grace

Is Grace Really Enough?

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by Linda Rex

Have you ever wondered why God doesn’t fix things? Why doesn’t he fix this broken world? If God is such a great, awesome Being, why doesn’t he fix everything when we ask him to?

Specifically, why does God allow us to keep stumbling over and over again in the same way when we continually are asking him to help us to change and be different? Are people who are chronic sinners covered by grace or are they somehow outside the limits of grace, in some place of condemnation, headed straight for hell?

Do you ever think about questions like this? These are the tough questions of life. And there are no easy answers. It is questions like these that caused Martin Luther to walk away from Catholicism and to tack his objections on a church door. And he had good reasons for his objections. When is grace not enough? Is there a limit to grace? Is grace an umbrella under which only a few can stand and the rest (those “heathens”) are left outside?

Salvation is, as Paul wrote, not something earned, but “by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God” (Eph 2:8). Every good and perfect gift, including grace, comes down from God and he does not change his mind.

He cannot change his mind about grace because he has committed himself unreservedly and completely to humanity in Jesus Christ. He has united his Godhead with our humanity in the person of Jesus Christ.

There is no limit to grace. God didn’t just commit part of himself to us—he committed all of himself to us by uniting himself with us in our human flesh. There is no limit to God’s grace because God didn’t take up just part of humanity in Jesus Christ, but all of humanity. As the church fathers said, what is not assumed is not healed. God’s grace is unlimited.

But what about us? Is it all up to us to receive God’s grace? What if we reject it? What if we turn away from it? What if we, even knowing the consequences, continually turn away from God’s grace or abuse it? And what if we mess up after we have put our faith in Christ? What if our best efforts at “being good” fail?

Well, this is a topic worth wrestling with. If indeed, all of humanity was taken up in Jesus in his life, death and resurrection, then he stood in our place when he obeyed John the Baptist’s call to repent and be baptized. He certainly didn’t do it on his own account—he never sinned because he was God in human flesh. He did it in our place, making the choices we should have made and should make day by day and don’t. Jesus lived the life we ought to live in relationship with God and others. He, through his life, suffering, and death, and resurrection, was humanity’s perfect response to the Father, in our place, in our stead.

Whether or not we receive and embrace the grace offered by God is bound up in Christ’s perfect response to the Father on our behalf. So what is left for us to do? All God asks is that we participate in Christ’s life, death and resurrection. This is why Christ is central to everything in our relationship with God and others. We participate in his “Yes” to God in the face of our human “No.”

The scripture says sinners will not be in the kingdom of God. For example, the apostle Paul writes that people who practice “immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, disputes, dissensions, factions, envying, drunkenness, carousing,… will not inherit the kingdom of God.” Since we as Christians have all been guilty of these things at some point just like every other human being on earth, we all stand in the same place—in need of grace. This is why Jesus stands in our place even today as our “high priest” interceding on our behalf with the Father. This is why in Romans 8:1 we read that there is no condemnation to those who are in Christ.

When we realize this and embrace the gift Jesus has given us—himself in our place—we begin to experience an inner transformation. The Holy Spirit, God’s gift to us of himself to us, within us, begins to change the way we think, feel and believe.

But it does not happen all at once. And indeed, there are things that we will wrestle with throughout our life, whether physical, spiritual, mental or emotional, that God will not immediately fix or remove. Whatever the apostle Paul’s thorn in the flesh was, God didn’t fix it. Instead he used it to keep Paul dependent upon his grace. It is in our humanness and weakness that God’s power works most effectively. We always and ever participate in Christ. Our mantra must be, “not I, but Christ.”

When someone willfully sins over and over, and turns away from God’s grace—God’s grace doesn’t go away for them. It is still there. They can still participate in Jesus’ perfect response to the Father. But if in the presence of that perfect love they live in rejection of it, they will be miserable. They will suffer all the consequences of rejecting the gift God has given them by giving them himself. Because they are denying their true humanity—they are denying and rejecting themselves. They reap the consequences of that inner split. Question is—when they stand in glory and face the One, Jesus Christ, who is both the Judge and the Judged—will they be found to be in him? And that is another question worth wrestling with.

Lord, thank you for your perfect gift of grace. Thank you for the infinite measure of grace you have given us in Jesus Christ. Please grant to each of us repentance—a change of mind and heart—that will enable us to fully receive and be transformed by your gift to us of yourself. Thank you that even though we are imperfect, you have perfected us in Christ. Thank you that even though we are weak, in Christ we are strong. Thank you that even while we were yet sinners, Christ, you died for us. You are our only hope, Lord Jesus. We trust completely in you. Amen.

