Apostasy and Grace

Some give up:
lava on the street,
no walking from now on.

If grace is true,
where is the power?
Why still a slave to sin?

But grace flickers
amidst the ocean
of corruption,

like a magic candle.
Soon it will burn
everything up!

Grace Cannot Die

Alive the grace of God in me
Though Sin may rage ferociously.
Grace shall not falter, shall not fail,
And in the end it will prevail!

Though bruised and battered Grace may be
a victim of Sin’s wild melee:
Let bloody kicks and punches fly,
‘Tis all in vain – Grace cannot die.

Thus, bleeding, fallen in the fight
Still, will I trust in God’s sure might.
His grace will give the victory;
I rise above the enemy!

Liberating Grace

(Easter Sunday Message, 16 April 2017, given to the congregation of Ikthus East, Bacolod City)

Text: Romans 6:1-14

Introduction: The Christian’s greatest sorrow is the fact that he still has to struggle against the remnants of sin in his life. But Christ has not left him helpless in this regard. By virtue of his resurrection he has bestowed on us Liberating Grace. Grace is not only God’s showing favor to underserving sinners, it is also his supernatural power that gradually frees us from the power of sin in our lives, and will someday completely free us from the presence of sin in our lives. Liberating Grace is nothing less than the power of the resurrection at work in our lives, the same power that defeated sin and death and raised Jesus back to life.

1. The Power of Liberating Grace: Newness of Life (verses 1-4)

If we are saved by grace and not by works, does this mean we can sin all we want? No, because grace is medicine that cures the disease of sin. It destroys rather than feeds sin. Grace not only justifies a person, it regenerates and sanctifies her. God not only forgives the believer, he also gives her new life: He gives her the Holy Spirit who creates in that person a new heart that loves God and obeys him. That’s what baptism signifies: In Christ our old life died and was buried and we are raised to newness of life.

2. The Purpose of Liberating Grace: Freedom from Sin (verses 5-11)

Christ came to destroy the works of the devil. We’ve been set free and should not use our freedom to indulge the flesh because that would contradict the whole point of why we were given grace in the first place.

3. The Practice of Liberating Grace: Discipline the Body (verses 12-13)

Yes, we were given the power to escape the corruption of this world, a corruption brought about by lust or evil desires. But it doesn’t work automatically. We have to exercise ourselves unto godliness. There’s no substitute for this. At the end of the day, after we’ve prayed for God’s help and been encouraged by the Scriptures, we simply have to step out in faith in the power of the Spirit and just do it!

4. The Promise of Liberating Grace: Sin Shall Not Have Dominion Over You (verse 14)

Grace is like a flickering candle floating in the midst of a raging sea. It’s always under threat of being swallowed up by the waves of sin, but lo and behold, it comes up again and continues to shine. The grace of God in us cannot die. It will suffer setbacks, it might even become comatose, but it will sooner or later wake up again. The power of grace consists in this: that no matter how powerful sin is, and no matter how weak grace is, sin cannot put grace to death. Grace can’t be killed! Because grace is the beginning of eternal life in the believer, it is the life of the Spirit, it is the life of Christ, it is the life of God himself, and therefore it cannot die. To be sure, it is but the seed of eternal life that we have received; it has not yet grown into the great and mighty tree that it will someday become. But even in its present state of weakness, it is stronger than sin and death, for in spite of sin’s mightiest blows, no matter how devastating sin’s kicks and punches, grace will always rise up after every fall! Sometimes grace is so battered by sin that only a mere flicker of life is left. But then the flicker goes on flickering and then becomes a tiny flame, and finally it becomes a mighty blaze that consumes sin till no trace of sin is left.

Yes, sin might win some battles but it has already lost the war, because you’re not left to your own strength to save yourself (relying on yourself is what it means to be under the law, which leads to the condemnation of death): you’re relying on God’s grace, which can save you to the uttermost because of Christ’s indestructible life that is in you. (Christ in you, the hope of glory!) Because Christ is risen, we will one day rise too, with bodies imperishable and untouchable by sin forever! Then we shall say, “Sin and death, where is your victory? Sin and death, where is your sting!”

Culture and Grace

I learned something new today from Andy Crouch’s Culture Making: the fact that “Culture… is not just the site of human rebellion against God, not just the site of God’s judgment against sin, it is also the site of God’s mercy.” After Adam and Eve sinned they made coverings out of fig leaves, but God saw that such wouldn’t be enough to protect them from the dangers they would face outside the garden, so he replaces these with garments of skin. God in his mercy improves their culture. Also, it is surprising that, though the Bible story begins with a garden, it ends with a city – the New Jerusalem of Revelation 21. As Crouch puts it:

In the remade world, the center of God’s creative delight is not a garden but a city. Somehow the city, the embodiment of concentrated human culture, has been transformed from the site of sin and judgment to the ultimate expression of grace, a gift coming ‘down out of heaven from God.’

I am reminded of the importance of having a redemptive, instead of an escapist, attitude towards the world – the city and culture. As a Christian, I am called by God to seek the good of the city.

… human culture’s darkest moments provoke not just God’s explicit and sorrowful judgment, they also prompt a cultural countermove, a new cultural artifact introduced by God into the story to protect human beings from the worst consequences of their choices. God never allows human culture to become solely the site of rebellion and judgment; human culture is always, from the very beginning, also marked by grace.

Beautiful Grace

From Thomas Merton’s The Sign of Jonas:

But it is beautiful to see God’s grace working in people. The most beautiful thing about it is to see how the desires of the soul, inspired by God, so fit in and harmonize with grace that holy things seem natural to the soul, seem to be part of its very self. That is what God wants to create in us – that marvelous spontaneity in which His life becomes perfectly ours and our life His, and it seems inborn in us to act as His children, and to have His light shining in our eyes.