Acceptance. Patience. Humility. Similar and related.
Grace requires Acceptance. Acceptance of people. Acceptance of circumstances. Acceptance of life. Ever since the first bite of the forbidden Fruit in Garden, mankind has existed in a fallen, sinful world. As beautiful as most of it is, we live with frustration and disappointment. Patience and humility are integral parts of this process.
I believe part of the problem is that we don't normally see the universe with the same eyes that God does. God accepts all because He created all. God accepts all because He knows that all is good. Why is it good? All is good because God created it. But we have to back up a bit because God does not accept sin. Sin cannot be in the same space of His holiness. Thankfully God makes provision for sin which is ultimately defeated, but for now Grace and the blood of Christ cover over sin. One day, sin will be completely banished from all creation. Until then we are called to Accept what is.
Let's take a look at what God accepts. We'll compare and contrast that acceptance to what and how we accept the world around us.
First off, there is one thing that only God is worthy to Accept. This is the one great exception. As much as we may want this one thing, man and the rest of all created beings cannot accept worship. Only God Himself is worthy of worship. Nothing or no one else is worthy. Nothing or no one person even comes close. God created all for His pleasure.
When men and women even try to accept worship, we fail at it. God did not create man to worship himself. God created man for fellowship and to worship God. God accepts our worship and our praise of Him; and He accepts it with Grace.
Read through the Psalms in general. Psalm 8 in particular is a wonderful snapshot of how God accepts worship."O Lord, our Lord,
how majestic is your name in all the earth!
You have set your glory
above the heavens.
From the lips of children and infants
you have ordained praise
because of your enemies, to silence the foe and the avenger.
When I consider your heavens,
the work of your fingers,
the moon and the stars, which you have set in place,
what is man that you are mindful of him, the son of man that you care for him?
You made him a little lower than the heavenly beings
and crowned him with glory and honor.
You made him ruler over the works of your hands;
you put everything under his feet:
all flocks and herds, and the beasts of the field,
the birds of the air,
and the fish of the sea, all that swim the paths of the seas.
O Lord, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth!"
We see our rightful place among the rest of God's creation and we stand in wonder of what He chooses to share with us. He accepts rightful praise and worship from us His creatures, and even more so when we choose to accept Him as our God and Savior.
God came to live among us in the person of Jesus Christ. Jesus accepted worship. In Mark 14, we see how Jesus accepted worship. In this passage, a sinful woman came and broke a jar of a very expensive jar of perfume over Him. Jesus did not make a "big deal" of the worship; He simply allowed it to take place. Jesus accepted her worship of Him.
"'Leave her alone,' said Jesus. 'Why are you bothering her? She has done a beautiful thing to me. The poor you will always have with you, and you can help them any time you want. But you will not always have me. She did what she could. She poured perfume on my body beforehand to prepare for my burial. I tell you the truth, wherever the gospel is preached throughout the world, what she has done will also be told, in memory of her.'"
The fact of the matter is that today, 2000 years later, we still talk about and remember this act. Her humble and simple worship is in stark contrast to the festivities and even attitudes around them.
In time, the Triune God will accept incredible worship from all of His creation anew. Revelation chapter 4 paints a glorious word picture of Heaven's throne room. It will be an awesome place.
Before all of the glory of Heaven, we must be thankful that God accepts us even now. Although we are enemies of God (Romans 5:10 and Colossians 1:21), when we choose to humble ourselves, confess our sin and submit to the authority of Jesus Christ, God is able to accept us as we are. Even before Jesus arrived on the scene, God accepted the man or woman who "knew his place" in God's economy. In Genesis 4:3 - 7 we read:
"In the course of time Cain brought some of the fruits of the soil as an offering to the Lord. But Abel brought fat portions from some of the firstborn of his flock. The Lord looked with favor on Abel and his offering, but on Cain and his offering he did not look with favor. So Cain was very angry, and his face was downcast.
"Then the Lord said to Cain, 'Why are you angry? Why is your face downcast? If you do what is right, will you not be accepted? But if you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you, but you must master it.'"
Abel's sacrifice was from a contrite heart and spirit whereas Cain's sacrifice was not. Abel accepted as God as Who He is, the Sovereign of all that is. In contrast, Cain was self-centered.
In Daniel chapter 4, we see a self-indulgent and haughty and prideful king of Babylon. Nebuchadnezzar gloried in himself rather than God and therefore God removed his glory from the king. God could have removed Nebuchadnezzar's kingdom but didn't. For many years God had been extending grace to this pagan king, and the king never accepeted it. Finally, God would bring Nebuchadnezzar all the way down. God could have taken the his kingdom away from him, but the Lord wasn't finished with Nebuchadnezzar quite yet. Instead (and quite surprisingly I might add), God guarded this pagan king for the appointed day when he would realize that all he had was from the hand of God. God accepted Nebuchadnezzar's contrition and restored him. Although the Jews are God's chosen people, He gladly accepts all who would humble themselves, turn away from sin and acknowledge God as their personal Savior.
In another Old Testament book we see Job. Although righteous in God's eyes, he is allowed to suffer for the sole purpose of bringing Glory to God. Through the prayer and sacrifices of Job, even his friends are accepted by God, Job 42:7 - 10,
"After the Lord had said these things to Job, he said to Eliphaz the Temanite, 'I am angry with you and your two friends, because you have not spoken of me what is right, as my servant Job has. So now take seven bulls and seven rams and go to my servant Job and sacrifice a burnt offering for yourselves. My servant Job will pray for you, and I will accept his prayer and not deal with you according to your folly. You have not spoken of me what is right, as my servant Job has.' So Eliphaz the Temanite, Bildad the Shuhite and Zophar the Naamathite did what the Lord told them; and the Lord accepted Job’s prayer. After Job had prayed for his friends, the Lord made him prosperous again and gave him twice as much as he had before.".
