It is time to play a Wild Card! Every now and then, a book that I have chosen to read is going to pop up as a FIRST Wild Card Tour. Get dealt into the game! (Just click the button!) Wild Card Tours feature an author and his/her book’s FIRST chapter!
You never know when I might play a wild card on you!
Authentic (September 15, 2008)
About the Author:
PAM DAVIS is an author and motivational speaker who views her charge as bringing the timeworn truths of Scripture to life. Pams candid teaching style not only enlightens but also entertains, leaving her audiences with a refreshed desire for the living Word of God. She lives with her husband, Steven, and three children in Fort Worth, Texas. (ISBN#9781934068649, 192pp, $14.99)
I remember a time in college when I headed to the beaches in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, for spring break. No, I wasnâ€™t there for something honorable, such as being part of a missionary team doing beach evangelism. In fact, I was more like the prodigal son in the company of swine about to come to my senses.
I sat in my car, thinking, I canâ€™t find you, God. Iâ€™ve tried everywhere, good places and bad, but I canâ€™t find you. Iâ€™ve tried church, seminars, books, even Bible college.
Then I said out loud, â€œRunning in circles, where to start?â€ And in my heart, an answer followed: â€œThe answer lies within your heart.â€
Hmmm. So I put my hands on the steering wheel and continued out loud, â€œRunning in circles, where to begin?â€ And again in my heart I heard, â€œQuit seeking outside and seek within.â€
This was such a novel thought. As a child, I had asked Jesus into my heart to save my sinful soul. So where did I expect to find him, except in my heart? As a confused college student, I suddenly realized the extent of my disorientation. Looking for God and his grace out there was like driving the wrong way on a highway. Iâ€™m doing everything rightâ€”foot on the gas, hands on the wheel, eyes on the road. And yet somethingâ€™s terribly wrongâ€”Iâ€™m causing one crash after another, and I have the dings and dents to show for it. Not to mention the fact that my anxiety is off the charts.
This reminds me of the story of a woman driving down the highway when her cell phone rings. Itâ€™s her husband, and frantically he shouts, â€œI just heard on the radio that a car is driving the wrong way on the highway youâ€™re on. Please be careful!â€
â€œDear, itâ€™s not one car,â€ the woman responds. â€œItâ€™s hundreds of cars!â€
We can easily be like thatâ€”disoriented. We can easily be disoriented from the truth that if weâ€™re saved by Godâ€™s graceâ€”through Christ Jesusâ€”then heâ€™s not merely out there as a transcendent reality. But he also lives immanently, within our spiritual hearts, guiding and equipping us from within. Maybe we become disoriented so easily because we live in a culture so foreign to this biblical truth of a God-within reality. So that there is no confusion as to the term God-within reality, let me quote the words of Bible teacher Arthur W. Pink:
â€œThe great mistake made by most of the Lordâ€™s people is in the hoping to discover in themselves that which is to be found in Christ alone.â€ 1
If you have been born again by the Spirit of God, then indeed within you is Christâ€™s nature, and within him is the God-within reality.
Whether youâ€™re driving on a highway or trying to find God, disorientation can be deadly. Jesus knew this. He sent a messenger to a group of Christians to point out their disorientation and to reorient them. No wonder these believers were disoriented. Look at the foreign environment where they lived. Their society focused on freedom so much that they named their city â€œRights of the People.â€ They built their city in honor of a woman; so if a statue stood at the edge of town, it would have been a woman. These people, richest among their neighbors, established an elaborate banking system. Their textile industry made their citizens among the most finely dressed of their era. Their sophisticated medical school boasted advanced treatments.
No, this isnâ€™t a city in your country! It was Laodicea, the home of a church Jesus sent a messenger to. Listen to his words:
â€œYou say, â€˜I am rich; I have acquired wealth and do not need a thing.â€™ But you do not realize that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked. I counsel you to buy from me gold refined in the fire, so you can become richâ€ (Revelation 3:17â€“18)
Could Jesus be talking to us? Could our environment be so similar to that of the Laodicean Christians that weâ€™ve also become disoriented, claiming we do not need a thing? His words are addressed to the â€œchurch.â€ Could weâ€”the churchâ€”be in a state of spiritual bankruptcy even though weâ€™re saved? If so, what did Jesus mean that we can buy gold from him and become rich?
