May I make a confession? Sometimes I find it very difficult to get my mind wrapped around certain theological concepts. Terms like glory, sanctification, and redemption seem so abstract at times—even evading my superior training at the absolute best seminary, New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary! Now don’t get me wrong. I can often provide the textbook definition of such words, but it is yet another thing to experience their import for our lives.
Take grace for example. The classic summary is often given: grace is the unmerited favor of God. An accurate, but perhaps cold, definition. For grace is not a simply stated proposition but rather an overwhelming, personal encounter with living God. And how He has been showing up in my life lately with the intent of teaching me that truth! He has specifically reminded me how I stand in the need of grace and how I should extend grace to others. In truth, I am both a desperate recipient of grace and an obligated dispenser of grace!
My confession continues . . . I do not always think, do, or say the things I ought to think, do, or say. You may have mastered a sinless life by now, but I can readily testify that I have not. I’m just as dependent upon God’s grace now as I was the day I was saved. Oh, I believe I have grown in Him through the years, but I haven’t “arrived” yet. I pray and study. I ask the Lord’s wisdom and His guidance. I even consult godly counsel as I believe the Holy Spirit lives in each believer. And yet with all of that effort, I can still fail. Thankfully, God’s grace is abundant! He has showered me with the experience of “unmerited favor” through Jesus Christ! And what’s more, I have seen every church that I have served convey grace to me through the years as well. No doubt, there were some valid, solid disagreements; but in the midst of those moments, God rubbed a lot of grace! Yes, I have benefited from grace greatly!
In turn, the Lord has pointed out my responsibility to show grace to others. God and His people have shown favor toward me when I didn’t deserve it; should I not feel compelled to demonstrate that love toward others who don’t deserve it? For me, I must adopt the posture of grace. It is only fitting for a disciple of Christ. You and I ought to remember this when we look around us today. From government leaders to church leaders to school leaders to business leaders to family leaders, there will come disappointing decisions. Often, we may adamantly disagree with their assertions. But as God’s children, should we not show grace? Should we not refrain from maligning their character? Should grace not reign in our hearts, in our conversations, and in our actions? Should we not be “humbly grateful” rather than “grumbly hateful”?
My friends, these have been difficult days. Weariness and stress has had its way with us and our relationships. Loneliness and isolation have visited us frequently. Even as we move forward in the reopening of our church, our businesses, and our very nation; uncertainty and concern abound. Yet, it is here we meet grace, and His name is Jesus. And what’s more, He encourages us to introduce Him to others who don’t deserve Him!
Temple family, thank you for the grace you show me daily. Over the past several weeks, my family and I have received texts, cards, emails, and calls that have encouraged us. To see your names pop up on my phone or signed at the bottom of a card reinvigorated my spirit. We/I didn’t deserve it, but you showed your love as you always do. That is why I love the Temple congregation. There is truly no other like you, and I have never been more proud to be a part of this church. Every day, I humbly recognize that it is God’s grace (yes, His unmerited favor) that allows me to pastor you, and I do not forget to give Him praise!
I do long to see you face to face soon, and we have put out a plan (update.temple.life) to ReGather our Temple family as quickly and as safely as we can. Certainly, the plan may change as more directives emerge, and I understand that not all can or should attend our first services back on campus, but we hope it is the initial step toward realizing the full ReGathering of our faith family. Until then, never doubt my heart for you! And while I know you tire of hearing it, I never tire of saying what I sincerely mean: I love you, Temple Baptist Church!