Monday, February 14, 2011

"Grace... Faith... Love"

    "The grace of our Lord was exceeding abundant with faith and love which is in Christ Jesus" (I Timothy 1:14).
    Note the sequence in Paul's affirmation of God's redemptive work in his heart and life.  Grace... faith... love.  The order must never be reversed in our understanding of our Lord's ongoing work in us whereby we genuinely and devotedly love Him and others.  The grace of God must be received by faith, with the love of God ensuing as the fruit of the Holy Spirit's revelation of Christ in us.
    "By grace are ye saved through faith" declared the Apostle Paul (Ephesians 2:8).  That is, the Lord Jesus Christ lived, died, rose again and sent forth His Spirit to make possible relationship with God as a "free gift" (Romans 5:15-18).  We receive such beneficence by trusting that the Lord Jesus died for our sin and rose again (Romans 10:9-10).  The Holy Spirit then inhabits our redeemed hearts, and "the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Spirit which is given unto us" (Romans 5:5).  Again, grace... faith... love.
    "As ye have therefore received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk ye in Him" (Colossians 2:6). 
    Paul states that the "grace... faith... love" dynamic that began our relationship with God must perpetuate it.  God faithfully administers His loving favor of acceptance by the ongoing work of the indwelling Holy Spirit.  Our calling is to increasingly know and believe the truth of this promised work of grace.  As we do, the love of God more and more thrills, motivates, and changes us into the image of the Lord Jesus.  We thus love God and others as the expression of growing awareness of how beloved we are to God, and the growing devotion in us of affection, commitment and willingness for self sacrifice that results.  "We love Him because first He loved us" (I John 4:19).
    Our spiritual enemies continually seek to reverse the order and sequence in our hearts and minds.  They tempt us to neglect, ignore, misunderstand or disbelieve the wonder of grace in Christ that precedes all true faith and devotion.  Faith and love are either directly or indirectly portrayed as human acts of dedication and discipline rather than fruits of the Holy Spirit.  If we succumb to the temptation by installing our actions at the forefront of spirituality rather than strongly affirming that "we are His workmanship," fleshly fruits always result.  We become either frustrated or proud, and genuine faith and love crash on the rocks of carnality (Ephesians 2:10).
    We will either "grow in grace and in the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ," trusting and loving God as the blessed result, or we will stagnate and ultimately find ourselves mired in a status-quo Christianity that bears little resemblance to "the faith which was once delivered to the saints" (II Peter 3:18; Jude 1:3).  Wherever we may be along the path of trusting and loving God, the grace of the Lord Jesus beckons us to continue even as we began.  Or as the writer of Hebrews so aptly commanded...
"Let us have grace, that we may serve God with reverence and godly fear."
(Hebrews 12:28)

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