Letâ€™s find out togetherâ€”just in case weâ€™re the ones driving the wrong way.
The Commodity: Grace That Yields Life
My friend Laura2 was a worker ant, or so it seemed. When she got up each morning, she organized her day, her husbandâ€™s day, and their four childrenâ€™s day. Efficient, organized, and with a mind that worked at lightning speed, she was a vital member of her church, Parent-Teacher Association, and her husbandâ€™s business. I felt tired just listening to her schedule, and I often sighed in amazement at all she seemed to accomplish every twenty-four hours.
Yet this worker ant, who was part of Godâ€™s kingdom, grew unresponsive spiritually. Instead of the once-glowing and enthusiastic woman I loved to laugh with, my friend grew uniform and almost militant in her pursuit of productivity. Her spiritual life seemed to exist in a hole that she dug deeper and deeper away from the light. I remember praying, â€œGod, she doesnâ€™t have to be a worker ant. You recreated her to be a queenâ€”one who has wings and can leave the hole sheâ€™s digging herself into to visit the heavens. Youâ€™ve transformed her and made her capable of breeding spiritual life.â€
An opportunity arose in Godâ€™s divine timing. One day Laura came over for coffee and noticed a sticky note on my refrigerator that reads, â€œIf you want to make God laugh, make plans.â€ As she read it, she became deeply irritated and cried out, â€œIf I donâ€™t plan things, they wonâ€™t happen!â€ I countered, â€œThen what? You fail?â€
After a moment, tears spilled from the corners of her eyes. Happiness, satisfaction, and joy had subtly been linked to productivity instead of to a relationship with Christ. That was okay for a worker ant. But not for a queen.
As we worked our way through a box of tissues together, we talked about the â€œhave toâ€™sâ€ of life: have to take care of her family, have to fulfill what she felt God wanted to do through her in her church, have to be a helpmate in her husbandâ€™s business. Then the challenge surfaced: If she didnâ€™t plan, how would she accomplish all the have toâ€™s? What resource could she draw on?
I told Laura that God had been teaching me how his grace is a resource that yields life. We can accomplish our activities as a manifestation of that life. Each day we can experience joy instead of the slow death of a numbing routine. I knew because I had experienced it both ways. Like Laura, in my attempt to be an obedient Christian, I had somehow missed the message that we not only begin our salvation by grace but also live it out by grace. In fact, I had found a verse that said this perfectly:
â€œAre you so foolish? After beginning with the Spirit, are you now trying to attain your goal by human effort?â€ (Galatians 3:3)
It took some time, but Laura began to yield to God. As she saw him working within her each day, his grace brought excitement and childlike anticipation to her life. Somehow, she still accomplished all the necessary tasksâ€”not always in the order or the ways she anticipatedâ€”but they got done. This new way of living surfaced another, more powerful, force behind Lauraâ€™s need for productivity: her desire to be in control. Slowly and intentionally she discovered that when she yielded her control to Christ, she experienced his divine graceâ€”the spiritual sweat of Godâ€™s diligent work in and through us.
In addition, like a queen ant, she hatched â€œeggsâ€â€”eggs of life. Because Laura possessed grace, other people she came into contact with were dusted effortlessly with life. The worker received grace by faith to be a queen.
Disgustingly Lukewarm Believers
Each of us must receive from the Holy Spirit the very real spiritual commodity of grace to live Christâ€™s life deposited within us. Receiving this grace comes through faithâ€”faith in God instead of faith in self. Jesus desires that we possess all his riches:
â€œAll that belongs to the Father is mine. That is why I said the Spirit will take from what is mine and make it known to youâ€ (John 16:15)
However, most of us are like Laura used to be. We get so wrapped up in getting through each day in an orderly fashion that we forget to put our faith in God. As we gradually transfer faith in him to faith in ourselves, we become lukewarm.