“Because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, for this reason, to keep me from exalting myself, there was given me a thorn in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to torment me—to keep me from exalting myself! Concerning this I implored the Lord three times that it might leave me. And He has said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.” Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me.'” 2 Cor. 12:7–9

The Foolish Wisdom of Christmas

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by Linda Rex

One of the things I can’t help but reflect on as I go through the Christmas season is how at one point in my life I totally misunderstood the celebration of Christmas. It did not make sense to me why everyone made such a big deal about a baby being born and laid in a manger. Sure, he was the Lord of all, but why worship him as a baby? He was human after all.

I believe a lot of people go through the holidays and do not have any foundation for the celebration of them. This, obviously, may be why Thanksgiving has lost its luster, and Christmas has become a major marketing tool rather than the celebration it was meant to be. We can celebrate the solstice if we wish, we can light candles for Hanukkah if we wish, and observe whatever festival we wish. But there is no reason to celebrate Christmas if we remove Christ from it. Why?

The celebration of the “Christ mass” (Christmas) was set at the same time as an old pagan holiday, because of the Christian tradition of replacing the pagan with Christ. Replacing the pagan with Christ is fundamental to the whole Christmas story and the Christ child.

In the Christian Scriptures the apostle Paul talks about the foolishness of God that is in reality wiser than any human wisdom. This wisdom, or foolishness, however you wish to look at it, is found in the Person of Jesus Christ. For in him, God has made possible and real the perfection, redemption, and restoration of each and every one of us. For Christ has taken our place: he stands in for us, being our goodness, holiness and purity, in our place. (Gal. 2:20) It is Christ who makes us new creatures.

He did this, as the apostle John wrote, by coming as the Word of God, God’s one and unique Son, and taking on our human flesh. (Jn. 1:14; 3:16) The baby in the manger we read about in the Christmas story was God and yet was at the same time fully human. It seems foolish that God would put himself at risk in this way—but in order to bring us as humans in with the union and communion of the Father, Son and Spirit, he sent his only Son to live in human flesh—to go through all the human experiences we go through, living in the Spirit as we are called to do, dying a horrific death in our place—so that one day we could dwell with God.

God risked it all for us—even the eternal fellowship of Father, Son and Spirit—the love that God lives in. As Jesus hung on the cross and cried out in pain, feeling the separation caused by the evil we as humans embrace, all of that oneness and love hung in the balance. All of us and our relationship with God hung in the balance at that moment—as God said ‘No!’ to evil and ‘Yes!’ to us being with him forever. It is in Christ’s life, death and resurrection that we have hope. For Jesus did in our place what none of us could do. His perfect response to the Father on our behalf in the Spirit made possible a future that otherwise could never have happened.

So the foolishness of a little baby in a manger which we celebrate at Christmas actually shows God’s tremendous and loving wisdom. Reject it, ridicule it, mock it if we wish. But it is still true. It is still there for us. The perfect gift, from a perfect God—a life filled with love in his presence forever. It is through the miracle of Christmas and the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, who once was a baby in a manger, that we enter into a new day—the Lord’s Day—and a new life in fellowship with God forever.

May you find comfort, peace and healing as you believe and receive God’s perfect ‘foolish’ gift of Jesus Christ, his Son, to stand in your place. And may God bless you with his hope, peace, joy and love throughout this New Year!

Thank you so much, Lord, that you are so much wiser than we are, and that you were willing to be ‘foolish’ so that we can participate in your holy fellowship of love and eternal life. Thank you for giving us a place at your table. We celebrate you and thank you for your precious gift. Bless us throughout this New Year with a deeper appreciation for all you have given and do give, as you pour out on us every heavenly blessing in Christ Jesus, in whose name we pray. Amen.

“But by His doing you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, and righteousness and sanctification, and redemption, so that, just as it is written, ‘let him who boasts, boast in the Lord.’” 1 Cor. 1:30-31 (NASB)

The Best Gift Ever

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By Linda Rex

As Moses and his people Israel stood on the shores of the Jordan River with the 40 years of wandering in the wilderness behind them and the Promised Land before them, Moses put Israel’s story down on paper.