One of my favorite passages of Scripture that not only gives me hope, but demonstrates the Accepting Grace of Jesus Christ even at His worst time. In Luke 23, our Lord is on the cross dying. At each side is a sinful man, both worthy of death. But it is a picture of our human plight: lost in sin and separated from God, but having a choice. A choice to humble ourselves before the Almighty or not. One chose to see and accept Jesus as He was, his Savior. And with a brief phrase, Jesus guaranteed Him a place in Paradise. The other thief chose not to and therefore chose eternal damnation. Even in this horrible place, God accepts worship from His creation.
Finally, God accepts praise and worship from us when we are "right" with our neighbor. When have accepted our neighbor for who he or she is and all of the circumstances that go along with them, our fellowship with God is enriched. Proverbs 21:3 "To do what is right and just is more acceptable to the Lord than sacrifice."
Or Matthew 5:23, where Jesus makes this admonishment when it comes to being accepted by God for your actions: "Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to your brother; then come and offer your gift."
To be reconciled to one another is just as important or sometimes even more important than a "sacrifice" or offering. Either of these shows the attitude of our heart. Are we accepting of our brother or sister who we may have sinned against? We accept one another as we are.
When all is said and done, our attitude of acceptance determines our Grace. God accepts us no matter what. When we come to him in a spirit of contrition and repentance, He is able to fellowship with us and vice versa.
We may not like our circumstances. Again, we look at the parable of the Good Samaritan in Luke chapter 10. The Samaritan accepted everything around him and demonstrated abounding Grace. We may not like our neighbors or jobs. We may not even like certain family members. But how we accept each of these determines the kind and amount of Grace we are able to dispense. The world around us needs Grace in huge doses. For now, there are many things we cannot change. We have to accept them as they are. We need - I need - humility.
In that regard, the Humility part of acceptance, the idea that I am willing to put aside my so-called stature or position in order to accept what God chooses to do in and with and through my life and the lives of people around me. Before we close, let's take a look at humility and acceptance in the person of Jesus - the best model we can examine.
Paul, writing to the Philippians in chapter 2 verses 5 to 11 makes this great proclamation of our faith:
"Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God,
did not consider equality with God something to be grasped,
but made himself nothing,
taking the very nature of a servant,
being made in human likeness.
And being found in appearance as a man,
he humbled himself and became obedient to death—
even death on a cross!
Therefore God exalted him to the highest place
and gave him the name that is above every name,
that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow,
in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord,
to the glory of God the Father."
Jesus humbled Himself to obedience to God. We can't fully grasp that idea because we have a rough enough time understanding that Jesus is fully God and fully man 100% of the time. But that's what He did. In humbling Himself to the Father, Jesus readily accepted not only what He had to do, but more importantly, He accepted Who He is, the Savior of the World.
In humbling Himself and accepting His "task", His lot in life, Jesus was able to take on humanity and all of its frailty. Jesus condescended from the Throne of the Universe to a rough stable. And it didn't get any better from there. Jesus, while here on earth, lived an ordinary life. He served, ministered to and healed ordinary people. He accepted and took responsibility for all that He did. He washed the feet of His disciples, never asking for or demanding anything in return, except love and acceptance.
The glory of this accepting and humbling part of Grace is then acknowledged and rewarded by the Father. God the Father exalted Jesus to the highest place imaginable. He gave Jesus the Name that was more magnificent than any other name in all of Creation. The Father also rewarded Him the position that all creation MUST acknowledge Jesus as the Lord of all, for His glory.
That is Grace!
And as sinful men and women, God gives us the opportunity to participate in this part of Grace. Accepting our circumstances; accepting what we've been called to do and be.
In times and circumstances like these, as seemingly "bad" as they are, if we accept them, Grace is able to make the necessary changes to bring them into conformity with God. Only through and by the power of God's Gracious Acceptance - and our humility - is change possible.
One last thing, we need to look at one more angle of acceptance. The angle begins and ends with a look in the mirror. Do you accept yourself for who God made you to be? Do you thank Him for creating you as you are? If you accept yourself as the saved sinner you are (I am), then I would propose that you are on the road to being accepting of others and other aspects of life. That's exactly what Jesus did.
Let's be frank, if we cannot accept ourselves, if we can't extend Grace to ourselves, then we will have difficulty showing and extending acceptance and Grace to everyone that is placed around us. And when we humble ourselves before God, when we accept our part of His Plan, He will exalt even us as heirs in His Eternal Kingdom.
How does God look at us? We're Beautiful!
Will we accept His call to Acceptance and Grace?
Click here to return to the "Attributes of Grace" Bible study.
Or start here with a discussion of Understanding God's Grace.
Music video: Mercy Me, "Beautiful"
What's So Amazing About Grace?
By Philip Yancey / Zondervan
Grace is the Church's great distinctive. It's the one thing the world cannot duplicate, and the one thing it craves above all else for only grace can bring hope and transformation to a jaded world.
What is grace? If grace is God's love for the undeserving, then what does it look like in action? If Christians are its sole dispensers, how are we doing at lavishing grace on a world that knows far more of cruelty and un-forgiveness than it does of mercy? What's So Amazing About Grace?