Grace from A-Z (pt 2)

We have three kids with a decent age difference: 18,15 and 10. Finding movies that everyone actually wants to see and not just tolerate can be a little tricky, as you can imagine.

I remember one time when our oldest, Rebecca, was out with friends so Susan and I decided to take the boys to the movies to see something that Rebecca would be happy to watch 7 years later on Netflix.

We shouted up the stairs to surprise them, “Boys! Get your stuff on, we’re taking you to the movies!” There was a burst of breeze and in record time, my boys were standing in the hallway, ready to go.

Dad spoke.

What dad said created belief.

The boys responded.

This image is not unlike the pattern of the gospel: our faith is not self generated inside us, faith is given to us as a result of a word that comes from outside us. The life of faith we live is in response to the jaw-dropping announcement of grace that our Heavenly Dad made.

This has always been the pattern of grace. This is why our reformed catechisms all teach us that salvation is to the glory of God alone. Even Abraham – the “father of faith” – had his faith handed to him.

God affirms He’s with us … [1]

We all have things in our lives that can create a lot of anxiety. Abraham’s anxiety was that he was childless. God isn’t turned off by your anxiety – he moves toward you in your anxiety. Even during your darkest moments of anxiety, God relentlessly offers you His affirmation.

God came to Abraham and said, “I am your shield; your reward will be great”.

Abraham responded like any of us would have: he thought about everything that was wrong with his life, so naturally he was confused by what God said and how it could be possible. We can all relate. We’ve all had, ‘my life isn’t working out’ moments. Good news…

God is our shield. Our reward is great.
Our reward, quite simply, is Him.

Sadly, the doctrines of God and prayer have become so commercialized that saying, ‘God Himself is the reward’ sounds like a divine letdown. We want something better than God Himself. The Hebrew construction actually reveals that the reward IS God – which is incredibly good news – whether we can grasp it or not.

He is our joy, our peace, our assurance and our strength in times of anxiety, despair, confusion and suffering.

I don’t know about you, but knowing that God’s grace covers my every sin and empowers me in every trial is a big deal on a planet where there is a never-ending supply of things for me to be anxious about. Having God’s gospel recalibrate my heart to the promise of the eternal is no small matter given that body I live in is made of dirt and is one day going to return there.

That kind of talk isn’t morbid, it’s rational. The Christian worldview is such that we can think quite deeply about our mortality without getting depressed about it. The gospel is big enough for the life and death stuff and I have no interest in a neutered gospel whose chief aim is to simply “help me do life better”. Anyone half interested in morals and ethics who stumbles into the self help section of the local Chapters has everything they need to “do life better”. What my soul needs, Chapters doesn’t have and the solution for my biggest problem – namely my eminent death – nobody has. But the gospel does.

What amazes me about God’s interaction with Abraham is that even after Abraham reacts to God’s affirmation with more confusion and questioning– God keeps moving toward him in grace.

The pattern of grace here is encouraging because it reminds us that in even our darkest times, God doesn’t throw His hands up, walk away and wait for us to self generate the faith to trust in Him.

God creates faith in us … [2]

The scriptures teach that God’s words have the power to create things, whereas our words are limited to having the power to effect things. [3] This is an important distinction that distinguishes Christian faith from deism. Having said that and for the sake of analogy, let’s go back to movie night …

After I made the announcement, something happened in my boys. They made for the door. My announcement  “created faith” in themwhich propelled their response.

After God made the announcement, something happened in Abraham. He made for the tent door. God’s announcement created faith which propelled his response.

God took Abraham’s eyes off of his inability and refocused them onto God’s infinite ability. The pattern of grace that created faith in Abraham is what continues to create faith in us.

God did not create faith in Abraham by giving Him something to do. He created faith through an announcement of something that only He could do.

We continue in our faith the way we began: trusting in God and not in ourselves.

Paul interpreted the exchange Abraham had with God in his letter to the Galatians and it liberated the church. We learn from Galatians 3 that “the just shall live by faith” and resting in “it is finished” is the same thing. [3b]

God saves and empowers us with the faith He gave us … [4]

Abraham did a lot of incredible things before Genesis 15 and yet, God never called him righteous. Abraham didn’t earn his righteousness any more than my sons earned their popcorn that night at the movies. In both cases – the unmerited gift came with believing dad’s announcement. Abraham’s righteousness (like ours) was not of himself, but in Another.

This is why the gospel is an announcement not an instruction.

Abraham believed God’s announcement over his life which created the faith to desire God’s instruction for his life.

God comes and meets your anxiety with affirmation – He is with you. Christ’s gospel preached to you will continually create faith in you. The Holy Spirit will use the saving faith God gave you to increasingly strengthen you.

The same relentless grace that saved and strengthened Abraham out of his anxiety is saving and strengthening you out of yours. Rest in His grace church: He has you.

Press on,

Paul

[1] Genesis 15: 1-3
[2] Genesis 15: 4-5
[3] Proverbs 18:21 – We speak & effect | Romans 4:17 – God speaks & creates
[3b] Galatians 3

[4] Genesis 15:6

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