But this wasn’t just Israel’s story. This was God’s story. And it began in Genesis with the creation of all things. Moses made it clear that God made all things out of nothing–a creaturely universe of much different material than the God-nature we know as the Father, Word and Spirit or God the Creator. And after six days of creative work, God rested. It was in this day of rest that God called us as humans into covenant relationship with himself. It was God’s joy to walk and talk with man and woman in the garden in a personal relationship of outgoing concern, love and service that was a reflection of the inner life and love of God.

But we as humans have incessantly refused to believe that God loves us and wants what is best for us. God called his people Israel into relationship with himself to rest in him so that one day all people would rest in him, but too often they turned the 7th-day reminder of that rest, the Sabbath, into a work to earn his love. They did not hear the words of Moses as he spoke of the Coming One who would save his people from their rebellion, sin and self-isolation.

But God continued to love and serve his people and to call them back into the love relationship he created them for in spite of their rejection of him. As all of humanity kept their continuous efforts in the darkness to earn the love they could not earn, the evening of God’s Sabbath rest moved towards morning.

In the midst of that deep starry night came the birth of a child–a birth so tremendous and earth-shaking that the angels lit up the night sky with glorious anthems of praise to God. Through the Holy Spirit, God as the Word entered human flesh–not as some kingly ruler but as a small child of humble means.

The shepherds bore witness to this angelic event and to the birth of the Messiah. Now the Sabbath had truly dawned in the birth of the Messiah! Here in the person of Jesus, all the hopes and dreams of all mankind are found, for God has come to be with us in a real way. God in human flesh–bringing to us a new day–through his life, death and resurrection. Through the Spirit we each participate in Christ in a real personal relationship with God. We can truly rest in him. He has become our Sabbath rest—we can truly have an intimate relationship with God in Christ through the Spirit.

A new day dawned in our Savior when he rose from the grave after his crucifixion. In the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, every human being has entered a new day—the Lord’s Day. In this day, we all are offered the gift of new life in Christ. The old has gone and the new has come. We are included in his life, death and resurrection because he became human like us, bore all our human weaknesses and sins and failures, our self-isolation and rebellion, and purified it with his divine presence, with his life, death and resurrection.

This gift is for every man, woman and child. God is calling each and everyone to rest in Christ. Come, walk in the garden daily with the Lord of your life. Have an eternal relationship of love and grace with the One who knows you intimately and loves you completely. You are forgiven. You are loved. You are his. Receive this Christmas gift with open arms and open hearts. It is yours, forever.

May God pour over you all his blessings in Christ Jesus this Christmas and throughout the New Year!

Dear God, thank you for the great love you showered upon us through the birth, the life, death and resurrection of the Word, Jesus Christ. What a gift you have given! We receive it by your Spirit in deep gratitude, and we praise you for it! Emmanuel—God with us! Thank you so much! Amen.

“She will bear a Son; and you shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins.” Now all this took place to fulfill what was spoken by the Lord through the prophet: Behold, the virgin shall be with child and shall bear a son, and they shall call his name Immanuel,” which translated means, “God with us.” Matthew 1:21-23

Canine Lessons on Living in Fellowship

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by Linda Rex

I hate it when the dog is right and I’m wrong.

This afternoon she sat on the floor next to me, periodically bumping my elbow with her nose. With every bump the mouse jerked and I had to reorient the cursor on the screen. I was frantically trying to finish the last few touches on a PowerPoint presentation for Sunday and didn’t want to quit right yet. And she wasn’t exactly being very helpful.

Bump. “Just a minute. I’m coming.” I gave her a pat on the head and told her what a good dog she was. Bump, bump.

She’s really a patient pooch for the most part. This meant it was important that I get done and let her out the door. “All right! … I’m sorry—I’m going as fast as I can!” Bump.

Silly dog. I realized that indeed the project could wait a few minutes while I tended to the needs of someone other than myself. So I stopped where I was, put my shoes and jacket on, and took her out. As I was waiting for her outside, I heard myself urging her to hurry up, hurry up, hurry up!

And then I started laughing. Because if I didn’t know any better, I’d have to say that she was being pokey on purpose just to show me! She had to wait on me, so why shouldn’t I have to wait on her? As she curled up in the grass in the sunshine for a moment, I just had to laugh.

It’s funny how the simplest things in life are opportunities for God to teach us how to live in fellowship and communion with one another. Something as simple as the Golden Rule and treating others the way we would like to be treated can be easily swept aside when we lose our focus on what really matters—our relationships with God and each other.

Thankfully, if we pay attention, God can draw us right back into holy fellowship with himself and others. All we need to do is to agree with him that we have momentarily lost our way and thank him for his gracious forgiveness and for helping us get reoriented once again. And, if you are blessed like I am, we can also thank him for the pooches he sends our way to remind us of what really matters.

