“Grace is the pleasure of God to magnify the worth of God by giving sinners the right and power to delight in God without obscuring the glory of God.” John Piper
By Margaret Ashmore, MBC Women’s Conference Speaker
In counseling, I am often asked “How To…” questions. How do I quit overeating, how do I forgive the wrongs in my past, how can I stop being so afraid, how do I stop obsessing over people and circumstances—and of course the list is as long as the maladies we experience in a world stricken with sin. When Elisabeth Elliot, author, speaker and missionary, was asked such questions she responded, “Do you want answers or orders?” There aren’t any “How To…” steps in the Bible. There is only one step, that of obedience.
Recently a very frazzled woman with the shadow of defeat obscuring any joy in her life asked, “How do I stop yelling at my children?” My answer was, “Stop yelling at your children” and to do so by obeying the wisdom of God’s command to “be slow to anger” and that “a soft answer will turn away wrath but harsh words stir up anger.” Then I asked her to consider that the Son of the Living God through the Holy Spirit was housed in her very spirit. That this same God spoke the world into existence, commanded the sun to stand still, directs the path of lightning bolts, commands swarms of locusts, walks on water, parts seas and can make a donkey talk—that this God raised a man three days in the grave to life. Then I asked her if she thought that was sufficient power to conquer her emotional outbursts. Her answer was a very resounding “yes” followed by a sincere desire for obedience. She was ready to change her focus from fixing her problems to the only One Who through grace has promised to set her free.
“Aim at heaven and you will get earth thrown in. Aim at earth and you get neither.” C.S. Lewis
Grace Is A Gift Of Power
We read in I Corinthians 15:10, “But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace toward me was not in vain. On the contrary, I worked harder than any of them, though it was not I, but the grace of God that is with me.” Paul saw “working” and “grace” as fusion, that his obedience to God was undergirded and propelled by divine power.
Mind you, even our submission to God is a product of grace, but in that moment when we step out in obedient faith, that grace becomes a dynamo! When Israel stepped into the swirling Red Sea, God’s power went into action and turned threatening waves into protective walls. Peter walked on the very thing that would have drowned him as he yielded to the voice of His Lord. After her release from Ravensbruck death camp and years later upon seeing one of the Nazi prison guards approach her at a church where she was speaking, Corrie ten Boom extended her hand. She recounted that in that act of obedience, heaven opened up and poured out the grace she needed to completely forgive this penitent man. She did the one physical thing she could do. God provided the life altering, enabling and power infusing grace.
We often say, “Lord, as soon as I feel like it, I’ll obey you.” God says, “You obey Me and the feelings will follow.” We say, “God, when everything makes sense, I’ll take that step of faith.” God says, “You take that step of faith and everything will make sense.”
Oswald Chambers puts it beautifully: “All God’s revelations are sealed to us until they are opened to us by obedience. Immediately you obey—a flash of light comes. Let God’s truth work in you by soaking in it. (Which of course tells us that our devotional life is the MEANS of grace!) Obey God in the thing He is at present showing you, and instantly the next thing is opened up. We say, ‘I suppose I shall understand these things some day.’ You can understand them now. The tiniest fragment of obedience, and heaven opens up and the profoundest truths of God are yours straight away.”
For every believer there is a banquet table laden with joy, power, Christ-like love, freedom, peace and contentment. But too many are languishing in the outer courts unwilling to go through the portal of obedience to partake of the feast. John Owen said that the real struggle in the Christian life is not doing, it is believing. True biblical counseling encourages the timid or fearful soul to believe the God Who loves them and to obey those commands which are meant to lead them to an abundant life (Psalm 1).
Finally, we obey God not to win His favor or love or blessing. All of that and more have been secured at Calvary. Our obedience is because we delight in Him. We delight in a Savior Who is a “friend of sinners” and Whose unflagging love is not based on our worthiness but upon His. We delight in this breathtakingly glorious God! And in this willing obedience born from true delight do we cross the threshold into the Banquet Hall of bountiful grace where all the desires of our heart are satisfied (Psalm 37:4).
Grace saved us from the penalty of sin. Grace continues to save us from the power of sin. And grace will lead us Home, forever saved from the presence of sin. Amazing.
Margaret is an author, counselor and speaker, who will lead the 2015 MBC Women’s Conference on March 6-7. Join us as she talks to us in-depth about the Sovereignty of God and His control of all things for our good and His glory knowing that whatever happens in our lives there is love and an eternal purpose behind it.