Jesus addressed this phenomenon in his message to the Laodicean Christians:
â€œThese are the words of the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the ruler of Godâ€™s creation. I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other! So, because you are lukewarmâ€”neither hot nor coldâ€”I am about to spit you out of my mouthâ€ (Revelation 3:14â€“16)
Jesus used strong language with these followers. He said, â€œI am about to spit you out.â€ Actually, thatâ€™s a nice way of saying, â€œI want to vomit you outâ€! Why did these Christians sicken Jesus so much?
In the ancient world, the master of the feast served cold beverages to refresh and revive or hot beverages to soothe and comfort. However, a lukewarm beverageâ€”like drinking warm salt waterâ€”can make you sick. The Laodicean Christians knew this well, because they piped their drinking water from a city a few miles to the north. So by the time it reached their city, it was often lukewarm and even sickening to drink.
Yet instead of vomiting out these apathetic believers, Jesus offered them gold! This isnâ€™t gold as we usually think of it. It wasnâ€™t a tangible treasure. In fact, the Laodicean Christians had that. They paid more than twenty pounds in gold to Rome for taxes each year, yet Jesus called them â€œwretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked.â€ Instead, Jesus offered gold that the Old Testament prophet Malachi described this way:
â€œHe will sit as a refiner and purifier of silver; he will purify the Levites and refine them like gold and silver. Then the Lord will have men who will bring offerings in righteousnessâ€ (Malachi 3:3)
Godâ€™s pure gold is his grace. Only this kind of gold can make us truly rich. Instead of us being wretched and afflicted, his grace enables us to endure troubles. Instead of us being pitiful, Godâ€™s grace supplies us with the power to perform. Instead of us being poor and empty in satisfaction, his grace gives us wealth of significance. Instead of us being blind, the Lordâ€™s grace enables us to perceive eternal reality. And instead of us being naked, impoverished morally, and dishonoring of our purpose for existence, Godâ€™s grace allows us to be clothed in right standing with him and able to offer righteous acts that will revive and comfort our disoriented world. All this will happen as we buy gold from Jesus.
The word buy is interesting (Rev. 3:17â€“18). Isnâ€™t Godâ€™s grace free? Should Jesus have said, â€œreceiveâ€ instead of â€œbuyâ€?
Jesus is specific and intentional, and he indeed does say, â€œBuy.â€ Why? Because when you buy instead of receive, your heart moves toward what you desire at a cost. In essence, Jesus was saying to these Christians who lived in a materially abundant society, â€œDonâ€™t just desire to be rich in Godâ€™s grace; take action at a cost to yourself to receive grace.â€ Letâ€™s examine what that looks like.
Physical and Spiritual Gold
Even though Godâ€™s grace is spiritual gold, we can understand it better by comparing it to physical gold. For example, we know from artifacts of ancient civilizations that physical gold has been treasured since the beginning of history.3
Graceâ€”spiritual goldâ€”has also been treasured since the beginning of history. Philo, a first-century Jewish philosopher asserted,
The just man seeking to understand the nature of all existing things, makes this one most excellent discovery, that everything which exists, does so according to the grace of God, and that there is nothing ever given by, just as there is nothing possessed by, the things of creation. On which account also it is proper to acknowledge gratitude to the Creator alone. Accordingly, to those persons who seek to investigate what is the origin of creation, we may most correctly make answer, that it is the goodness and the grace of God, which he has bestowed on the human race; for all the things which are in the world, and the world itself, are the gift and benefaction and free grace of God. 4
Physical gold is also rare and beautiful. Even primitive people greatly desired this precious metal. However, they didnâ€™t value gold for its beauty alone. They thought gold was divineâ€”the sweat of the gods.5 When the ancient Egyptians discovered gold nuggets in riverbeds, they concluded that the gods had been working in Egypt and that the nuggets of gold provided evidence of the godsâ€™ sweat. They also believed that this rare commodity held magical power to cure illness and give knowledge.
