Going Deeper: No Longer a Stranger! Part Three

In our preceding article, we talked about how there can be no greater motivation for believers to live out their new lives in Christ as a BIG THANK YOU than to have a growing understanding of the grace of God. That is certainly the experience described in Scripture on more than one occasion.

Remember the immoral woman who came to Jesus quite unexpectedly in the home of a Pharisee (Luke 7:36-50)? Braving probable scorn and ridicule, she came to express her love and gratitude for what she had experienced of the grace of God in her life—forgiveness. She was well aware of how undeserving she was but nevertheless God had forgiven her and for this she was supremely thankful.

Rather than drawing back in disdain from this woman with the tarnished reputation, Jesus expressed what was at the heart of her outpouring of emotion: she loved much because she had been forgiven much.

“I tell you, her sins—and they are many—have been forgiven, so she has shown me much love. But a person who is forgiven little shows only little love.” (Luke 7:47 NLT)

Possibly a prostitute, this woman recognized how needy, how undeserving she was of Christ’s forgiveness. In fact, she was conscious of her abject spiritual poverty—totally incapable of doing anything to merit God’s forgiveness. Yet, the Bible assures us that…

He [God] does not treat us as our sins deserve or repay us according to our iniquities. (Psalm 103:10 NIV)

That’s grace—undeserved!

700 years earlier, the prophet Isaiah only recognized the depths of his own sinfulness when he was made graphically aware of God’s holiness. Then, in response to God’s cleansing, Isaiah was eager to live out the rest of his life in obedience to God (Isaiah 6:3-8).

It was that same comprehension that, years later, was the compelling motivation in Paul’s life. Though he viewed himself as the worst of sinners (1 Timothy 1:15), Paul felt a tremendous sense of indebtedness because of the grace of God he had experienced in his own life.

I am obligated… That is why I am so eager to preach the gospel. (Romans 1:14-15 NIV)

Our comprehension of God’s grace in our lives is the primary motivation in our service for God. Our sense of indebtedness and gratitude to God for the undeserved mercy and grace he shown to us is in direct relationship with our consciousness of how needy a people we are. The measure to which we comprehend the scope of God’s grace in our lives is the measure to which we will live our lives for God. The more we grow to love God, the more we will want to obey him.

Furthermore, the more special a relationship, the more we want to get to know someone. That’s the nature of friendships, of marriage relationships and that ought also be true of our relationship with God. In salvation, a person’s relationship changes from God being a stranger to that of being his child, his friend. And now God wants that relationship to grow, mature and blossom in an ever deeper and richer sense. God wants us to know him experientially. That ought to be the goal, the motivation and the focus of our daily lives.

So it is that the apostle Paul writes…

I want to know Christ and experience the mighty power that raised him from the dead… I don’t mean to say that I have already achieved these things or that I have already reached perfection. But I press on to possess that perfection for which Christ Jesus first possessed me. (Philippians 3:10,12 NLT)

The Amplified Bible expresses these same thoughts this way:

So that I may know Him [experientially, becoming more thoroughly acquainted with Him, understanding the remarkable wonders of His Person more completely] and [in that same way experience] the power of His resurrection [which overflows and is active in believers], and [that I may share] the fellowship of His sufferings, by being continually conformed [inwardly into His likeness even] to His death [dying as He did]… Not that I have already obtained it [this goal of being Christlike] or have already been made perfect, but I actively press on so that I may take hold of that [perfection] for which Christ Jesus took hold of me and made me His own. (Philippians 3:10,12 AMP)

Notice that the yearning of Paul’s heart is to know God as a living reality in his daily experience—not simply as a mental assent.

The same ought also be true of us as believers. When we come to faith in Christ, God is no longer is a stranger to us. Rather, we have a new relationship. We are now children of God—friends! As such, there ought to be a natural desire to know our heavenly God better as an on-going, life-long process. As we do so, our growing understanding and appreciation of who God is and what he is like—his character and nature—will make a genuine difference in how we live out our lives as his children.

Consider what it ought to mean in our lives as we get to know God better and—as in any friendship—we want to please him.

  • When tempted to trivialize and play with sin, it is important to remember that God is holy and does not tolerate sin. Sin has serious consequences: breaking the child of God’s fellowship with his or her heavenly Father. A growing consciousness of God’s holiness ought to cause us to draw back in horror from the thought of allowing sin to be part of our lives.

Your eyes [God] are too pure to look on evil; you cannot tolerate wrong. (Habakkuk 1:13 NIV)

Just as he [God] who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do; or it is written: “Be holy, because I am holy.” (1 Peter 1:15-16 NIV)

  • When we have failed repeatedly and we feel that God can’t forgive us, we must hold on to the unshakeable fact of who God is—a gracious God who forgives. This doesn’t mean that God overlooks or minimizes the sinfulness of our sin. Sin still has its awful consequences. That is only right and just. But God in his love and mercy has provided an answer for our sin problem on the cross.

