The Awesomeness of God’s Grace – Part 1

But by the grace of God I am what I am: and his grace which was bestowed upon me was not in vain; but I laboured more abundantly than they all: yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me. 1 Cor. 15:10

Why would the Apostle Paul speak the words he spoke here? Why would he speak of the grace of God in this manner? It was because he came to understand how unworthy he was. One day, this man realized how useless and how undeserving he truly was before God. Only God could make him otherwise. And thus Paul extolled the praises of God’s grace.

Jeremiah 17:9 makes the point: “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?”

Notice scripture does not say, “The heart is deceitful and desperately wicked, but at times it can also be amazingly good, truthful and sinless”. No. (God is not like us. We love flattering people. But God is God and He does not engage in such posturings.)

In fact, the Bible goes even further and tells us that the human heart is not only wicked, but “desperately” so. There is not a scrap of goodness or righteousness in the human soul; only evil resides there.

(We also love to think that we are good people; and when we look at all the “good” we have done, we are tempted to think that our assessment of ourselves is actually true! But the Bible does not even come close to entertaining such a thought, and we, too, should not. I am sure there are a few things that you and I know about our hearts, and it is no exaggeration to say that only through a miracle of God can we find any good in us.)

Inside the human heart there is a spiritual world which is bigger than our known physical universe. And the Bible here declares that this measureless world is full of only evil. That means there are many more things that we do not know about our hearts. There are depths in our hearts that we simply cannot fathom; but, alas! they are depths only of wickedness. That is why the Bible says that no man can know the extent of the wickedness in him.  Only God can know that. He alone can plumb the depths of our hearts.

There is neither white or black, yellow or brown. There is neither rich nor poor. There is neither cultured nor uncultured. Fact is, we are all the same. We are evil through and through.

But through His grace, kindness and mercy, God takes our evil heart, washes it sparkling clean. It is like someone picking up a piece of dung-covered something and, while you would expect that he would bury it away, he instead cleans it and out of it comes the most beautiful gem you ever saw! That gem happens to be us, when God washes us of our sins. Remember God created us in His own image and likeness.

We therefore have absolutely nothing to boast about when it comes to us and God. Indeed, it is a miracle that we can be found in Him. That is why we should be extremely thankful to God for His grace. It is by grace alone that we were reconciled to God, and it is by that same grace that we stand today. The Apostle Paul understood this aspect of grace probably more than anybody else. He said, “But by the grace of God I am what I am…”

That statement reflects the highest point of faith.

But not many believers can live out that statement. Many of us say: “I am what I am by the grace of God and a little effort on my part”. We do so subconsciously, of course. Our faith is that small.

But Paul did not say that. Instead he said, “All that I am, I am by God’s grace alone.”

But that is not all. After He has washed us clean and reconciled us to Himself, God comes to live in us.

The Bible declares, “…greater is he that is in you, than he that is in the world” (1 Jn. 4:4). God is in us! This is a tremendous scripture. It is also a scripture which we love to think that we know perfectly well; but, again, few of us are really capable of grasping it in its fullness for it can only be fully comprehended through the kind of faith that Paul had.

In the second part of this post we shall see an even more surprising aspect of God’s grace.

[Below: “I Stand In Awe Of You”]

Easter!

Purge out therefore the old leaven, that ye may be a new lump, as ye are unleavened. For even Christ our passover is sacrificed for us:

Therefore let us keep the feast, not with old leaven, neither with the leaven of malice and wickedness; but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth. 1 Cor. 5:7-8

Oh, the beauty and simplicity of scripture!

This is Passover season and there is no denying the fact that there is a big to-do going on all around. All over the world people are preparing to celebrate Easter tomorrow in various ways, through different rituals and church services.

No harm in all that, of course, except that God wants us to see the bigger picture. In the first place, I like what the Apostle Paul says: For even Christ our passover is sacrificed for us (1 Cor. 5:7b).

Notice that the Passover lamb, Christ, has already been sacrificed. Nothing that we do now matters. All has been accomplished. God is not mad if we hold elaborate Easter services, but they don’t really matter that much to Him anymore.

In fact, with God now there is only one way to celebrate Easter. It is by living a sinless life. It is by living all that Christ, our Passover lamb, embodies. That is something that does not require any “service”, elaborate or not. It is all now a matter of the heart. All it requires is for you to have a heart that is responsive to God.

God and His requirements are no longer in ritual. They are in our hearts, deep in our inner spiritual man. You could be in your office on Good Friday, doing your usual chores, and still be celebrating Easter, because in your heart there is no malice or wickedness. You are living Christ!

So, tomorrow, as we wake up to Easter, let us be in the Spirit. Let us realize that with God it is the inner Easter that really matters, one that is celebrated not with elaborate and colorful services; but through the everyday life of righteousness, holiness, love and goodwill towards all.

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The Wickedness of Man’s Heart – Part 1

The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it? Jer 17:9

Many people, when they wake up, want to have a cup of strong coffee or something, to kick-start their day. For us spiritual people, I believe we should have a cup of ‘heart talk’ every morning. What I mean is, we should hear something about our hearts. There is nothing as important as the heart as far as the believer is concerned.

And right here we dive into the heart of this post. Have you ever stopped to think about the above scripture? It says that the heart is deceitful above all things. Above all things! That’s pretty far, if we were to measure it in terms of distance. It is, in fact, very, very, very far.

Let us take this a bit further and ask, What is the longest distance that we can visualize? If we are to seriously think about distances then we must think of space; and scientists have helped us to know something about space distances. There is what is called the ‘known universe’. Now, this is vast, and the outer edges of this hemisphere are really, really far from our small planet earth. They are hundreds of trillions of miles from earth and it would take billions of years to reach them, even travelling by the fastest super-jet that man has made to date.

Beyond this ‘known’ hemisphere there is the ‘unknown universe’. Scientists have not yet wandered into this region; but as far as distances go, those within the known universe pale into near-nothingness when compared to the unknown universe. The ‘known’ universe would probably appear as a blip if placed alongside the ‘unknown’ universe!

I want to apply this analogy to the human heart. There is a world in our hearts that is greater in scope than both the ‘known’ and ‘unknown’ spheres we just discussed above, combined. And if we were to take the distances we just discussed and convert them into the state of the human heart, the word ‘rotten’ could hardly suffice to describe the horrific condition of our hearts. There are many, many things in a man’s heart that are wrong and which need to be addressed by the Holy Spirit through the gospel of Jesus Christ. The quantity and depth of these things in the human heart is simply astounding; in fact, so much so that the Bible uses the phrase “desperately wicked” to describe the human heart.

Acknowledging the incredible scale of the rot in our hearts is the only way we can hope to do justice to the phrase “above all things”. I have to say it again: ‘above all things’ is pretty far. But there sits the truth; and we can do nothing but accept it.

We have heard or read of the many wicked men (and women) throughout history who have terrorized people through acts of unspeakable wickedness and cruelty. Men like Hitler and his Nazis, or Stalin.

Today, we have many more doing the same cruel things to fellow human beings. You hear about stabbings, rapes, killings, and every kind of cruelty carried out against innocent people.

All these come from the human heart – the same heart that you and I carry. The truth, really, is that we are all capable of doing exactly these very same things. All human hearts are desperately wicked. You see all those good, smiling people out there and you have no idea what they are carrying within them. By His grace alone, God withholds the evil from men’s hearts from fully expressing itself (2 The. 2:6), otherwise the world would become uninhabitable.