Grace, spiritual gold, is certainly rare and beautifulâ€”so rare that we can only find it in one source: Jesus Christ. Grace is also mystical, because we canâ€™t explain how grace given by Jesus Christ can cure illness, give knowledge, and impart life. The apostle Paul expressed it this way:
â€œFor if the many died by the trespass of the one man, how much more did Godâ€™s grace and the gift that came by the grace of the one man, Jesus Christ, overflow to the many! . . . For if, by the trespass of the one man, death reigned through that one man, how much more will those who receive Godâ€™s abundant provision of grace and of the gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man, Jesus Christâ€ (Romans 5:15, 17)
Further, grace is truly divine. We could say that Godâ€™s grace is the spiritual sweat of his diligent work. Jesus said, â€œMy Father has worked [even] until now, [He has never ceased working; He is still working] and I, too, must be at [divine] workâ€ (John 5:17 amp).
I like this summary of Godâ€™s grace: inexhaustible, unmerited benefits that give us joy, pleasure, goodwill, thanksgiving, and the essential benefitâ€”spiritual life.
A God of Grace
Almost everyone knows the Old Testament account of Noah and the ark. But in the many retellings of these events, we often miss the point. God revealed his abiding presence, provision, and authority, showing himself to be a God of grace, to Noah and his entire family and to generations that followed.
When I think about the story of Noah, I envision it like this:
In Noahâ€™s time, lust had replaced love. The lust for wealth led to murder. The lust for sex led to beastly unions. Noah tried to remind his friends
and coworkers that they were fortunate to have life in their bodies, to have food in their bellies, and to have children in their arms. All this provided evidence of the goodness of their God. But they wouldnâ€™t listen. They didnâ€™t care. Their evil thoughts and actions vilely betrayed the love of their unseen God.
Alone, with his eyes toward heaven, Noah searched for Godâ€™s formless face. Silently, he declared his devotion to righteousness, knowing in the pit of his being that this pleased God. And God responded, â€œNoah, Iâ€™m going to put an end to all people, for the earth is filled with violence. All the people of earth have corrupted their ways.
I am surely going to destroy both them and the earth.â€ The words sent a shock through Noahâ€™s body. But before Noah could respond, God added, â€œBut you, Noah, have found grace in my sight.â€
Of course, the rest of Noahâ€™s story is well known. God instructed him to build the ark, to gather pairs of every kind of animal, and to prepare for the flood. Noah and his wife, and their sons and their wives, along with the animals, were the only survivors of the flood. After the floodwaters subsided, Noah stood with the grass moist beneath his feet and his sun-kissed face toward heaven. He beamed as tears streamed down his cheeks. Birds fluttered overhead. The jackrabbit and kangaroo seemed to race. Horses galloped by as bears rolled in the grass, scratching their backs. With his hands clasped behind his back, Noah felt a fragile hand in his own. He turned and again was enraptured by his own mateâ€™s eyes. â€œGod has made a new home for us,â€ she whispered tenderly. At that moment, voices theyâ€™d heard a thousand times registered in their ears: â€œMom! Dad! Look!â€ Turning toward their children, Noah
and his wife saw the heavens as a brilliant canvas cascading with vibrant colors. A new home, a new land, love, harmony, blessing. Fixed on the glorious sky, Noah declared, â€œThis rainbow is a sign of Godâ€™s grace toward all life on the earth.â€ (authorâ€™s summary of Genesis 6:9â€“9:17)
Eternal Drudgery or Eternal Dynasty?
Even today God testifies that he a God of grace. Yet we often fail to stake our claim on the gift of grace in Jesus Christ. Like my friend Laura, we face a choice of what we want to participate in. We might call it eternal drudgery or eternal dynasty. So often we choose the drudgeâ€”and we end up feeling lost, hopeless, useless, numb, stale, and even obsolete.
