Grace and Oatmeal Raisin Cookies

by Lester Young

From the jtGn archives…

Let’s talk about Grace today. No, I’m not referring to the Princess of Monaco, Ms. Jones or even the little prayer many of us say just before ingesting excessive quantities of foodstuffs. I’m referring to the Grace that portrays God’s overwhelming attitude toward mankind – the motivating force that sent the Lord Jesus on the most important Mission ever undertaken, period. But before we delve into it, it’d probably be prudent to establish a working definition of Grace that can be objectively applied. One description that quickly comes to mind is “unmerited favor” – and it’s absolutely fitting. Another illustration I’ve heard from a wonderful man of faith goes something like this: “‘Grace’ is God’s overwhelming desire to treat you and me as though sin had never existed.” That one indeed paints an amazing and glorious picture.

Okay, now that we have a definition we can (begin to) wrap our brains around, I’d like to pose a question or two. First, do you want grace? For anybody with a minimum of half a brain, there can be only one answer to that line of inquiry. Now to everybody in Christ Jesus, let me ask question No. 2: How do you get it? Believe it or not, there’s only one answer to that question, too. Well, only one right answer; because if you’re thinking that more fasting, more praying or more community service than you’ve been doing lately is somehow going to get you into God’s ‘good graces,’ you’re not even looking in the right direction, much less closing in on the answer. Don’t get me wrong: all those things are intrinsically good; but in this particular instance, none of them will get you where you want to go.

Fortunately, as is often the case with God’s Word, the answer we need is staring us right in the face – hiding in plain sight, as it were. Romans 4:16 hits us over the head so softly that the revelation of it can be easily overlooked: “Therefore it is by faith, [so] that it might be by grace…” We can’t “win” God’s grace by working for it – if we could, then by our own definition it wouldn’t be “unmerited”. A gift that’s worked for isn’t a gift: it’s a payment for services rendered (Romans 11:6). God’s favor can’t be bought or earned – nobody’s rich enough to make Him an offer He can’t refuse (Matthew 16:26). Besides, He has too much righteousness and integrity to take bribes anyway (Deuteronomy 10:17; Psalm 98:9; Acts 17:31; Matthew 16:27; Romans 2:6, 11).

Again, to our great fortune, we don’t have to work for or earn God’s grace, nor should we even try to. Mind you, I didn’t say we don’t have to work: I said we don’t have to work to try to earn God’s favor – and we shouldn’t be trying to. Because if – deep down – you’re still trying to “win” God’s approval by doing stuff for Him, it actually indicates you’ve missed the revelation that His grace has already been handed to you. You’ve stumbled over that stumbling block the Apostle Paul spoke about (Romans 9:30-33). The truth of the matter is that you stepped into God’s grace the day you were born again in Christ Jesus, and you’ve been standing right in the middle of it ever since.

So then, perhaps we should change our second question above from “How do you get grace?” to “How do you ‘get’ something you already have?” Well, suppose someone made a plate of oatmeal raisin cookies (not just oatmeal: oatmeal raisin, okay? …oatmeal raisin are the only cookies that truly matter in life!) and made it explicitly clear to you, “Now these are your cookies, so just help yourself whenever you want them.” How then do you ‘get’ a cookie? You just go over to the plate, reach out and take one, or two… or seven, but I digress!

So how do you ‘get’ grace that you already have? The exact same way: you go over to where grace is, reach out with your faith and take it. How do you take it? By not continually asking God for something He’s already handed to you, but instead acknowledging it with your mouth in the words, “I have it! I receive it! Thank You, Lord, that I indeed have the grace You’ve given me!” (2 Corinthians 4:13) Remember the Lord’s response to Paul after he’d asked Him three times to get rid of Satan’s messenger that was constantly hounding him: He told him, “My grace is sufficient for you” (2 Corinthians 12:7-9). Now Paul hadn’t asked God one thing about ‘grace’. But His grace had to already be with Paul for God to answer him in that fashion. Paul just needed to be reminded of it and take hold of it with his faith – with his believing (2 Corinthians 12:9-10).

Listen, when He gave us the Lord Jesus Christ, God let it be known that everything else He had was also a part of that Salvation package – including His Grace (Romans 8:32; 1 Thessalonians 5:28; 1 Timothy 6:17). The decision’s been made – the deal’s done, in its entirety. There’s nothing further that’s required on our part to ratify it. So if you don’t feel like you’ve tasted any grace for awhile and you’re hungry for some, then boldly go on over to where Grace is just sitting around waiting for you, reach out with your faith and take it – just like every other part of your Inheritance (Ephesians 1:11, 14, 18; Hebrews 4:16; 1 Peter 1:4). They’re your cookies, so just help yourself whenever you want them!

 

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