God saved you by his grace when you believed. And you can’t take credit for this; it is a gift from God. Salvation is not a reward for the good things we have done, so none of us can boast about it. For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago.
Have you ever tried to put a jigsaw puzzle together by starting with the middle? Of course not! Everyone knows to start with the edges.
Not Paul. Paul always begins his puzzle work with the center, and the center is always Jesus. Why doesn’t he begin like the rest of us, with the edges? It’s because there are no edges. When you get Jesus, you also get the Father and the Holy Spirit. With the presence of God, rather than straight edges with hard corners, we get a center and a circumference. This circumference—which extends beyond knowing and permeates throughout, hovering over, among, around, and above the whole picture—are the interrelationships between Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. This is the heavenly realm, if you will.
When the heavens touch the earth—as they are forever destined to do in the person of Jesus Christ and through his people, the church—miracles happen. The first miracle, which is ever-opening, continually unfolding, and the substance of every subsequent miracle, is grace itself.
God saved you by his grace when you believed. And you can’t take credit for this; it is a gift from God. Salvation is not a reward for the good things we have done, so none of us can boast about it.
So what is grace, besides a word that gets thrown around to mean so many things in general that we aren’t quite sure what it means in particular anymore? Do you know a person who embraces you completely, unconditionally, and unreservedly no matter what happens or does not happen; no matter what you do or don’t do; no matter who you are or who you will never be? That is grace. Do you know someone whose very personhood and presence is a sheer gift to you? That is grace.
Grace is the infectious, transforming embrace of God. For grace to be understood, received, and appropriated by people, it must come through persons. Grace comes from God alone, but it must be embodied and imparted through people. This is why God became a person in Jesus Christ. This is why Jesus builds his church. The plan is to work through people. The text is clear: For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago.
Through the person of the Holy Spirit, God is crafting you and me into marvelous expressions of his grace. He is making us to be his embrace for others. We don’t do this for Jesus. We do it as Jesus. See the difference.
He has created us anew in Christ Jesus.
The graced life is all about becoming the masterpiece. He will consistently bring us face-to-face with people and situations that show us the impossibility of doing this. It’s why the way is death and resurrection, not the directive to try harder to be nicer. The old ways, values, dispositions, habits, and mind-set must die for the new to rise up. Here’s the good news for us who are united with Jesus: he has created us anew in Christ Jesus. The grace is already there.
We together, in Jesus, are the masterpiece. How’s that for the puzzle project!
Abba Father, we thank you for your Son, Jesus, who is grace personified. Thank you for embracing us despite all our great problems and grand performances. I want to know your embrace more that I might become your embrace for others. Bring me into the kind of relationships where this is the norm rather than the exception. We pray in Jesus’ name, amen.
What is the big takeaway from this text and reflection?
Can you think of a person in your past or present life who embodies the graced embrace of Jesus? What was it about them that showed this graced embrace?
How are you becoming the graced embrace of Jesus for others? Where are you most challenged in that?
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