God, however, wants us to choose the dynasty and that is why Jesus warns:
â€œThe thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that [you] may have life, and have it to the fullâ€ (John 10:10)
What keeps us from making the obvious choiceâ€”the lifegiving choice of Godâ€™s grace? I believe for most of us it is a fundamental misunderstanding of grace. Jerry Bridges wrote,
â€œI suspect most of us would say we declared permanent bankruptcy. Having trusted in Jesus Christ alone for our salvation, we realized we could not add any measure of good works to what He has already done. However, I think most of us, actually declared temporary bankruptcy. Having trusted in Christ alone for our salvation, we have subtly and unconsciously reverted to a works relationship with God in our Christian lives. We recognize that even our best efforts cannot get us to Heaven, but we think they earn Godâ€™s blessings in our daily lives.â€ 6
For most of us, just trudging through life day to day blinds us from seeing our need for Godâ€™s grace. Look at the following areas of life, and think about how each of these can challenge your need for Godâ€™s grace.
â€¢ Spiritual life: Do you feel barren or empty? Or do you sense that youâ€™re growing and even reproducing life in others?
â€¢ Physical life: Do you constantly sense a decrease in force or energy? Or are you alive with energy provided by your relationship with the Holy Spirit?
â€¢ Mental life: Do you feel like youâ€™re regressing from a state of stabilityâ€”maybe feeling lost or even having perverse thoughts? Or do you feel vivid, charged, and stable, with your experiences creating pleasant and fulfilling memories?
â€¢ Emotional life: Do you go through most days feeling numb, lacking power to respond? Or do you feel passionate about your relationship with the Lordâ€”having a relationship that you could describe as glowing or on fire?
â€¢ Appearance: When you look in the mirror, would you describe yourself as lacking radiance, cold, or even steely? Or would you say that youâ€™re bright, glowing, and animated because of your relationship with Christ?
â€¢ Activities: As you go through each day, week, month, and year, do you see the things you need to accomplish as decreasing in quality or as too uniform and listlike in nature? Or do you find a variety in your activities that allows you to approach them with a sense of vigor and a satisfaction that youâ€™re accomplishing tasks out of your love for God?
â€¢ Relationships: Do you find yourself easily offended or sense that your relationships with others are stale? Or would you describe your relationships as pure, vital, and functioning because of who you are in Christ?
If the first question in each of these areas describes you more often than the second, you might sum up your feelings by saying that your physical existence is more an experience of death than life.
But is that really what you want? Instead, most of us would rather answer yes to each areaâ€™s second question. Those questions describe true life when we embrace Godâ€™s precious treasure of grace.
How conscious are you of Godâ€™s desire to extend his grace to you each day? Maybe your image of God is one of a detached king in an air-conditioned heaven, feasting on grapes and wine. But thatâ€™s not who God is at all! Instead, he is working, creating you in Christ to be a work of grace and to do his works of grace. God is a hands-on God, who works efficiently, extending grace with his hand of Lightâ€”Christ. God touches us with the Holy Spirit, causing us to grow, have life, and bear fruit for him. Jesus said,
â€œYou did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruitâ€”fruit that will last. Then the Father will give you whatever you ask in my nameâ€ (John 15:16)
â€œI chose you.â€ Those three words alone illustrate how God actively works in our lives. Pastor and teacher Oswald Chambers commented on those three words:
â€œThat is the way the grace of God begins. It is a constraint we cannot get away from; we can disobey it, but we cannot generate it. The drawing is done by the supernatural grace of God, and we can never trace where His work begins. Salvation is not merely deliverance from sin, nor the experience of personal holiness; the salvation of God is deliverance out of self entirely into union with Himself.â€ 7
The Kingâ€™s Throne: Godâ€™s Throne of Grace
I will never forget one of the most dramatic examples of Godâ€™s grace at work that I have ever witnessed. In October 1996 Yankee Stadium was filled with people on their feet. The roar was deafening. The pitch was thrown, and the home crowd went wild as the pop-up was caught, and the New York Yankees won the World Series. John Wetteland, the thirty-year-old closing pitcher, was swept up in the air by his teammates. My husband, Steven, and I sat in front of our television set with tears streaming down our cheeks as we watched John scan the stands, searching for his wife, Michele.