Lord, thank you for the lessons you send us each day, even through the animals and nature that we share our life in you with. Give us open and alert minds and hearts so we can hear and see what you wish to say to us, and grant us the hearts to always treat others as we wish to be treated. In your name, Jesus, we pray. Amen.

“Treat others the same way you want them to treat you.”
Luke 6:31

“End of the World” Addiction

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by Linda Rex

A Facebook friend of mine posted a story the other day about a new opiate drug that started in Russia and is making its way into America. It was difficult for me to read the story about the drug krokodil (pronounced like crocodile) or desomorphine because the users of this highly addictive heroin-like drug will use it even though the use of it may cost them the loss of parts of their body. It made me physically ill just to think of it. How tragic that we seek so hard to end our pain or escape our world that we are willing to self-destruct in order to do it!

The truth is that users of krokodil are not much different than us abusers of food, especially those of us who are so addicted to sweets that we are willing to risk similar consequences in an effort to feel good for a few moments. We are all guilty of this escapism in one form or another. Our method may vary: watching a game or video on TV, playing video games endlessly or reading another fairy-tale sex-laden romance novel.

We can see our desire for a savior to come and rescue us from our insanity in many of the plotlines of the stories we watch and read. Superheroes such as Superman, Spiderman or Batman are popular. Legendary heroes, superstars and sports giants all capture our imagination. The key is that they are human and down-to-earth like us, but they are more than us—they achieve what we only dream of.

Wanting the world to end, or the carousel to stop so we can get off, is not unique to us in our generation, however old we may be. It’s the human condition, really.

Christians down through the ages have had a similar focus. This is the “end of the world” mentality that grows especially intense whenever there are calamities ahead or Christians are facing intense persecution. Maybe now Jesus will come, they think, and those who are addicted to prophecy begin to reinterpret the Bible to fit the new hope of deliverance.

Indeed, Christian believers hold fast to the hope of the return of Christ in glory to make all things right in the end. He will one day bring about justice in every way. But if we focus solely on this as a means to escape whatever it is we are going through at the moment, we are missing a golden opportunity to participate in God’s work in this world today in a real and personal way, helping to ease the pain and suffering of those around us and making this world a less painful place in which to live.

Jesus’ disciples were constantly expecting him to bring about an overthrow of the Roman government and to restore the Jewish people to their “rightful” place. Jesus worked throughout his ministry to get them to understand that he came to establish an entirely different kingdom, the kingdom of God. This was not a kingdom that was apparent in a physical way, but was a kingdom of the heart and soul. This was a kingdom of the spirit that involved trusting in him as Savior and Lord, knowing that he was the Son of God in human flesh, and believing that through him we all are adopted by God as his own sons and daughters. What Jesus was looking for was faith.

What if all the energy we put into escaping those things that are our rulers today was put into trusting Jesus as Lord and Savior and participating in his mission to extend his kingdom into all the world so that others could be free as well from their slavery to the addictions and compulsions that control them? What if we had such an intimate relationship with the One who is willing to walk with us through every problem that we were in tune with his Spirit and were walking in his Word day by day, sharing it boldly with those around us? What if our Christianity were more than just a profession or an ideology and was instead a transformed way of being, thinking and living that involved a daily encounter with the living Lord and embracing each and everyone around us in God’s love?

With such a faith, we would embrace the pain and suffering we encounter and by God’s grace begin to be transformed ourselves and then begin to positively influence the world around us. We would bring Jesus’ healing touch into places that hunger for freedom from oppression. But we would not do this under our own power or in an effort to establish God’s kingdom on earth in a physical way. It would solely be a work of the Spirit who lives within us. He would bring about a changed world as we put our faith in the Lord Jesus who gave us the Spirit as the gift of his Presence in the world today. It is Christ’s faith, not our faith, that is world-changing and life-transforming.

God loves you and me and each person who has ever lived. He has demonstrated this love by sending us the savior we long for—one who is fully human and understands our frailty and faultiness without being faulty himself, and yet is transcendently divine—so beyond us that with him everything is possible. And he has sent his very Presence in the Holy Spirit to dwell in the hearts of those who believe. Will you let him rescue you from every oppressor and bring you into his heavenly kingdom of light?

