Thursday, April 17, 2014

Experiencing God’s Loving Kindness Called Grace

CHRISTIANS are funny re-creations of the living God – having accepted the Father’s forgiveness because of the Son’s sacrifice, they rarely experience that grace in real felt ways unless they are discipled; especially those who have been brought up in Christian households. Then, when a significant loss or perplexing situation hits, so does crisis – not the crisis itself, but how to meet the crisis and sustain ourselves through its entirety. That is, to come out the other side intact, having grown.
Where there is no previous crisis as a bearing or point of reference, or there was, but we didn’t respond in such a way as to grow through it, God may bring us back to this place: “Suffer this with Me,” says the Lord.
Only when we have suffered with God, receiving the ministry of his grace in our pain, will we understand something of how his grace works – not that we will ever comprehend it. But at least we will know how to access it.
The point is the search. If we will search with unguarded diligence, God will show us everything we need to learn.
To experience the actual loving kindness of God, called grace, we not only need to be mindful of Jesus’ substitutionary act on the cross – his sinlessness for our sin – we need to receive it in our hearts; for ourselves, personally, in our situations and living contexts.
Where we have sinned and then been saved, we are saved from the bloodguilt of that sin; all sin, past, present, and future – though we have also been given repentance as a biblical model for making restitution for ourselves before God.
But forgiveness may be experienced to the point we no longer experience the guilt and shame of the sins of the past.
A Method
Knowing that God is eternally and comprehensively loving – and taking in the biblical truth that once something is forgiven it is forgiven eternally – we rest in the fact through contemplation.
We plunge our minds into the healing space of imagining God is there, even in the midst of that sin we engaged in. Even in that, we imagine not an iota of condemnation – only the completest sense of loving kindness for who we are: unconditionally loved by God, through Jesus Christ.
As we sit there contemplating the Lord there with us back in that sinful situation, we imagine no judgment for what we are doing, but love simply for who we are.
This is a paradigm shift of massive proportions magnifying the character of God.
The character of God – now revealed to us in the person and work of the Lord Jesus Christ – is so fundamentally virtuous and trustworthy we cannot lose. God seeks the person weighed down in condemnation to deliver them – that’s the character of God. Our Lord is no vicious task master. God is more loving and more understanding than we can ever hope to know. And no sin is beyond his wiping clean of our slate of debt.
So, our opportunity is to imagine Jesus in the midst of that time – being there with us. This evokes an emotional response. It has to. As we imagine the essence of Divine understanding, even in the midst of sin, we begin to understand that we truly are more than conquerors in Christ. We understand, by seeking his face, that God just wants us healed; he wants us back and desperately so; he wants us growing past our guilt and shame, so we can glorify his name all the more.
Feeling forgiven is as simple as imagining Jesus in the midst of our sin and loving us anyway. Nothing, not even our guilt and shame, can separate us. Experiencing grace is done prayerfully as we imagine God there and present with us.
As saved people we are forgiven and we can experience that forgiveness by resting in it contemplatively.
© 2014 S. J. Wickham.

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