Monday, December 22, 2014

HUNGER FOR GRACE by Gary Wilkerson

I am convinced there is a hunger throughout the world for the grace of Christ, and Scripture attests to this. Luke writes that when Jesus preached the Sermon on the Mount, crowds of thousands “had come to hear him and to be healed of their diseases; and those troubled by evil spirits were healed” (Luke 6:18, NLT). These masses came because they had heard a rumor about a man of grace who would heal them.

“There were people from all over Judea and from Jerusalem and from as far north as the seacoasts of Tyre and Sidon” (Luke 6:17). The hurting masses didn’t travel those distances because they wanted to hear a preacher urge them to try harder. They were already worn down by discouragement, disease and despair over their efforts to remain godly. And this wasn’t just a gathering of “good” people. Many were probably on the fringes of life, people shoved aside by their broken condition. Whatever the case, observing the Law had not brought them life.

To these hungry sojourners, Jesus’ reputation for grace turned out to be true. He not only preached grace but demonstrated it by healing them all: “Healing power went out from him, and he healed everyone” (Luke 6:19).

As a boy, I measured my walk with Christ by how well I demonstrated humility, purity and mercy. If I caught myself being aggressive, I thought, “I need to be more humble and meek.” Or if I had sexual thoughts, I wondered, “How will I ever be able to keep a pure heart?” Like many before me, I turned God’s gracious promise of blessing into laws I tried to keep. If I “lived” the beatitudes well enough, then maybe God would say, “Gary, you’re blessed.”

No! That is completely backward—and utterly contrary to Christ’s gospel. When Jesus looked on that crowd of people, He saw them already poor in spirit, on their knees in humility, harangued by sickness, exhausted by their efforts to live a good life. So what did He do? He spoke blessings upon them! Just as the Lord spoke creation into a void of utter darkness, Jesus spoke divine blessings onto ravaged sinners, people beaten down by life. He assured them, “You came here in mourning, but I say you are blessed in the eyes of God—blessed in your marriage, blessed in your labors, blessed in the depths of your soul.”

This was a radical message to their ears! These people only knew the terms of the Old Covenant. They thought they deserved to hear, “You’re cursed! You didn’t keep the Law according to Deuteronomy; otherwise, your lives would be blessed.” Jesus told them the opposite: “Before you’ve done anything for Me—before you’ve prayed, worshiped or confessed—I have already blessed you!”