“The LORD, the LORD, the compassionate and gracious God, [is] slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness, maintaining love to thousands, and forgiving wickedness, rebellion and sin.” (Exodus 34:6-7 NIV)

If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. (1 John 1:9 NIV)

This High Priest of ours [Jesus Christ] understands our weaknesses, for he faced all of the same testings we do, yet he did not sin. So let us come boldly to the throne of our gracious God. There we will receive his mercy, and we will find grace to help us when we need it most. (Hebrews 4:15-16 NLT)

For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men. It teaches us to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age. (Titus 2:11-12 NIV)

  • When faced with having to make decisions in the midst of all of the complexities of choices in life, we can rest in the confidence that our God is all-wise and that, as our loving heavenly Father, he plans the very best for us.

For I know the plans I have for you,” says the Lord. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope. (Jeremiah 29:11 NLT)

And we know [with great confidence] that God [who is deeply concerned about us] causes all things to work together [as a plan] for good for those who love God, to those who are called according to His plan and purpose. (Romans 8:28 AMP)

  • When we feel alone and overwhelmed by life’s circumstances, remember that part of God’s intrinsic nature is love. He cares for us and is concerned about our every need to a far greater degree than we can possibly imagine or hope for. Remember, God has already provided for our greatest need—our need for salvation!

God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. (Romans 5:8 NIV)

He [God] who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things? (Romans 8:32 NIV)

And remember, God’s promise to us:

“Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.” (Hebrews 13:5 NIV)

The Amplified Bible translation of the same verse helps us understand the emphatic nature of God’s assurance: “I WILL NEVER [under any circumstances] DESERT YOU [nor give you up nor leave you without support, nor will I in any degree leave you helpless], NOR WILL I FORSAKE or LET YOU DOWN or RELAX MY HOLD ON YOU [assuredly not]!”

  • When we experience failure and perhaps betrayal in friendships, marriage, business relationships, etc., we can draw comfort and courage from the reminder that God is supremely faithful. He is completely trustworthy. He will never fail us.

[The Lord] who made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, …remains forever faithful. (Psalm 146:6 NET)

The faithful love of the Lord never ends! His mercies never cease. Great is his faithfulness; his mercies begin afresh each morning. (Lamentations 3:22-23 NLT)

  • When bewildered by the inexplicable tragedies that unfold around us on every hand, we can be confident that God is good and just. We can be assured that whatever God does will be right.

You [God] are good, and what you do is good. (Ps. 119:68 NIV)

In the words of Abraham: “Will not the judge of the whole earth do what is right?” (Genesis 18:25 NIV)

Everything he [God] does is just and fair. He is a faithful God who does no wrong; how just and upright he is! (Deut. 32:4 NLT)

In the broader context of our lives as believers, we recognize that there is so much more that God needs—and wants—to do in our lives as he works to transform us more and more into the likeness of his Son, Jesus Christ (Romans 8:29; 12:20). In the midst of all of the challenges of daily living, from day to day, we often don’t recognize the change that God is bringing about in our lives. But, God is faithful and he has promised to complete what he has started when we became his children.

The apostle Paul expressed his conviction this way: I am convinced and confident of this very thing, that He who has begun a good work in you will [continue to] perfect and complete it until the day of Christ Jesus [the time of His return]. (Philippians 1:6 AMP)

In the meantime, as we are reminded of all that God has already done for, let us continue to press on in life, motivated by his grace, trusting him to continue work in our lives, remolding and remaking us according to perfect will.

Now all glory to God, who is able, through his mighty power at work within us, to accomplish infinitely more than we might ask or think. Glory to him in the church and in Christ Jesus through all generations forever and ever! Amen. (Ephesians 3:20-21 NLT)

Going Deeper series: Each of GoodSeed’s tools is written to provide readers with a foundational overview of the Bible’s core message so they may clearly understand the gospel. We do this by presenting key stories from creation through the Cross. GoodSeed doesn’t attempt to be exhaustive in our approach nor is that our goal. There is too much that could be said about life, death and life after death. Likewise, we don’t want the reader to get sidetracked from learning the Bible’s primary message regarding salvation—perhaps for the first time.

However, we also recognize that the Bible is a rich spiritual treasure trove, deserving of a lifetime of study and consideration. With that in mind, each month the Going Deeper series is going to examine some nuggets to encourage your heart, enlighten your mind and motivate you to dig further into God’s Word yourself!

Author: David Cross

Curriculum development manager and staff writer at GoodSeed's International Office.