Time to Refuel
Dallas Willard says, “Christians burn through grace like a 747 burns through fuel.”
Do you realize we operate on grace at that same pace? If so, maybe it is time to refuel?
Every Monday morning I want to write something short and brief that will remind us of the gospel. To take a moment to turn our eyes from ourselves and onto the finished work of Jesus on the cross. To refuel our tanks with the grace of God. But what is grace? Why do we need it so much? And how does it fuel us?
WHAT IS GRACE?
Grace is unmerited favor. It is acceptance from someone you receive despite doing nothing to receive it. Kind of like how I love and cherish my kids even though they did nothing to earn it. They were just born.
We deserved God’s eternal judgement in hell suffering his wrath forever because of our sin. Yet instead we are welcomed into God’s kingdom and family being treated as royalty. How is this possible?
Because Jesus suffered in our place. He bore the wrath of God. He was condemned. He became poor. All of this so that we could be made rich. We could be free. We could be reconciled.
God is no longer our judge but is our father bringing us to him with open arms. We never have to fear his judgement again. He has no disapproval left for us because Jesus took it ALL in our place. It is done. Justice is satisfied. We, the ungodly, are justified!
Romans 11:5-6 says, “So too at the present time there is a remnant, chosen by grace. But if it is by grace, it is no longer on the basis of works; otherwise grace would no longer be grace.”
Do you hear that? Grace must be unearned. You don’t do anything for it. It isn’t a wage. It is a gift. Otherwise it would no longer be grace. “Ok”, you may say, “I get that. But why is this so important?”
WHY IS THIS IMPORTANT?
This is crucial because we are hardwired for earning. For performance. For working. Most things in life come to us because we earned them, not because we were just give them.
Our sin nature has rejected God as the glorious treasure of the universe. Thus we have become bloated on ourselves and are motivated by self-justification to fill that with something else. We are driven to make something of ourselves. To validate ourselves. To show we are someone. How do we do this? By proving our worth through anything we can do.
Grace is important because it is completely counter intuitive to how we operate. And it means that we are all in the same boat. We all deserve judgement. Nobody is ahead of anyone else. And the harder we may try to prove ourselves, the further we sink into the quicksand of God’s wrath.
Let that sink in (I’m sorry I had to).
Seriously though. God sees all of us as deserving of his just wrath against sin. And no amount of penance or sorrow or hard work will change that. Nor will a perfect church attendance. Or any amount of religious activity. We are all on death row.
Grace is important because until we see our unchanging situation we won’t be desperate. We won’t be afraid. Our hands won’t be empty of religious duty. We will still be focused and hopeful in ourselves to alter our course. We won’t see our desperate need for outside help.
And once that help does come to save and justify us, we will be tempted to turn back to our works to keep God’s favor. Like the churches of Galatia who thought they needed to be circumcised to fully please God (Galatians 3:1-5). Or like Israel who thought they were the ones who escaped Egypt and brought themselves into the promise land (Deuteronomy 8:17).
“I can see how that is important. But how does it propel me? How does it fuel me” you ask?
HOW DOES IT FUEL US?
Grace fuels us by reminding us of where we are, what we have, and how we got here.
In Christ we have the fullness of God’s presence and glory at our disposal. We have eyes to see, ears to hear, and hearts to enjoy the treasure of the universe. And we are reminded of this by hearing, seeing and enjoying God’s glory again and again in the message of the gospel.
The message that:
1) We ALL loved the darkness and thus deserved God’s just judgement
2) Jesus took that judgement for us on the cross and offers us the righteous standard God required and
3) That righteousness earned for us is given to us by trusting in his finished work on the cross
This message reminds us we have nothing to stand on in and of ourselves. There is nothing special about us that God chose us. We are indebted to God’s grace. And the more I work in faith for his glory, the further in debt I become.
Paul says in 1 Corinthians 15:10, “ But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace toward me was not in vain. On the contrary, I worked harder than any of them, though it was not I, but the grace of God that is with me.”
This grace of God really is the fuel of our christian life.
You can read about my story of God’s grace here but I will give you a short snippet.
As the son of a pastor growing up in a loving Christian home with three brothers who were great role models for me, Christianity somehow felt like work. I never could shake the feeling that God was disappointed with me at my worst and waiting for me to fail at my best.
I confused the gospel with morality and thought if I avoided the worst of sins I would be ok. And I managed to do a pretty freaking good job. I mostly pleased my parents. I didn’t have sex. I avoided “secular” music.
I thought it was up to me to please God. I thought I had to be on my best behavior all the time. I had no category for understanding my brokenness. I was blind to the ways my moral conformity could actually be me proving myself and instead of resting in Jesus.
My eyes were opened to the depth of my sin. I saw the uselessness in trying to earn anything from God. And I saw the beauty of Jesus’s death for me and for possibly the first time I wanted the righteousness he had to offer.
Although I struggle still with all sorts of sin remaining in me, the motivations of my heart have done a 180. Where I used to want attention and praise I now want Jesus to be seen.
Jesus stopped Paul on the road to Damascus while on a mission to imprison and kill Jewish Christians so that when he got there, he joined with the Christians to preach Christ (Acts 9).
I like to think that Jesus stopped me by his grace on my road to hell in rebellion against him in my own self-righteous, religious pride so that others too will “glorify God because of me” (Galatians 1:24).
HERE IS THE POINT
Our salvation isn’t about us. We are saved by God’s grace so that he would get all the praise and glory. And we are propelled in our sanctification by that same grace so that God would continue to get all the glory and praise.
Paul says in Ephesians 2:7, “so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness towards us in Christ Jesus.”
We are saved by his grace for his glory and praise. God is the hero not us. Until we see that we will never know what it means to live fueled by grace.
Paul Tripp says, “faith makes you a canvas upon which the Redeemer can paint the beauty of his grace.”
I want with everything I have to be that canvas. For God to show the world his grace through me. Each and every day that canvas is being painted as I look to Jesus in faith for God’s favor and I’m propelled to worship him in everything I do.
Let’s lean into our brokenness and let God love us with his grace… his unearned favor we received at the expense of Jesus his Son. In doing so I pray we are refueled for the week ahead.