Thursday, January 3, 2013

Grace the Final Frontier by Mike DeCamp

Grace the Final Frontier

If you happen to be a fan of the Star Trek franchises, then you’ll recognize the following phrases: “Space, the final frontier. These are the voyages of the Starship Enterprise” and “…to seek out new life and new civilizations, to boldly go where no man has gone before!”

I discovered Star Trek when I was in middle school. I loved the adventure, the mystery of space, and the little social lessons that were mixed in to every episode. As a young man, I imagined that I was James T. Kirk, the invincible captain who wins every battle of wits, every fight, and always got the girl (even if she did happen to be green). However, I think what I loved most about Star Trek was where it took me. Through imagination, it took me beyond the realm of the normal and carried me off to someplace amazing with every installment.

I discovered something else in middle school. Church, and by extension the concept of Grace. Church I understood pretty quickly, but Grace is something I’m still coming to understand. Grace to me, is the real final frontier!

Grace is an amazing thing. It is what allows us to boldly go before the throne of God. It is what puts an end to the judgment that awaits us because of our own shortcomings. It is the overriding concept that brings us into a relationship with God Himself. He thought it up. He brought it about. He planned all of history so that at just the right time we could be brought close to Him through that trail He blazed with His own blood.

Here’s the thing, though. I don’t think we really understand it. First of all, I think it is quite impossible for human beings to completely understand the full height, depth, and breadth of God’s Grace. It is beyond our reasoning. It is a God thing. But, even further, I think we have trouble even just accepting it. We keep messing it up! (At this point, I’m asking myself why I’m even trying to express my own thoughts about it. I’m bound to be wrong in some respect.) On the one hand, we take it too far and pretend that nothing we do or say matters because of God’s grace. In that view, we can sin all we want and God is just going to look the other way. In essence, we’re saying: “Go ahead. Spit in His face. He won’t mind.” On the other end of the spectrum, we better be awful careful because if we aren’t just the most perfect Christian, we will be condemned for falling short of God’s Grace. We put more and more spiritual starch on our lives until we’re so stiff that we can’t enjoy even the simple act of worship. Further, if we promote Grace in people’s lives, then nothing will get done because nobody will feel any obligation to work. Both views are extreme, and I think both are out of line with the POINT of Grace, which is a RELATIONSHIP with a FATHER that LOVES us and has orchestrated all of history to allow us to have a relationship with Him.

It is interesting to me that we can think we understand it, and still miss it. When I was a young Christian, I used to read my bible every night before I went to bed. I enjoyed it. I wanted to do it. I loved God and I wanted to know about Him and what He wanted of me. I didn’t feel an obligation to do this. I just wanted to. However, over the years, something changed. People began to impose on me an EXPECTATION that I needed to read my bible everyday in order to be “right with God.” There is no command of scripture to read it everyday. This was a rule made by man, and its effect on me was significant. Soon, what I did everyday out of a sense of wonder, joy, and love for God became drudgery. I had to do it. I was expected to do it. Soon, I didn’t want to do it at all. When I moved away from a relationship based on Grace to a sense of legalistic obligation, the joy of being a Christian began to disappear.

When we really embrace His Grace, then we are motivated by God’s love rather than a fearful expectation of His wrath.

Grace is what makes us able to stand before God with confidence despite our sinful shortcomings. It brings salvation through Christ to the murderer and the liar, the adulterer and the thief, and to the pride-ridden and the hateful. We all find ourselves somewhere in the list of sins. If you say otherwise, then you deceive yourself.

Another interesting thing: The very concept that most religious folks would say allows the murderer and rapist to stand forgiven before the Father in heaven somehow doesn’t apply to the person who disagrees with them on some point of doctrine.

What if Grace does trump doctrine?

Roll that one around for a while.

None of us have it all together. We don’t walk around with a perfect understanding of God. We all fall short doctrinally in some respect. But, somehow we seem to think it is okay to make ourselves the standard by which God’s Grace is applied. As long as a person’s doctrine is aligned with our own, then they are good, but if they disagree with us, then they are in danger of being lost. Who do we think we are? Who died and left us in charge. You know what….NO ONE! Someone did die though,…and He’s still in charge.

I don’t know where the lines are drawn. I don’t know how far God’s Grace will be extended. I have a suspicion that it is farther than we really understand. That said, it really isn’t my business, is it? Drawing lines is God’s role. The Judgment Seat still belongs to Someone else. It’s not my chair, and I’m not going to sit down in it.

Grace, is the final Frontier! We can find new life and boldly go where no man or woman could go before! I know, it’s a cheesy illustration, but hey, give me some Grace!

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