I have studied this week in the book of Zephaniah. Most of the book is heavy on God’s judgment. Let me rephrase that- very heavy on God’s judgement.
A seismic shift comes toward the end of chapter three. The prophet writes of singing and rejoicing and God exulting over His people with loud singing. Zephaniah provides us with a beautiful picture of grace. With the mention of grace, my mind goes to John Newton’s famous hymn- Amazing Grace. Rescued from a wicked lifestyle that included transporting slaves, Newton basked in sunshine of God’s grace. Here are a few of my reflections on the grace of God.
Don’t reduce something so beautiful as grace to a simplistic definition. One could define an ocean as a large body of salt water, or one could speak of something of stunning beauty and great power; of something so vast you cannot possibly take it in with a single glance! This is grace.
Grace takes us as we are but never leaves us as we are. We come filthy, vile, undeserving, unworthy- a mess if you will- and we are freely loved. But God’s work does not end there. Grace changes us from the inside out so that our love for sin and the fading stuff of this world no longer appeal to us in the same way they once did. This is grace.
We never get beyond our need for grace. There are many things we “outgrow” our need for, but grace is not one of them. Consider two members of a church. First, a Christian young man who longs to follow the Lord Jesus but goes back to an old sin pattern. He feels the sting of guilt and fears he has lost all influence on his nonbelieving friends because of his failure. Next, consider an older Christian woman who cannot bring herself to ask for prayer for herself for fear others will think she has a problem. What do both not get? They do not get grace. Grace covers sin when we confess and repent. Grace allows us to admit our need. This is grace.
Grace compels us to worship. If you get grace at all, you have to worship. When one has experienced God’s grace, worship with God’s people becomes a longing and delight. This is grace.
Grace is great news. To the many people we see day in and day out who wrongly believe they are too far gone or that they could never be good enough, grace is great news they need to hear. To the one painfully trying to do enough good works to please God, grace is the soothing ointment that brings relief.
Grace brings freedom. English revivalist and hymnist John Berridge reportedly said,
“Run, John, and work, the law commands,
yet finds me neither feet nor hands,
But sweeter news the gospel brings,
it bids me fly and lends me wings!”
Yes, brothers and sisters, the gospel of grace indeed brings sweeter news. I hope you and I soar to new heights in our appreciation of the grace of God.