Friday, June 5, 2015

“The Garden of Grace”

   The law of Moses constituted an outside-in work of God's Word written on stone tablets, beckoning to human hearts from without.  The grace and truth of the Lord Jesus Christ, conversely, provides an inside-out work of grace and truth whereby God's Spirit enters and abides within our spirits to enable genuine worship of the heart.

    "Forasmuch as ye are manifestly declared to be the epistle of Christ ministered by us, written not with ink, but with the Spirit of the living God; not in tables of stone, but in fleshy tables of the heart. And such trust have we through Christ to God-ward: not that we are sufficient of ourselves to think any thing as of ourselves; but our sufficiency is of God; who also hath made us able ministers of the new testament; not of the letter, but of the Spirit: for the letter killeth, but the Spirit giveth life" (II Corinthians 3:3-6).

    The law revealed sin, serving as "our schoolmaster to bring us to Christ" (Galatians 3:24).  Grace and truth redeem us from sin, providing the indwelling Holy Spirit to fill and energize us by Christ.  Of course, most believers have never actually lived under the law of Moses, especially as practiced in the days of the Old Testament.  We rather formed our own moral codes, or embraced those of others before we trusted in the Lord Jesus Christ (many of which were influenced to some degree by God's law).  As mentioned, all involved the out-to-in attempt to make ourselves better, or improve behaviors.  The attempts were futile, thankfully, thus preparing us for the realization that "the issues of life" originate and proceed from an in-to-out working within our hearts (Proverbs 4:23).  We cannot venture there ourselves to accomplish the internal heart transformation and care, any more than we might ourselves transplant and tend to the physical organ that circulates lifeblood throughout our bodies.  Only the Lord Jesus can change the heart.  Only He can progressively nurture and mature the new heart birthed when we receive the indwelling Holy Spirit at the time of our new birth.  And only He can ultimately perfect our hearts by conforming them into His spiritual and moral image.  "And the Lord make you to increase and abound in love one toward another, and toward all men, even as we do toward you: to the end he may stablish your hearts unblameable in holiness before God, even our Father, at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ with all His saints" (I Thessalonians 3:12-13).

    We play a role in such growth and development.  First, we realize that Christ alone, by His Spirit, birthed and maintains our hearts.  We can no more tend that garden than we could have planted it.  We do, however, keep the garden available to His nurture by conscious faith and devotion to His caretaking.  The Scriptures, prayer, fellowship with believers, and decisive response to our Lord's promised presence, involvement, enabling, and Lordship lead us to "keep yourselves in the love of God" even as our Heavenly Father works to "direct your hearts into the love of God" (Jude 1:21; II Thessalonians 3:5).  Indeed, Heart to heart relationship and fellowship with God constitute the inside-out work of grace and truth, as promised and provided to all who realize that in matters of the heart, only the Maker of our hearts can accomplish the essential work of planting and tending the garden of grace therein…

"A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you: and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you an heart of flesh. And I will put My spirit within you, and cause you to walk in My statutes, and ye shall keep My judgments, and do them.
(Ezekiel 36:26-27)

Weekly Memory Verse
    Godliness with contentment is great gain.
(I Timothy 6:6)

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