The Leveling Power of Grace
The heart that is opened to receive the grace of Christ will learn to welcome all those whom Christ Himself has welcomed. S Ferguson
In this series we have discovered that grace is convicting, and without it we are hopeless. Grace is undeserved, and without it we are deceived. Grace is unjust, and without it we remain in bondage. Grace is compelling, and without it we are lost. This week we will consider that grace is leveling, and without it we remain divided.
Grace has an amazing power to unite people because it always leads them to level ground. Shared experiences can unite people. There is a bond that is produced among people who have faced and survived insurmountable odds. Military veterans of major battles become life-long friends through their memories of the sacrifice and hardship they shared. Striving, overcoming and experiencing a hard-won victory will shatter barriers in relationships and bring people together at levels of the heart and soul.
Beyond all these experiences that can unite people, there is the unifying power of grace. Grace is the pardon for a sentence of death. Grace is freedom from a lifetime of bondage. Grace is hope from the depths of despair. Grace gives meaning to a purposeless existence. Grace is truth in a sea of deception and lies.
Through grace we discover our true identity. Through grace we regain a vision for our place and calling in this world. Through grace we have restored to us the ability to love and be loved. Through grace we see our neighbor through a new lens that clears away all the things that used to divide us.
In this time of Lent we dust off one of the greatest hymns of the church, perhaps my favorite. I wish we would sing it all year long, but I am grateful that during Lent it gets a chance to be heard again. The words of “Rock of Ages” could not be more important for us in our confession and contemplation during Lent. They are the perfect preparation for our Easter celebration, and they remind us of the level ground upon which we stand at the foot of the cross. Here are the words from the second and third stanzas. Read them carefully, pray them, and let them seep into your spirit.
Not the labor of my hands
Can fulfill Thy law’s demands;
Could my zeal no respite know,
Could my tears forever flow,
All for sin could not atone;
Thou must save, and Thou alone.
Nothing in my hand I bring,
Simply to Thy cross I cling;
Naked, come to Thee for dress;
Helpless, look to Thee for grace;
Foul, I to the fountain fly;
Wash me, Savior, or I die.
Now I want you to use your imagination. I want you to think about standing at the foot of the cross, looking up at our dying savior and saying these words to him, “nothing in my hand I bring, simply to thy cross I cling, naked, come to Thee for dress, helpless, look to Thee for grace; foul, I to the fountain fly; wash me, Savior, or I die.”
Experience his grace washing over you, literally washing you clean, making you whole, transforming your spirit and rekindling in you your identity as the image of God. Now look around and you see a field full of people just like you. People crying, people on their knees, people shouting the praises of God, people experiencing freedom, wholeness, restoration of hope. People being restored. Together you are a people who came to the cross bonded by your utter sinfulness, anguished confession and surrendered spirit. And now you are a people united by the common experience of the overwhelming grace of God. You have cried out “wash me savior or I die.” And he has! You have been born again! And as you rise from your knees and look around you, how will you view those standing there with you?
Can we imagine any other response than embracing our sisters and brothers on that field? Have we not shared a life changing experience that shatters all puny barriers that might have existed? Does it matter that the person standing next to me – bathed by the same grace that has washed me clean – may not happen to share my political party, my denomination, my race, my ethnicity, my theology, my socioeconomic status, my history and heritage, my view of worship, my preference for translation of the Bible, or my political views on a variety of issues? In some spheres these differences are worth consideration and discussion, but at the foot of the cross, under the grace of God, in the blood of Jesus, they cannot be weapons the enemy can use to divide us. If we are divided against our brothers and sisters in Christ, it is because we have not considered them on this field bathed by grace at the foot of the cross.
As Paul said,
“So in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith, for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.” (Galatians 3:26-29)
A.W Tozer said, “Abounding sin is the terror of the world, but abounding grace is the hope of mankind.” How will your own experience of the grace of God break down the barriers in your life and relationships this Lenten season? Will you find new ways to love your neighbor and work together for justice and reconciliation?
Let the words of the refrain from another old hymn inspire you to that end.
The ground is level at the foot of the cross.
Anyone may come there for there is no cost
Rich man or poor man, bonded or free.
The ground was leveled that day at Calvary.
(From: ‘The Ground is Level at Calvary’ by Mark Lanier)