as empty sinners to be blessed, empty of right feelings, good character, satisfactory record, with nothing to commend ourselves but our deep need, fully and frankly acknowledged. Then grace, being what it is, is drawn by that need to satisfy it, just as water is drawn to depth that it might fill it.

less5divider2This means that when at last we are content to find no merit nor procuring cause in ourselves, and are willing to admit the full extent of our sinfulness, then there is no limit to what God will do for the poor who look to Him in their nothingness. If what we receive from God is dependent, even to a small extent, on what we are or do, then the most we can expect is but an intermittent trickle of blessing. But if what we are to receive is to be measured by the grace of God quite apart from works, then there is only one word that adequately describes what He pours upon us, the word which is so often linked with grace in the New Testament, “abundance”!

Roy Hession
We Would See Jesus

Published in: on 08/27/2014 at 14:21  Leave a Comment  
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Fantasy and faith

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Someone says, “Listen, God doesn’t have time for your little problems. He is busy in the Middle East right now. He has bigger fish to fry. If you want something for yourself, you better get is the best way you can: buy this product and you will be important; wear these clothes and everyone will realize how distinguished you are; read this book and the knowledge will set you a cut about the crowd. Take care of yourself.”

less5divider2That sounds good, we begin to respond. And then we hear Paul’s indignant, “I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting him who called you in the grace of Christ.” Instinctively, immediately, we know that he is right. The only good news that will make a difference is that the living God personally addresses and mercifully forgives us. He sets things right at the center. This is what we need, what we want. We determine and we will not abandon the free life of the gospel and live in the fantasy dreams that others paint for us and then sell to us for a fee. We will live forgiven and in faith, not as a parasite on others, but creatively for others. We will not mope or cringe or whine. We will praise and venture and make.

–Eugene H. Peterson
Living the Message

Unscripted grace

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If Christianity is grace,
we don’t have
a push-button God.
Get ready for
an adventure.

–Tim Keller

Published in: on 05/29/2014 at 8:48  Leave a Comment  
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The soaring life of grace

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Giving is what we do best. It is the air into which we were born. It is the action that was designed into us before our birth. Giving is the way the world is. He makes no exceptions for any of us. We are given away to our families, to our neighbors, to our friends, to our enemies—to the nations. Our life is for others. That is the way creation works. Some of us try desperately to hold on to ourselves, to live for ourselves. We look so bedraggled and pathetic doing it, hanging on to the dead branch of a bank account for dear life, afraid to risk ourselves on the untried wings of giving. We don’t think we can live generously because we have never tried. But the sooner we start the better, for we are going to have to give up our lives finally, and the longer we wait the less time we have for the soaring and swooping life of grace.

–Eugene Peterson
Running with the Horses

Whispering forgiveness

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This is the gospel of grace. A God, who out of love for us, sent the only Son He ever had wrapped in our skin. He learned how to walk, stumbled and fell, cried for His milk, sweated blood in the night, was lashed with a whip and showered with spit, was fixed to a cross and died whispering forgiveness on us all.

–Brennan Manning
The Ragamuffin Gospel

The Offer and the Dance

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The gospel of Jesus is not the Gospel of a Demand but the Gospel of an Offer. Christ offers life to men: “He that drinketh of the waters that I shall give him shall never thirst”…

Of course, at the center of that offer is a demand—for repentance, for self-surrender, for following—but once the offer is accepted, the demand dances its way into a delight and is gone.

–E. Stanley Jones
Christ at the Round Table

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