Lord God, thank you for sending us a Rescuer in Jesus Christ and a present Comfort and Help in the Holy Spirit. We trust you to save us and to transform us by your grace into all you mean for us to be. Grant us the faith to believe and to trust fully in you for your salvation in every way. In Jesus’ name, amen.

“And will not God bring about justice for his chosen ones, who cry out to him day and night? Will he keep putting them off? I tell you, he will see that they get justice, and quickly. However, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on the earth?” Luke 18:7-8

When Words Aren’t Enough

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by Linda Rex

I was thinking about the lost art of Bible reading. The Bible used to be the main textbook in the classroom. Many parents and teachers used the Bible to teach their children to read. Although I don’t really see the benefit of teaching a child to read using, “and Attai begat Nathan, and Nathan begat Zabad, and Zabad begat Ephlal, and Ephlal begat Obed,…” (1 Chr. 2:36-37 YLT) when most adults including myself can’t even pronounce the names correctly, there is benefit in the Bible being used so frequently. The words and content were more readily available to the average person, so that many learned a basic form of morality and Christian basis for living as part of their daily life.

The great Protestant tradition of each person being able to read and interpret the Bible as the Spirit leads has allowed for a great variety in translations and religions within the realm of Christianity. But, naturally, there is some danger in this. When a person believes that they have received a specific revelation out of scripture and they begin to spread it around as though it is the truth (when really it is a misinterpretation of Scripture) then this is a problem. When the Scriptures are used to lead people away from the central truth of Scripture—Jesus Christ and salvation through him alone—this is a serious situation indeed.

In Jesus’ confrontation with the Pharisees and scribes, who were taking him to task for associating with and caring for the sinners and outcasts of society, he brought up the fact that even though the Israelite nation had had the word of God for centuries, they really never did hear it. Or when they did hear it, it did not transform their lives. It pointed them to Jesus Christ, who would be the fulfillment of the scriptures and bring salvation for all people, but they didn’t recognize him when he came.

The truth is that a person can have the Bible and even read it and memorize it, but without a heart of faith, a heart that is humble and surrendered to the Father, that trusts in the Son of God, Jesus Christ, and is open to the work and will of the Holy Spirit, the Bible will make no difference in their life. Until God, by his Spirit, writes the law of love on a person’s heart and mind, the words cannot and will not be understood correctly, or believed and obeyed as God intended.

Surely, a person can have an outstanding “form of godliness.” We had a form of godliness for many years as members of the former Worldwide Church of God. We had seventh day Sabbath-keeping, holy day keeping, tithing (3 of them even) and clean foods eating godliness. We had the “we are the nation of Israel” holiness that excluded people of other races and ethnicities through our Anglo/British Israelism. And we brought the Holy Spirit along as the power we needed—always asking God for more of it because we never could be quite good enough. We definitely stood out in the society as being “separate.”

It was a “feel good” religion because all of us felt how good we were compared to everyone else because we were doing what was right while everyone else was obeying pagan holidays and disobeying God. The truth was that this “form of godliness” was a slavery and we didn’t really feel that good after all, because in our hearts we knew we never could be good enough. We were constantly striving to “overcome” so we could make it into God’s kingdom. We lived daily with that nagging feeling of guilt and shame that comes when we are striving to do relationship with God in our own strength. We were never sure that God really did love us, individually, fully, unconditionally.

Being immersed in this religion since the day I took my first breath and having seen and heard the founders, movers and shakers of this religion since the time I could first remember, I, much like the apostle Paul in his day, feel a deep yearning for the freedom of all those who are still bound by these ways of thinking and believing. How I long to help others see that Jesus Christ, who is/was God in human flesh, brought together all of Israel and all other people together in himself, in his person! He joined us forever in himself so that now he is the law, the law written on our hearts by the Holy Spirit. The testimony of the Scriptures points to Jesus Christ as the center—the old covenant and new covenant have him at the core. It is all about him—he is our Sabbath rest, he is our holy day, he is our clean food as the Bread and the Wine, he is our baptism, he is our tithe—the One set apart for holy use!

Was it not enough that he lived in our place, died for us and rose from the dead? Must we continually add things to this in order to feel good enough? If we need guidelines for living, then we need to look to him and look to those he taught when he came. They provide plenty of “rules for living” if we need them—but the apostles all began at a central place, faith in Jesus Christ and in our union with God in him through the Holy Spirit. This is the beginning of our faith and from there we build. This means we have a unified basis for belief and faith.

