Grace is God’s empowering presence at work within a person to justify him and make him what God intended him to be. It was always the plan of the Father to govern men by grace, by His love written in our hearts. And the more a culture, a community, or a nation is governed by grace-full hearts of love, the fewer external laws are necessary. In such a case, all that is needed to maintain the common goals and good of the community is a minimal civil government. It might look like this:
But when grace is abandoned, and the love of God and others runs dry, the civil government by necessity must step up and expand in order to maintain order: Laws replace love, courts replace courtesy, policemen replace parenting, and freedom is lost. This is the sad condition of western civilization..
What’s needed in today’s culture is a return to the simple law of the Kingdom. If we were to once again embrace the love of God and others, much of the government’s burden would be handed back to individuals, and the cry for a nanny state would cease.
Deuteronomy 1:13 instructs us in several additional principles of Civil Government: “Choose some wise, understanding, and respected men from each of your tribes, and I will set them over you.” Notice these three principles:
- The people should choose their leaders. (That’s democracy).
- They should choose leaders from their tribes: (This is local government, leaders who are known.)
- They should choose leaders of wisdom and good character.
What I’m trying to show in these simple posts is that God’s kingdom plan addresses all of life. Kingdom people understand that the gospel is more than forgiveness alone; It is a way of life that includes everything from business to baseball, from homelessness to health care.
On a personal note, I’m back in Maryland after a delightful weekend with the men of Shepherd Gate Church in Chantilly, Virginia. I spoke on “Identity and the Kingdom of God,” and had a rich time of friendship and challenge with these amazing brothers.
The past four weeks I’ve been teaching a class on the scandalous, outrageous, shame-scrubbing, mind-boggling, spirit-enabling grace of God. It’s diverted me for a moment from this present focus on the missing pieces of the gospel. But then again, the neglect of grace rightfully ranks as possibly the most important “missing piece” of the gospel.
We speak poetically of grace, and offer it in generous portions to our wayward friends. But too often the grace-well dries up about the same time the church door closes behind us. “That was for then, brother. Now we’ve got standards to keep. You gotta work hard, stay sanctified, tow the line, and put on a happy face now that you’re a church member. We’re not interested in your issues, addictions or dirty laundry, and if you can’t measure up, then you’ll just have to either leave or pretend. (Uh… most of us choose to pretend, by the way).
One of my friends recently told me about driving through the rural South and coming upon “The Perfect Church.” No kidding, the sign was right out in front declaring it before God and everyone else. That’s definitely not the church for me. I’m a saint with issues, and I need boatloads of grace every day of my life. I’d be heaps more comfortable in the leaning chapel next door.
If I can move past grace we’ll return to the missing pieces next post.
I’m always wanting to add to grace. You gotta admit it feels good to think you’ve done something to make yourself a little more acceptable, a little more lovable in God’s eyes. But it just can’t be done. Although a proper understanding of the Kingdom means I can “earn” greater rewards for my faithfulness, that’s entirely different from the grace that seats me squarely and eternally in the Father’s embrace.
In most of His works God chooses to partner with man: We plant seeds and He causes them to grow. We lay hands on the sick and He makes people well. We teach and preach, and He changes lives. But grace is different: it’s the one work that is entirely His. In our helplessness He does EVERYTHING necessary to bring us home.
Grace is like the moving sidewalk at the airport. Whether you walk or stand, you’ll arrive at the same place either way. Grace carries me home and seats me so completely before the face of the Father that there’s nothing left to add.
“If a brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault just between the two of you. If he listens, you have won your brother back. But if he does not listen, take one or two others with you so that every word may be verified by two or three witnesses. If he ignores these witnesses, tell it to the church. If he also ignores the church, then treat him as you would a pagan or a tax collector.” (Matt 18:15)
The obvious question here – which I never once thought about until recently is, “How did Jesus treat pagans and tax collectors?” Hmm….
Today I return to Maryland for two days before flying to Hungary on Friday to teach in the School of Worship at YWAM Budapest.
The fellowship of believers here in Florence is becoming more beautiful by the day. I seriously hate to leave such rich conversations and affectionate friendships.
Haven’t been able to pull up any original inspiration today. So let me recommend a dose from Nick Vojicic. He’s got a Croatian name, an Aussie heritage, and a kingdom story. People like this leave me shaking my head at the wisdom and grace of God.
Click this link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0DxlJWJ_WfA&feature=related