From his youth a man determined to walk in the ways of God and God blessed him greatly because of his steadfastness to cling to the law. God did many things to lift him up to be the head of one of the great houses of Israel... and the rich man thanked God and offered a tithe. On his journey into the city he noticed a beggar by the city gate begging for alms. He looked upon the beggar and in his mind's eye he imagined the struggle and hardship that placed the beggar there. Sorrow for the beggar began to build in his heart. He reached into the folds of his garment for the money bag and took out a gold coin. As he passed the beggar he dropped the coin into the beggar's bowl and then continued on into the city. The beggar overcome with joy offered thanks to the rich man.
Both the rich man and the beggar were recipients of something good. The rich man found favour in the eyes of God and was rewarded with abundance because of his walk in the ways of God. The beggar found favour in the eyes of the rich man because of the compassionate heart of the rich man. To the one the favour was based on merit. To other the favour was based on kindness, an act of un-merited favour. Both of these examples are acts of grace.
Old testament examples like these reflect grace and forms its definition. The greater blessing the weaker; God to the rich man, the rich man to the beggar. I might as well say it here... Saying thank you in return, perhaps offering a token in return, is the blessing offered by the weaker to the greater; the rich man to God, the beggar to the rich man. In this sense you can say that the giving of thanks and the token, is the principle behind the tithe. Woe to those who have an unthankful heart and withhold the "tithe". More on this some other day.
The seed lay dormant in the ground. For years it remained there unchanging. Though the sun shone above it warming the ground in which it lay no scent of water was to be had. Then one day a light rain began to fall. Penetrating the ground it touched the seed beneath and the seed became wet with the life giving water. The sky cleared and the sun once again began to warm the soil and a miraculous change began in the seed. It grew little by little until it broke the ground it which it lay. Its leaves began to spread out to capture the sun. Its roots drank in more water from the soil. Day after day it grew because of the light and the water. It brought forth a bud, then a flower and then the fruit. Its fruit matured and at an appointed time was harvested.
The seed in the ground did nothing special. It was simply a seed that responded to the water and the heat and light of the sun. All of us living in the world today are like the seed, sitting in the ground waiting for the conditions to be right so that life can begin. The seed itself cannot search out for the water but the water must come to the seed first. So too with us as well.
How so? If your body is flesh and made of earthly material you can then say that the very same body is the ground. Within this ground, your body, there exists a seed, your spirit, which lies dormant because though the light of God is shinning there is no spiritual water of life that is coming into contact with the seed, your spirit. This spiritual seed will lie dormant within us until the water is given to us.
In this example, what is the spiritual water that the seed needs? It is the Spirit of God himself. He is the Spirit of Grace who is poured out to men, women and children that they may have life. Once the Spirit comes into contact with our spiritual seed He begins to influence it toward life. All that is necessary for the seed to do is to allow the water entry past its shell. When that occurs, newness of life begins. Not because the seed, your spirit, deserved it but it was an act of grace from the Spirit of grace to reach out and touch you. It is an act of un-merited favour towards you. It is then that you are born again.
It would be a mistake to believe that all the acts of God are based on un-merited favour. Do you know that once the seed takes in the water and new life begins it immediately sends out roots looking for more water? This is also the case with your spiritual seed. Once the Spirit of grace has entered and your new life has begun it becomes important for you to send out your spiritual roots in search of more water.
What are these spiritual roots? Prayer! If there is no prayer reaching out to touch God it will not come into contact with the Spirit of grace and the plant will eventually wither and die. It is the Father Himself that pours out the water upon the ground, like the rain, but the roots must search it out.
If I had to give a definition of new testament grace it would be this... Grace is the divine influence upon the hearts of people to give new life and life abundantly to the believer which brings about the reflection of God's character in the daily lives of those whom He has touched. Who is the divine influence? The Spirit of grace.
The above is simply my thoughts concerning new and old testament grace. Consider this as a seed thought. May the Lord show you more clearly what I have tried to explain in this brief letter.
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