Monday, February 01, 2016

Not I, but the Grace of God

Speak or think these words until God is at the center of your mind.
If now I have found favor in your sight, O Lord, I pray, let the Lord go with us. Although this is a stiff-necked people, pardon our iniquity and our sin, and take us for your inheritance.
—Exodus 34:9

Now I would remind you, brothers and sisters, of the good news that I proclaimed to you, which you in turn received, in which also you stand, through which also you are being saved, if you hold firmly to the message that I proclaimed to you—unless you have come to believe in vain. For I handed on to you as of first importance what I in turn had received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the scriptures, and that he was buried, and that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers and sisters[c] at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have died. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles. Last of all, as to one untimely born, he appeared also to me. For I am the least of the apostles, unfit 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 has not been in vain. On the contrary, I worked harder than any of them—though it was not I, but the grace of God that is with me. Whether then it was I or they, so we proclaim and so you have come to believe.
—1 Corinthians 15:1-11

The word grace is sometimes so over-used in the church that it comes to mean next to nothing. But Paul meant something very important by it. He meant that the grace of God implies these two things which are connected as root and result: The active love of God toward us and the gifts we produce as a result of God's love. These two things (which are in reality one)—love and its gifts—are stored up for us in Christ himself. Through him is made accessible to us the sole reason for the improvement of our selves.
The love of God can be compared, then, to this: An enormous piece of machinery that cannot be budged by the hand of the strongest person until, in the far corner, a hidden spring is touched, whereupon with majestic slowness and certainty the mighty engine turns. Or this: An enormous boulder weighing several tons is so balanced on the point of another stone that a child's finger might make it rock back and forth. So the whole person is moved by the touch of God's love; and the graces that flow from it through us.
—after Alexander Maclaren

(Suggested tune: Alcester 77.77)
Now, you rulers, heed this word;
earthly judges, come and hear:
Rev'rent worship give the Lord;
with your glee mix godly fear.
—Psalm 2:10-11

Let this prayer help guide the personal prayers that follow.
O Lord, who loves with an everlasting love, cause your light and life and love to shine into my heart, that my being may be transfigured and that people may turn from me to glorify you...
—F.B. Meyer

(Spoken aloud or silently)

Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy Name. Thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread; and forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors; and lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil; for thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory forever. Amen.

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