Tuesday, December 29, 2009

By Grace, I Am What I Am


[This entry follows a sermon preached by Steve Smith at Gray Road Baptist Church.]

For I am the least of the apostles, who am not fit to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. But by the grace of God, I am what I am, and His grace toward me did not prove vain; but I labored even more than all of them, yet not I, but the grace of God was with me. – 1 Corinthians 15:9-10

In Zechariah 3 we saw the picture of a defiled spiritual leader of the nation Israel. Joshua was the High Priest of God’s chosen nation, yet he was covered in filth and sin. The people of Israel were certainly concerned about the physical obstacles that confronted them as they were rebuilding the temple, but what about the spiritual obstacles that would still remain? God gave Zechariah this vision in chapter 3 to address this very concern. How could Joshua be covered in sin, defiled, with no sacrifice for sin, and still minister as the High Priest of this nation? GRACE. Access to the mercy seat was granted to Joshua by God’s amazing grace.

Paul clearly understands this as he reflects on his ministry as an apostle. He knows that he was a persecutor of the church of God. In 1 Timothy 1:15-16, Paul confesses that he was the “worst of sinners…yet for this reason I found mercy, in order that in me as the foremost, Jesus Christ might demonstrate His perfect patience, as an example for those who would believe in Him for eternal life.” His ministry and his calling were clearly undeserved, yet God gave grace. His role in the kingdom of God was a gift of grace.

Christian, I hope that you understand well the role that grace has played in your life. We should all remain aware of our unworthiness before God. God has called us to salvation by His grace, he has given us our ministry by His grace and we will continue in our ministry by His grace. If we believe that we deserve our salvation or our ministry, I can assure you that we are wrong. If we believe that we are undeserving of our salvation and our ministry, I can assure you that we are right. Nevertheless, take heart, because it by grace that we are what we are. As we continue to serve the LORD in our personal unworthiness, take comfort in the fact that our worthiness is found in Christ.

Finally, let us be reminded that the grace of God is not without effect. In Zechariah, as God graciously imputes his righteousness to Joshua, God says to Joshua, “if you will walk in my ways, and if you will perform My service, then you will also govern My house and also have charge of My courts, and I will grant you access among these who are standing here.”(Zech 3:7) Paul says, “... his grace to me did not prove vain; but I labored even more than all of them.” (1 Cor. 15:10). God’s grace empowers his people to faithful service. As a result of grace, we are driven to faithfulness. Paul says again, “the grace of God has appeared…instructing us to deny ungodliness and worldly desires and live sensibly, righteously and godly in the present age…” (Titus 2:11-12) Our salvation, our ministry, our service, our works, our righteousness is a gift of grace from our God. Praise God for His unfathomable grace!