I first met Michele in the spring of 1990, when both of our husbands were in major league spring training camp with the Los Angeles Dodgers. Yet Iâ€™d heard of Michele much earlier. Before either of us got married, our future husbands, Steven and John, were roommates during winter ball in Puerto Rico. Apparently, the women pursuing John in his single days were notorious, and the other ballplayers teased John about his pursuers, referring to them as a harem.
Michele was busy pursuing Godâ€™s will for her life, attending college and working part-time. When John, the renowned â€œking of the ladies,â€ visited her hometown of Shreveport, Louisiana, for a series of games, Michele was certainly intrigued and fascinated, but not captured. Michele already considered herself part of a haremâ€”she was a bride of the Lord Jesus, and she resided in his court, respecting his kingdomâ€™s rule.
This posed a problem for John, who indeed was captured by Michele. Instead of being lured by Johnâ€™s gold and the prospect of more gold, Michele turned away. Like the Grinch in the Dr. Seuss book How the Grinch Stole Christmas, John was struck with amazement: Whatâ€™s this? No cards? No calls? No boxes? No bows?
Intrigued and fascinated by whatever commodity could compete with his own, John met the lover of Micheleâ€™s soulâ€”the Lord Jesus Christ. Admitting that heâ€™d been trying for years to fill a void in his life that he never could fill, John surrendered himself to Godâ€™s kingdom and received an overabundance of graceâ€”the spiritual gold that really satisfies.
Steven and I watched as John stood beside Michele and their twin daughters to receive the trophy for the Most Valuable Player in the World Series. Emotion-filled words choked from his lips: â€œI would first like to thank Jesus Christâ€”my point man. Then my wife, Michele, who is my rock.â€ John was correct with this declaration, because the Rock of Jesus Christ is inside Michele Wetteland. Her spiritual grasp was stretched in her courtship with John, and now sheâ€™s richer in every way for choosing to possess Godâ€™s grace, instead of merely the worldâ€™s gold.
Thrones of Gold
All of us must make the same choice that Michele faced. Will we place ourselves or the world or a myriad of other things on the throne of our lives? Or will we become royal children of God, placing him on the throne to rule and make us rich with his grace? As followers of Christ, each believer becomes part of Godâ€™s royal spiritual kingdom. Since we are his royal children, God doesnâ€™t withhold any good thing from our spiritual life. The psalmist wrote,
â€œThe Lord God . . . gives us grace and glory. The Lord will withhold no good thing from those who do what is rightâ€ (Psalm 84:11 NLT)
Of course, the false thrones of the world certainly look attractive. This was true even in ancient civilizations.
The pharaohs and high priests of Egypt sat on gold thrones, and their palaces and temples sparkled and gleamed with gold. They sat on hammered gold-sheathed furniture surrounded by golden statues. Gold thread shimmered in draperies, tapestries, and clothing. The very walls shone with gold. At night royalty slept on gold beds. When Queen Hatshepsut rose from her morning bath, she powdered her body with gold dust. The Egyptians buried their royalty in gold, wrapping their bodies in yards and yards of linen strips with golden jewels placed in the wrappings. The coffins that held the wrapped bodies and the jars that held their vital organs were covered in gold. We could say that a royal Egyptianâ€™s journey through life to afterlife was a path of gold. 8
In contrast, God offers us his true throne of grace. He and Jesus are seated on this throne of grace. Yet Godâ€™s grace also pervades every part of his kingdom. He purchased his royal childrenâ€™s salvation with grace. We, his heirs, are covered with grace. We display his grace, and we sit with him by grace. Because we are royal children of God, our journey through life to eternity is a path of grace.
The writer of Hebrews described the Lordâ€™s throne this way:
â€œWe have a great high priest who has gone through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God. . . . Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of needâ€ (Hebrews 4:14, 16)
Godâ€™s Grace: Spiritual Wealth
You might recall the Old Testament account of Sarai and Abram. God gave this husband and wife an opportunity to exercise their faith and to increase their capacity to receive spiritual wealthâ€”Godâ€™s grace. God initiated his grace by calling Sarai, and by faith she received grace when she obeyed God by following her husband.
