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A New Name

Greetings All,

This week's 'thought' comes from Charles Swindoll, and is found in what I consider the best of all the books he has ever written (and he's written many)! It's his book "The Grace Awakening," and the theme of this excerpt is on 'becoming people of grace.' Enjoy.

"All those familiar with 'The Pilgrim's Progress' (by John Bunyan) have no trouble remembering that the pilgrim's name throughout the book is 'Christian.' To my surprise few remember his original name, even though it is plainly stated in the allegory...

Porter: What is your name?
Pilgrim: My name is now Christian, but my name at the first was Graceless.

The same could be said for all of us today who claim the glorious name of Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. Our name is now Christian, but it has not always been so. That title was given to us the moment we believed, the day we took God at His word and accepted the gift of eternal life He offered us. Prior to the name change, we were Graceless, indeed.

My question is this: Now that Christ has come into our lives and ripped that heavy pack of sin off our backs, are we now full of grace? Having been Graceless for so many years, are we 'grace conscious,' are we 'grace aware,' are we experiencing a 'grace awakening,' are we truly becoming 'grace-full'? Models of grace are needed now more than ever...

As I think about our becoming people of grace, I believe at least three things are involved in the process:

First - It takes time. Learning anything takes time. Becoming good models of grace, it seems, takes years! Like wisdom, it comes slowly. But God is in no hurry as He purges graceless characteristics from us. But we can count on this for sure: He is persistent.

Second - It requires pain. The 'dust' (using an image that Bunyan supplies of the law-orientation that remains in the inner rooms of our soul even after we come to Christ) is not cleaned out easily. I know of no one who has adopted a 'grace state of mind' painlessly. Hurt is part of the curriculum in God's school room.

Third - It means change. Being 'graceless' by nature, we find it difficult to be anything different. We lack it, we resist it, we fail to show it, but God never stops His relentless working. He is committed to our becoming more like His Son. Remember? 'He who began a good work in you will bring it to completion.'"

I must add one more point to those he cites, this one from my own experience. Fourth - It demands an internalized awareness of our own inadequacies and sinfulness.

A few years back, sensing my immense lack in the area of being a gracious person, and the attending biblical call for a Christian to exhibit the grace he or she has received, I once made the mistake of praying: "God, please make me a man of grace." If I'd known the inner unraveling that would soon begin to take place within me as God began to answer that prayer, I never would have prayed it. I kid you not. Shortly thereafter I began to struggle in ways I had never imagined, was buffeted with immense temptations seemingly out of nowhere, and found myself thinking and feeling things about God that I never thought myself capable of -- what St. John of the Cross called, "a dark night of the soul."

It was then I realized that to be a person of grace, God must first shatter our pride, and then deal with the attending attitude which always attends pride and inhibits one's growth in grace -- self-righteousness. It's the subtle sin of looking in faith to Christ plus something in the self for one's right standing with God, instead of looking to Christ alone and nothing in the self at all.

How did God do that? By showing me in an undeniable and painfully convincing fashion that there was nothing of merit within me. Nothing which I could somehow take and offer to God for His acceptance. In fact, as the trial progressed I found nothing inside but anger, darkness and spiritual numbness. I never thought myself capable of shaking my fist at God, but I did -- and not just once.

Yet I look back on that time now and realize that its only when one sees the depths of darkness they are capable of, or the depths of their own depravity (which we try so hard to deny, as you may be doing right now!), only then does grace come to be appreciated as the gift of inestimable worth that it is, and a humbled (gracious?) state of mind begin to pervade our being.

In the Bonds of Gospel Grace, Pastor Jeff