This week's 'thought' comes to you from a book entitled: "True Faced -- Trusting God and Others With Who You Really Are." It is co-authored by Bill Thrall, Bruce McNicol, and John Lynch.
The book is written to help Christians move into the experience of God's grace in such a way that they can take off the masks they often put on to hide what's really going on inside them. The comments on the book's cover say it well: "I am so tired of faking it. Can others see behind my mask? Do I dare let you in? What if I told you who I am? I long to be real..." This selection is taken from the chapter entitled: Grace Works! Enjoy.
"God hath given you one face, and you make for yourselves another."
"Striving leaves us dysfunctional and immature because it creates hiddenness. Masks abound in 'The Room of Good Intentions.' It is the world of false appearances. Hiddenness makes us vulnerable to sin and thwarts maturity. It breeds compulsive sinning.
In contrast, an environment of grace creates authenticity. Why is that important? Because authenticity melts masks and reveals our true face. The community of grace begins to break the cycle of sin issues that have kept us bound...
How can we explain an environment of grace? It's like cool water gushing from an over-sized garden hose on a hot summer day. It just keeps making us laugh with delight as it knocks us over, again and again.
Many of us understand grace as a theological position. And it is delightfully that. Undeserved, unending, unearned, unwavering, grace is God's inexhaustible love and absolute acceptance of us, coupled with His unabashed delight in us. Grace brings us adoption into God's family, a new identity, a new life, new power, new capacity, and God's full protection -- with absolutely no strings attached!
But grace is more than a theological position. Equally and simultaneously, grace is an actual environment, a realm, a present tense reality that weaves around and through every moment of even our worst day...
Like any atmosphere, an environment of grace contains intangible, yet detectable, qualities... You may not be able to see them -- but you sure can feel them, just as you can detect whether you are breathing the air of a pine-filled forest, or a smog-filled city. What a difference grace makes!...
When someone shows grace to us, that person begins cultivating an environment that reflects God's grace. It is an authentic, unhidden place, where our masks start melting, our sin can be known -- and, therefore, addressed with the power of grace.
Such places can liberate the soul and change people, like our friend Graeme:
'By my early thirties,' he says, 'the thorns Christ talks about in the parable of the sower (the worries and pleasures and riches of this life) had reduced my hearts desire for Christ to a dim flicker. What caused my spiritual anesthesia? I had discovered it was easy to play the fool.
Without the principles of truth and grace, practiced in relationship, the only guide I had to putting my life together was to mimic a pattern or a format or a style -- somebody else's program for a successful journey with God. It got me performing my way to God, and he wasn't impressed.
Then I encountered some people who showed me grace. Solomon said there is nothing new under the sun, but an environment of grace was new to me. The truths about how God sees me and who I am in Christ came roaring into my life. I discovered that if these truths are trusted, they infect everything. They're the foundation for my marriage, how I deal with my kids, how I do ministry, live life, and how I work as a lawyer.
After a life-altering experience with God Blaise Pascal sewed into his coat a piece of paper with these words on it: "Fire. God of Abraham, God of Isaac, God of Jacob, not the God of philosophers and scholars. Certainty. Heartfelt joy. Peace. God of Jesus Christ. Joy, joy, joy, oceans of joy." Ten years ago I would have envied him. Today I join him.'"
As many can attest, there is just something about an atmosphere of grace that allows us to stop pretending and get real with God, ourselves, and others. In fact, until one is freed by a true experience of God's grace to see what Christianity was truly meant to be, they will inadvertently struggle to earnestly believe the Gospel is true or the spiritual realities of joy and peace it speaks about.
Yet where God's grace is present in great measure, people will struggle to deny its truthfulness and reality. They will be forced to realize that more than mere human factors are at work. Truth will become tangible. Acting the part will seem shallow and irreverent. And the desire to know in greater degree, the God whose presence is tangibly sensed through though the expressions and experience of grace, will become nearly irrepressible. Because a desire for divine grace (like the God who bestows it) has an addictive quality to it -- in the best sense imaginable.
Once our soul has tasted of the spirit-awakening delicacy we call true grace, we lose all desire for that which is less than authentic. The masks come off, sin is exposed, and true godliness can be pursued. The sin-hiding-heart, or the legally-restrained-heart, becomes the sin-despising and grace-changed heart. And our two faces (of which Shakespeare speaks -- "the face God has given us, and the other one we make for ourselves") start to move toward looking more and more like one!
In the Grip of His Grace, Pastor Jeff