Sarai was stunningly beautiful. Living in the excitement of a metropolitan city, this woman had looks, wealth, love, and servants. Even her name was a blessing: â€œmy princess.â€ Yet for all the things Sarai had, she lacked one thingâ€”a child. In her day, nothing she possessed compared with what she lacked.
Then God told Sarai, through Abram, to leave her familiar surroundings and travel with Abram to an unknown land that he would show them, promising that it would be worth their while. The land they journeyed to was occupied by another nation, and the people there were experiencing a famine. This meant that Sarai and Abram faced famine as well when they arrived. What were they to do? Trust in self-rule or Godâ€™s rule? God had placed them on the road, and they would learn that God would preserve them on the road. They would learn to follow, not lead.
Fearing for his life, due to the famine in the land, Abram decided to take an independent journey, traveling from the land of Godâ€™s choosing down to Egypt and right out of Godâ€™s perfect will. Then, fearing that the pharaoh might kill him and seize Sarai for his harem, Abram stepped further out of Godâ€™s will and hatched his own plan.
Abram said to Sarai,
â€œI know what a beautiful woman you are. When the Egyptians see you, they will say, â€˜This is his wife.â€™ Then they will kill me but will let you live. Say you are my sister, so that I will be treated well for your sake and my life will be spared because of youâ€ Genesis 12:11â€“13)
The choice Sarai faced didnâ€™t appear to be a grace-laden path at all. Instead, it appeared to be a dead end, where she would lose her chastity, her honor, and her promise for a happy and fulfilled life. She found herself at a crossroads of two kingdoms: not Egyptâ€™s or her husbandâ€™s, but self-rule or Godâ€™s rule. Certainly, self-rule seemed reasonable, because Sarai thought she would lose everything. Assertiveness, as we will see later, wasnâ€™t something she lacked. Yet God promised her what self-rule could never give her: a child.
So Sarai trusted God, yielding to her husband and obeying his wishes. This placed her right in the gold-adorned court of Pharaoh, Egyptâ€™s ruler. The Egyptian courts at this time were lavish in golden dÃ©cor. The Egyptian goldsmiths were experts at combining different colors of gold in their patterns. Adding iron gave gold a purple hue, copper made it red, and silver made the gold pale yellow.
Draped in an array of physical gold as part of the kingâ€™s harem, Sarai remained obedient to God. Although she was physically trapped in Egypt, she had not ventured spiritually from the court of the King of Kings. God rescued this royal child and, consequently, her husband and their entire entourage, sending â€œgreat plaguesâ€ on Pharaoh and his household. This all happened before Egyptâ€™s king could violate her in any way. Abram, her husband, was shamed for his lack of faith in attempting to sustain his life apart from obedience to God.
With Saraiâ€™s spiritual grasp stretched by exercising her faith, she possessed more grace/gold than when she arrived; she left Egypt as a wealthy woman spiritually as well as materially. Pharaoh treated Abram well for Saraiâ€™s sake, and Abram acquired sheep, cattle, donkeys, camels, and servants.
The Golden Path of Grace
Sarai chose the path of grace. This golden road leads away from trusting in self-rule toward complete reliance on God. As Christâ€™s followers, we all face this choice. Will we place ourselves or Jesus Christ on the throne of our lives? If we choose to let Jesus reign, God promises that we will experience the richness of his grace in our present life and in eternity. The apostle Paul eloquently described this great gift of grace:
â€œFor we are Godâ€™s [own] handiwork (His workmanship), recreated in Christ Jesus, [born anew] that we may do those good works which God predestined (planned beforehand) for us [taking paths which He prepared ahead of time], that we should walk in them [living the good life which He prearranged and made ready for us to live]â€ (Ephesians 2:10 amp)
Did you catch that? God has prepared paths for us, and we should walk in them! Yet we so often stumble on the path, failing to live the abundant life God has for us. Paul addressed the reason for our stumbling:
â€œWhat then shall we say? That the Gentiles, who did not pursue righteousness, have obtained it, a righteousness that is by faith; but Israel, who pursued a law of righteousness, has not attained it. Why not? Because they pursued it not by faith but as if it were by works. They stumbled over the â€˜stumbling stone.â€™ As it is written: â€˜See, I lay in Zion a stone that causes men to stumble and a rock that makes them fall, and the one who trusts in him will never be put to shameâ€™â€ (Romans 9:30â€“33)
How interesting that Paul described Jesus as a stumbling stone. Think about that. You donâ€™t stumble over a mountain or even a huge boulder. You stumble over a nugget thatâ€™s right under your nose, because you didnâ€™t see it. Thatâ€™s the way it is with Godâ€™s grace. His grace is right under our noses, there to meet our every need throughout each day. But instead of realizing it, and instead of kneeling down and receiving it, we stumble along in unbelief.
