Only by His Grace

Saturday, December 24, 2016, 11:11 a.m. – The Lord Jesus put in mind the song “Oh, To Be Like Thee.” Speak, Lord, your words to my heart. I read 1 Corinthians 1:26-31 (NIV).

Brothers and sisters, think of what you were when you were called. Not many of you were wise by human standards; not many were influential; not many were of noble birth. But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. God chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things—and the things that are not—to nullify the things that are, so that no one may boast before him. It is because of him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God—that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption. Therefore, as it is written: “Let the one who boasts boast in the Lord.”

While we were still sinners, Christ died for us (Ro. 5:8b). He didn’t call us because of our own righteousness or goodness. He called us because he loves us, and because of what he had planned to do in us and through us for his glory and for his purposes. It is only by his grace that we are saved, for we can’t even come to Christ unless the Father first draws us, and even the faith to believe in him is a gift from God (See: Jn. 6:44; Eph. 2:8-10). And, it is only in the power and working of God’s Holy Spirit that we are able to forsake our sinful lifestyles, be transformed (born again), and walk in the Spirit and no longer according to the flesh. Yes, we must yield control of our lives over to God. And, yes, we must cooperate with God’s work of grace in our lives, but we have nothing to boast about, because we can only be who we are in Christ by the grace of God and his great mercy towards us.

He also didn’t choose us because of our social status, income level, education level, or because of our smooth talk and our ability to naturally be winsome and convincing, or because we are well-liked by others. NO! In fact, look at his first 12 disciples. Most of them were fishermen. One, at least, was a tax collector, and tax collectors were the most despised. And, look at some of their personalities. Thomas was a doubter. Peter was impulsive, made big boasts, and often acted first and thought later. Jesus had to chide him more than once because he was too quick to speak or to act without thinking first about what he said or did. He ended up denying Christ three times, because he didn’t heed Jesus’ warnings, because he thought he knew better than Jesus about his own true character. And, Judas, one of the twelve, ended up betraying Jesus and handing him over to death.

The Pharisees, on the other hand, were influential, powerful, and scholastic, but inside they were full of wickedness, and they refused to repent. They thought they were better than everyone else, and they abused their positions of authority. They were more concerned with following a set of man-made rules and human traditions, and with punishing those who didn’t follow suit, than they were concerned with the salvation of human lives. But they were full of hypocrisy because what they forced others to do they did not do themselves. So, God could not use them, for they would never humble themselves before God in submission to his will for their lives.

So, God doesn’t call us because of our goodness or talent or whatever, but he does call those he plans to mold and make into his likeness. In other words, we are not saved because of our own goodness, but salvation means we take on the goodness of God, by God’s grace. We are not saved because of our own righteousness, but salvation means we are crucified with Christ in death to sin, and we are transformed in heart and mind of the Spirit of God (born again), and we are resurrected with Christ to live to his righteousness. God calls the weak, the lowly and the despised, because he can make us into who he wants to be, and then he gets all the glory. He can take an impulsive Peter and turn him into a great leader in the church to preach the gospel. and to lead people to leave their sins, and to walk in Christ’s righteousness, even though he once denied Jesus three times.

So, we don’t have to be perfect for God to use us, but we do have to be receptive to the changes he wants to work in our lives, and we do have to cooperate with his work of grace. Our lifestyles should no longer be of those who walk according to the flesh, but we should now be people who walk (in lifestyle) according to (in agreement with) the Spirit of God, and by the Spirit we should be putting to death the deeds of the flesh. Daily we must humble ourselves before God, and yield to the control of the Holy Spirit, and submit to our Lord’s will and purposes for us and do what he says. We need to be in his Word and in prayer daily, and we need to be listening to what he wants to teach us and not close our minds to what we don’t want to hear. And, we must follow him wherever he leads us. And, he will work miracles in and through our lives, and in the lives of others because we obey him.

When we can view ourselves in this way, and remember that we were once enslaved to all kinds of sins, and that it is only by God’s grace that we are now free from the control of sin and its grip it had on our lives, then we can be compassionate towards others who are still bound in sin. Nonetheless, compassion does not mean we are soft on sin, or that we dilute the gospel to make people feel better in their sin. We still need to speak the truth in love, because people need to be set free from sin, not pacified. In other words, we need to follow the example of Jesus Christ in how he loved.

Oh, to Be Like Thee, Blessed Redeemer
Thomas O. Chisholm / W. J. Kirkpatrick

Oh, to be like Thee! blessèd Redeemer,
This is my constant longing and prayer;
Gladly I’ll forfeit all of earth’s treasures,
Jesus, Thy perfect likeness to wear.

Oh, to be like Thee! full of compassion,
Loving, forgiving, tender and kind,
Helping the helpless, cheering the fainting,
Seeking the wandering sinner to find.

O to be like Thee! lowly in spirit,
Holy and harmless, patient and brave;
Meekly enduring cruel reproaches,
Willing to suffer others to save.

O to be like Thee! while I am pleading,
Pour out Thy Spirit, fill with Thy love;
Make me a temple meet for Thy dwelling,
Fit me for life and Heaven above.

Oh, to be like Thee! Oh, to be like Thee,
Blessèd Redeemer, pure as Thou art;
Come in Thy sweetness, come in Thy fullness;
Stamp Thine own image deep on my heart.

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