2008-03-11 - The Difference
Revelation 22:21 - The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all. Amen.
There is a difference between the endings of the Old and New Testaments. The Old Testament ended with a curse in Malachi but the New Testament ends with grace. What causes the difference? It is Jesus Christ our Lord. He is the one that came between the close of the Old Testament and the writing of the epistles in the New Testament.
His grace is prayed over us by John here and by Paul in so many of his letters. (1 and 2 Corinthians, Philippians, 1 and 2 Thessalonians, and 2 Timothy) But just what is this grace and why is it so amazing?
Grace comes from a Greek word charis; its definitions include benefit, favor, and gift. However, none of these can clearly define the grace of God. It is bestdemonstrated in the gift of God's only begotten son. But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. (Romans 5:8) Can you comprehend how undeserved that was? Can you fathom your unworthiness? In God's mind, none of us are righteous. It is true that we may do acts of charity or goodwill but this far exceeds any act we as humans might do.
Yet as Christians, it is just such selfless acts of grace that God commands us to do. Listen for a minute to the radical ideas preached by our Jesus.
Matthew 5:38-47 (The Message) "Here's another old saying that deserves a second look: 'Eye for eye, tooth for tooth.' Is that going to get us anywhere? Here's what I propose: 'Don't hit back at all.' If someone strikes you, stand there and take it. If someone drags you into court and sues for the shirt off your back, giftwrap your best coat and make a present of it. And if someone takes unfair advantage of you, use the occasion to practice the servant life. No more tit-for-tat stuff. Live generously.
"You're familiar with the old written law, 'Love your friend,' and its unwritten companion, 'Hate your enemy.' I'm challenging that. I'm telling you to love your enemies. Let them bring out the best in you, not the worst. When someone gives you a hard time, respond with the energies of prayer, for then you are working out of your true selves, your God-created selves. This is what God does. He gives his best-the sun to warm and the rain to nourish-to everyone, regardless: the good and bad, the nice and nasty. If all you do is love the lovable, do you expect a bonus? Anybody can do that. If you simply say hello to those who greet you, do you expect a medal? Any run-of-the-mill sinner does that.
Turn the other cheek. Go the extra mile. Forgive those who wrong you and just let them be. Love your enemies. Acting in such a radical way will cause others to notice a difference in you because these are not acts of normal men but acts of grace made possible through the grace shown to us by God. Make no mistake; all grace is from God. Moreover, this grace is something that the world just cannot give. In the book "What's So Amazing about Grace?" Philip Yancey writes, "The world can do almost anything as well as or better than the church. . . You need not be a Christian to build houses, feed the hungry, or heal the sick. There is only one thing the world cannot do. It cannot offer grace."
He goes on to say, "I rejected the church for a time because I found so little grace there. I returned because I found grace nowhere else."
Are you living a life that shows grace? Are you helping or hindering the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ being with us all? What will you do this day to live out his grace? What will you do to show how amazing grace is? Blessing or curse - the difference for those around you is in seeing grace lived out in you - the only Jesus they can see.
All scripture references from KJV unless otherwise noted