I was at one of our house churches the other day talking to an eleven year old who asked some great questions. We were talking about the places in Scripture where Jesus tells us to “go and buy gold refined by fire,” and his story where he tells us to “go and buy oil.” All of these are places that tell us go and develop a close relationship with Christ.
He was having a hard time understanding those concepts, so I told him this story:
“Imagine that your dad made you a deal. Every time you brought your dad a dime, your dad responded by giving you $20.00. Would you take your dad up on that deal?”
He shook his head yes.
“I bet you’d do it a lot, wouldn’t you?
He shook his head again.
“I bet you would. You’d do it until you became rich. Well that’s what its like with Jesus. We go and bring our small hearts to Jesus and ask him to reveal himself to us. We call this prayer. He responds by showing up and showing himself to us in ways that grow our hearts and make us wealthy in God, because that is real wealth — knowing God.”
Dallas Willard famously said, “Grace is not opposed to effort, it is opposed to earning.” We have to make the effort to show up and pray. We have to show up to encounter him. We bring our dime. When we do, God takes our ten cent prayers and brings $20 encounters and $20 answers to the things we ask for. This is grace.
This morning I was thinking of the conversation again. I realized that I hadn’t told my young friend the whole story. See, I had told the story to him as if the first dime he brings to his dad is his. The reality is one we forget often — the first dime he gave his dad is a dime his dad gave him first. We are able to bring our hearts in prayer to meet with God because he gave us the initial desire to do so. It was him, putting in us a desire to be close to him to begin with, that allows us to begin to want to pray. You may even be feeling the tug right now to spend time with Jesus. This is also grace.
So let’s bring our dimes and trade them in. The little we bring will be transformed into so much more. Let’s also not forget who gave us the dime in the first place.
[Editor’s Note: This is a 23-Day Series exploring different aspects of God’s nature and personality, using Tozer’s “The Knowledge of the Holy” as a discussion starter. You can read the introduction of the series here.]
Grace. It’s a word we use so often we sometimes forget what it means. In the last five years of church history, the word has taken on a whole new dynamic. There are men that are called “hyper-grace” believers and there are others being called legalists for not emphasizing grace enough. And if we’re not careful we can talk much about a word we barely understand, all the while thinking we totally understand part of God’s nature. Because grace is something that God is, our understanding of it is essential in this hour.
Hang with me here. Because I know that on Friday we talked about God’s mercy. And while Tozer (and I) will acknowledge that in God these two attributes are one, they are experienced in our humanity in slightly different ways. Mercy is God in his goodness confronting our guilt. But grace is God bestowing benefits upon undeserving people.
Picture the prodigal son (Luke 15:11-32). He has squandered his father’s inheritance and has realized what a terrible wrong he has done. He then returns home to a father, unsure of his father’s reaction and willing to be a slave just to survive. When he returns home, a watching father runs to his son while he’s still a long ways off and embraces him. The son repents. Now we know the father forgives this son. This was mercy. But when the father sends for the robe, the ring, sandals, and the feast, this is grace. Grace is what causes God to take us from the ash heap and seat us with princes (1 Samuel 2:8).
As I’ve pointed out before, Tozer likes to remind us of the foundation he has already laid in previous chapters. Because God is eternal and immutable, it’s not as if God suddenly developed grace as a part of His nature in response to our need. Instead, God has had grace in His nature since before the foundation of the world. Men in the Old Testament received grace. The sacrifice of Jesus has always been pointed to as the channel of this grace. And men and women since the New Testament have been recipients of grace. All of this comes through Jesus, who was looked forward to in the Old Testament and who has been looked backward on since His death and resurrection.
We do well to remember, as well, since grace is part of God’s nature, it is also infinite. There is no end to God’s grace. Tozer compares God’s grace to our need. Picture mankind’s great sin. If all of them were to be numbered, it would seem innumerable. And yet, Scripture makes it clear, where sin abounds, God’s grace abounds much, much more (Romans 5:20).
One of the things that I love about grace that we forget is that we don’t deserve it. Usually we don’t forget this when we are asking God for grace for ourselves. We usually remember this very easily. But we do forget this when we are dealing with others. Grace is God giving us what we don’t deserve. GRACE (as some have very nicely described it) is God’s Riches At Christ’s Expense. We get access to this by the free gift of Jesus’ life and death and resurrection. And so when we’re dealing with others, as those who have tasted God’s grace, we should be gracious, giving beyond what people deserve. This is the question we need to ask ourselves: Has my life been a picture of God’s grace to others?
At the same time, we should understand that grace is not given as a license for sin. Yes, we can sin and be recipients of grace. Sinning happens. But true recipients of grace are not content to take advantage of grace. Because grace is access to God’s riches and power to overcome sin is part of God’s riches, we should be quick to use grace to overcome sin. Paul, who was accused of being hyper-grace in his day, said “Should we go on sinning so that grace may increase? No!” (Romans 6:1-2). Grace, in the economy of God, for a person who is constantly late is a watch that they could not afford. Grace empowers, it doesn’t entitle.
And so my encouragement today is for you and I to become hungry to receive and know God’s grace more than we already do. Let’s enjoy the ring and the feast that our Father has brought to us. Let’s show that grace to others who still think their father only wants slaves. But lets also use the grace given us as more than just an excuse for sin. Let’s use it to overcome those things that have held us back. Let’s truly experience real grace and show it to others. .
That’s my takeaway today. What’s yours? Leave a comment so we can all grow together!
Day 19: The Grace of God
Day 20: The Love of God
Day 21: The Holiness of God
Day 22: The Sovereignty of God
Day 23: The Open Secret