1 Timothy 1
Yet I was shown mercy…and the grace of our Lord was more than abundant… – Vs 15
Mercy and grace – two words that should bring a smile to any believer's face. Because without them, we would still be hopelessly lost in our sins. Yet as it was with Paul, God showed us mercy. Rather than giving us what we deserve, He showered us with His unmerited favor in the form of mercy. Paul was "a blasphemer and a persecutor and a violent aggressor" before coming to Christ, but he was shown mercy by God. What an incredible gift. And I have received it as well.
But that's not all Paul and I have received. God showed us grace. He accepted me just as I was. He didn't make me get my act together or clean it up. Instead He just loved me in spite of me. One definition of grace I particularly love is "grace is the face love wears when it encounters imperfection." When God saw me in my sin, He didn't turn His face away in disgust, but He showed me love, and He didn't make me measure up first or somehow earn it or deserve it. Because I would have failed.
In his book, Knowing God, J. I. Packer describes grace this way:
What is grace? In the New Testament grace means God’s love in action towards men who merited the opposite of love. Grace means God moving heaven and earth to save sinners who could not lift a finger to save themselves. Grace means God sending His only Son to descend into hell on the cross so that we guilty ones might be reconciled to God and received into heaven. ‘(God) hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin, that we might be made the righteousness of God in him.’
Lately, I have been becoming increasingly aware of just how amazing grace really is. It's not just a gift I received that will somehow allow me to get into heaven. It is an atmosphere in which I live as a believer. Grace is the environment in which I am loved by God regardless of my performance. I don't have to meet certain criteria to be loved by God. I don't have to do more good things and less bad things to be loved by God. I don't have to keep a list of rules to be loved by God. I am just loved by God. In spite of my flaws and imperfections, and that is grace. God's love in action.
Paul said God's grace was "more than abundant, with the faith and love which are found in Christ Jesus" (Vs 14). In other words, God's grace overflowed to Paul. But God didn't just show him grace on the road to Damascus, He poured out His grace each and every day of Paul's life. That's why Paul could write in Romans "where sin increased grace abounded all the more" (Romans 5:20). God's grace abounds in the presence of sin. It doesn't fade away or turn away. Grace is God's love reaching out to us in our imperfections, even after having come to Christ. Like Paul we can say,
"For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh; for the willing is present in me, but the doing of the good is not. For the good that I want, I do not do, but I practice the very evil that I do not want." (Romans 7:18-19)
Paul was experiencing the daily battle with the flesh common to all of us. But he was also experiencing God's abundant, amazing grace in the form of His love in the face of our own sin. Which bring to mind an old hymn we sang when I was growing up as a child.
Marvelous grace of our loving Lord,
Grace that exceeds our sin and our guilt!
Yonder on Calvary’s mount outpoured,
There where the blood of the Lamb was spilled.
Grace, grace, God’s grace,
Grace that will pardon and cleanse within;
Grace, grace, God’s grace,
Grace that is greater than all our sin.
– Grace Greater than Our Sin, Julie H. Johnston
Father, thank you for your amazing, abundant, boundless grace. You never run out and You never hold out. You love me in spite of me. You show me grace each and every day of my life and for that I am eternally grateful. Amen