Advent Wonder: Grace

star-1527818-640x480I find myself ~ again ~ knees to floor and heart undone, wondering how so much escapes my efforts.  I am somehow still shocked, every now and then, by the struggle between flesh and spirit.  Regretting a temper quick to flare and patience in short supply, I wish I could wave a wand of white-out and cover the wasted minutes and the trail of mistakes.  I wish I could hide all my faults.

I feel, down to my bones, my need for a Savior willing to come to where I am.  Because on days like these, I am a mess of shame and frustration.  On days like these, I see ~ again ~ how much I need His grace.  On my own, I cannot begin to attain righteousness.  I cannot love the way my people need me to love.  I cannot become ‘good’ in my own try-hard ways.

But the thing that I remember is this ~ even if I could manage to achieve some manner of righteousness on my own, it would still be like a pile of dirty rags in the light of His holiness.

And I marvel at this kind of mercy: He was wrapped in our flesh so that we could be wrapped in His righteousness.  He wore our shame so that we can wear His holiness.

All the wishing and white-out in the world cannot cover our sins, but His blood does.  He was wounded for us, His body broken for our iniquities.  In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace that He lavished on us. (Ephesians 1:7) We do not have to hide our faults, we do not have to cower in shame and condemnation because if we confess our sins, He is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. (1 John 1:9)

We could give it our all, our best, every day of our lives and would not be able to step into God’s presence… so Jesus came and give His all, His best ~ Himself.  And that is, eternally, enough for us to boldly approach the throne of mercy.  For God made Christ, who never sinned, to be the offering for our sin, so that we could be made right with God through Christ. (2 Corinthians 5:21)

We are forgiven.  We are new creations in Christ, no longer slaves to sin and flesh.  When we walk with the Spirit, He helps us to live in holiness, to live like Jesus.  When we falter, when we fail ~ because we are not yet made perfect ~ this is the time to remember how dependent we are on Jesus, on the Holy Spirit abiding with us.  We can’t crucify our flesh, we can’t follow Him in our own power.  But when we try it (because sometimes we do) ~ and when we fall flat on our faces (because we will!) ~ He helps us back up, gives us strength and wisdom to deal with the consequences.  He gives us mercy, every morning new, and His faithfulness never depends on ours.

Today, I am reminded that my Savior who was born into a messy, imperfect stable still comes to me in my messy, imperfect heart.

His patience and compassion are everything to me when I stumble.  Jesus leads us to repentance.  He speaks new life and freedom into our souls.  He heals us and He delivers us.  He meets us where we are, in our surrendered hearts, and loves us.

His love does not depend on whether or not we deserve it.  It never has.  He loves because He is love.  And His love toward us transforms us, brings us into His presence, makes us new.

It was His wildly extravagant love that brought this beautiful, incomprehensible truth:

He became like us so that we can become like Him.

And I ask him that with both feet planted firmly on love, you’ll be able to take in with all followers of Jesus the extravagant dimensions of Christ’s love. Reach out and experience the breadth!  Test its length! Plumb the depths!  Rise to the heights!  Live full lives, full in the fullness of God.

God can do anything, you know ~ far more than you could imagine or guess or request in your wildest dreams!  He does it not by pushing us around but by working within us, his Spirit deeply and gently within us.

Glory to God in the church!
Glory to God in the Messiah, in Jesus!
Glory down all the generations!
Glory through all millennia! Oh, yes!

-from Ephesians 3

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