Friday, November 07, 2008

Gracious Living

In your daily walk, how do you extend grace to the unlovely? By unlovely, I mean those people who get under your skin and say or do things that prove they aren't extending grace. I fight with this all of the time, this battle within in which one part of me says to "let her have it" while the other side urges me to show the love and forgiveness of Christ.

Today I found myself once again on the receiving end of criticism, this time about the church I attend. It seems that because our church doctrine isn't identical to this woman's, it must be evil. Okay, I'll admit that we don't see eye to eye with the Five Point Calvenist system. Well, I don't agree with any of the points, but our church does agree with some.

Is God sovereign? YES

Am I saved by grace and not by anything I can do in and of myself? YES

Am I eternally secure? YES - as long as I repent from sin and stay close to God. Am I perfect? NO, but in Christ I am made perfect in His sight. God sees me, the repentant believer, as if I'd never sinned but while I'm here in this body I'll be tempted to sin and I will sometimes fail. When I do so, I grab onto God's hand and allow Him to pick me up. In other words, I'll remain secure in my salvation by staying close to the One who saves me. It's the concept that if I'm stranded in a raft in the middle of the ocean, I'll remain with the raft if I want to be safe. I won't be stupid enough to drown by leaving the lifeboat.

Here's the kicker that divided my friend and me today - Did Jesus die only for certain people whom God chose before He created the world? In other words, does He love only the "elect" and reject (some use the word "hate") others just because He feels like it? My friend will say YES, but I say NO. The Bible says that Jesus died for all who would come. John 3:16. From personal study of the Bible, reading "The Other Side of Calvinism", and listening to great preachers like John Courson, Greg Laurie, Chuck Swindoll, and others, I have to believe that we all have the same opportunity to accept the Lord's grace (unmerited favor), but we won't all come. God knows that but He is a just God and will not forgive the unrepentent. He doesn't force Himself upon anyone.

So, although I was upset earlier about this woman's belief that only hardcore Calvenists are saved (and her rudeness in pretty much claiming my whole church is doomed to hell), I have decided that I will extend the grace that God has shown me in my own life. I will be kind and turn the other cheek. I know that what's required for salvation is FAITH, not differences in church doctrine. I can live my faith or I can extend hypocrisy. I choose grace.

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