Jesus warned of the dangers of attributing the work of the Spirit to Satan. This is what our church did. We taught that the early church was deceived and left the faith. This is a denial of the Spirit and his work and I shudder to think that we disrespected him by professing this. May God forgive us! The real truth is that as the Spirit led the early church into a new and deeper understanding of the nature of God that had been revealed to them by Jesus Christ, they included this in the creeds and in their worship. Rejected by the Sabbath-keeping Jews, they began to center their life around Jesus Christ, with the Christian calendar focused on his birth, life, death, resurrection and ascension. This was not a twisted deception, but a leading of the Holy Spirit and a handing down faithfully of the teachings of Jesus Christ and the apostles. It was Spirit-led and Spirit-filled.

Moses and the Prophets spoke of these days, when the knowledge of God would fill the earth like waters cover the seas, when the worship of God would be found in all nations. Moses and the Prophets pointed us to the One who would come and transform the world by transforming human hearts. When God goes to work in someone’s life and heart through the Spirit and Christ becomes the foundation of their faith, they become a new person. There is a joy and light in their eyes that comes from them knowing to their core that they are loved and cherished by God. I pray that that light will never be extinguished by the lie that somehow being loved and forgiven, being in Christ, is not enough—that they have to add something to this, that they have to add all the things Christ did in their place. May God grant us all the grace to truly trust in Christ and to trust in him alone!

Holy Father, it breaks my heart that so many cannot see the wonder of what you have done for all of us in Jesus Christ. It makes me sad that we are so easily deceived by words, words that twist and corrupt the simple message of the gospel, of faith in Christ. Holy Spirit, forgive us for grieving you, for attributing your gracious work for humankind to the devil. I’m so sorry! Lord Jesus, please come in your Spirit and transform hearts. Forgive and bring healing, liberation, hope, regeneration, God, please. Jesus, in your name, for your sake, I pray. Amen.

“But he said to him, ‘If they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets, they will not be persuaded even if someone rises from the dead.’ ” Luke 16:31 (NASB)

Balancing the Books

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by Linda Rex

I remember back to my early twenties when I went to a bookkeeping class and learned how to keep track of the debits and credits in an accounting system. As part of the final exam for the class I had to balance the books for a pretend business and complete all the year-end financial statements.

This was a challenge for me. I will have to say that this type of accounting is something I can do, but not something I am good at. It was a struggle to get every debit and credit to balance, but I finally got it to balance, after hours and hours of work. At some point I had inverted two numbers and it took me a long time to find my mistake—time I didn’t have, due to the deadline set before me.

I have come to have a deep respect for those number-jugglers among us who are able to handle debits and credits with finesse and ease, getting them to do their bidding by balancing the books at the end of the month and the end of the year. How they do this without altering or cooking the books is amazing, and as I said, it is a profession worthy of respect.

Jesus told a story about a man who wasn’t quite so up front in how he handled his boss’s books. In fact, this manager had to give an accounting to his boss for his mismanagement of his master’s accounts. His mishandling of the funds meant he was facing the loss of his job. So he did something totally off the wall—he went to each person who owed his boss money and cancelled part of their debt. His motive? To ensure he had friends somewhere when all was said and done. And, amazingly enough, his boss commended him for his shrewdness.

What was so shrewd about what the manager did? What was shrewd was the manager used the one method by which reconciliation can be done honestly, apart from the debits and credits side of the ledger. The only other way in which reconciliation of the books can be done if the debits and credits don’t align, is through the forgiving of the debt. Grace is the only way in which a debt can be removed from the books when it is not paid in full.

Jesus pointed out to his disciples that the true wealth, that of forgiveness or grace, always supersedes the bookkeeping of lawkeepers. If one is focused on the keeping of the law, since it must be kept perfectly, a person always ends up in debt, with no way to ensure payment in full.

When trust is put instead in the goodness and compassion of the One who is the Law, Who kept the law faithfully and fully for us, in our place, we live without debt, for the debt is always and ever, paid in full. With our debt paid in full, we live gratefully and joyfully from a heart filled with God’s love and Christ’s obedience to the Father by the Spirit. We live debt-free. And this is true wealth indeed.

Thank you, dear Father, for paying all debts in full in your Son Jesus, so we might live freely before you, unhindered and unburdened. We offer ourselves fully to you in gratitude and thankfulness that in Christ by the Spirit, we may live a debt-free life that glorifies and serves you, for your glory and praise, in Jesus’ name. Amen.

“‘And he called him and said to him, “What is this I hear about you? Give an accounting of your management, for you can no longer be manager.”’” Luke 16:2 (NASB)