Walking the golden path of grace isnâ€™t a scurry through the mall or a race measured by speed. Itâ€™s a deliberate, intentional climb up the jagged face of a mountain with stones mixed in with hard dirt.
When we think about the consequences of stumbling while climbing a mountain compared to stumbling on a flat terrain, we understand why the psalmist declared,
â€œYour word is a lamp to my feet and a light for my pathâ€ (Psalm 119:105)
A light on a dark and dangerous mountain, pointing out nuggets that when overlooked would become stumbling stones, would be the difference between a steady assent and a bloody heap of broken bones.
In the same way, as we travel up the golden path of grace, Godâ€™s written Word is the light that points to who Christ is and the grace we can receive. When we see and receive nuggets of truth of who he is on our individual, prearranged path and trust him completely, we are never put to shame.
â€œI want those already wise to become the wiser and become leaders by exploring the depths of meaning in these nuggets of truthâ€ (Proverbs 1:5â€“6 lb)
Possessing his spiritual richness and abundance sounds better than a bloody heap of broken bones!
â€”â€”â€”â€”â€”â€”â€” A Prayer of Grace â€”â€”â€”â€”â€”â€”â€”
Lord God, we acknowledge we exist only because of your grace toward us. You are our Creator, and we praise you for our very existence, our planet, and all that spans beyond our universe. We acknowledge the rarity and beauty of your grace given to us in Jesus Christ, and we know that no one can come to you apart from him.
Father, we acknowledge that you are always working in and around us, pouring out your grace as you re-create us in Christ Jesus to do the very works of grace you have preplanned for us. We acknowledge that two roads exist in life. One we walk by our natural resources that lead to destruction. The other we walk intentionally as a spiritual road of grace that leads to life. Thank you for providing this golden road of grace and the gate, Jesus Christ, by which we gain access.
Help us, Lord, to slow our pace, to take our steps cautiously, so as to live the abundant life you have prearranged and made ready. Amen.
â€”â€”â€”â€”â€”â€”â€” Questions for Reflection â€”â€”â€”â€”â€”â€”â€”
â€¢ Reflect on a time when you or your family was lost. How did it make you feel?
â€¢ What were some of the reasons you lost your way?
â€¢ If walking the golden path of grace isnâ€™t a scurry through the mall or a race measured by speed, how conducive is your lifestyle to carefully walking the golden road of grace? Is your goal to keep pace with grace or pace with the world?
â€¢ Consider a time when you have stumbled in unbelief in difficult circumstances. How did God show you he was present and there for you?
1. Arthur W. Pink, The Doctrine of Sanctification (Swengel, PA: Bible Truth Depot, 1955), 200.
2. Not her real name.
3. Richard B. Lyttle, The Golden Path (New York: Atheneum Books, 1983), 15.
4. Philo Judaeus, The Works of Philo (Oak Harbor, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc., 1995), CD-ROM.
5. Lyttle, Path, p. 21.
6. Jerry Bridges, Transforming Grace (Colorado Springs, CO: NavPress, 1991), 17.
7. Oswald Chambers, My Utmost for His Highest (New York: Dodd, Mead & Co., 1935), 73.
8. Lyttle, Path, p. 10.
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