Last night as we had coffee with a good friend in the outdoor seating area of a local establishment, we felt and enjoyed the unexpected breezes of a cool southerly wind.
This is very unusual in our part of the country. From springtime until late fall, and often even in the winter, winds from the south are almost always warm. As such, we were both surprised and blessed as the air had a different feel to it, and as we realized that cool breezes from any direction will soon be a memory in the humid heat of a subtropical summer.
This dovetailed with a discussion we had in our fellowship yesterday of the surprising nature of God's grace. One of the meanings of the Biblical word is "unexpected favor," and how often do we experience such blessedness as we walk with the Lord Jesus Christ. First, we personally receive as a free gift the acceptance and affirmation of a Heavenly Father who gave His beloved Son a cross of rejection and wrath for our sakes. Then we find His moving within us to motivate and enable us to bestow upon others the same mercy that blesses us. "Freely ye have received, freely give" (Matthew 10:8).
The latter aspect of bestowal is sometimes more surprising and unexpected than our personal reception of grace. Every honest believer will acknowledge the tooth and claw nature of our flesh, which "lusteth against the spirit" (Galatians 5:17). When offended by another, our initial and immediate reaction is not to forgive and bless, but to fight or fly. There is no innate desire in our humanity for the mercy in which God so delights (Micah 7:18). "I know that in me (that is, in my flesh) dwelleth no good thing... Thou art a God ready to pardon, gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and of great kindness" (Romans 7:18; Nehemiah 9:17).
There is, however, desire and even delight, God's delight, for mercy in the innermost depths of born again believers' Christ-inhabited spiritual selves. "I delight in the law of God after the inward man... it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of His good pleasure" (Romans 7:22; Philippians 2:13). We may not feel such delight, and everything in our flesh may cry out against it. Nevertheless, the ready to pardon inclination of God's heart dwells within our spirits. We must believe and submit ourselves to such truth regardless of how strongly our emotions and thoughts seem to flow in a different direction. We must account that we are "alive unto God" in our spirit, and that His love for mercy is now our love for mercy (Romans 6:11). We acknowledge the contrary inclinations of our flesh, and we put such inclinations to death by the faith that affirms the surprising work of grace that not only provided forgiveness and eternal life in Christ, but also a "new man, created in righteousness and true holiness" (Ephesians 4:24).
The winds of the Spirit blow in unexpected ways, especially in matters of grace and mercy. Let us anticipate their surprise in our personal reception thereof, and in our Christ-enabled capacity to bestow pardon rather than the punitive upon those who offend us. We will likely be more stunned by the mercy we give than by the mercy we receive as we discover the magnitude of a salvation that increasingly results in the wonder of conformity to the spiritual and moral image of the Lord Jesus...
"Beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, we are changed into the same image, from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord."
(II Corinthians 3:18)