The Gravity of God’s Grace.
“Son of man, describe to the people of Israel the Temple I have shown you, so they will be ashamed of all their sins. Let them study its plan, and they will be ashamed of what they have done. Describe to them all the specifications of the Temple—including its entrances and exits—and everything else about it. Tell them about its decrees and laws. Write down all these specifications and decrees as they watch so they will be sure to remember and follow them.” – Ezekiel 43:10-11 NLT
As New Testament believers, we revel in the reality of God’s grace. We appreciate the fact that God has given us something incredible which we never could have earned on our own – eternal life and a restored relationship with Him. Yet, I sometimes think we take grace for granted. I love what Dallas Willard says: “We have a problem today in Evangelical circles. We’re not only saved by grace, we’re paralyzed by it.” We have allowed grace to become a one-dimensional concept that is tied solely to our salvation. We talk about the idea of being saved by grace. It is a priceless gift, unearned and undeserved. But the grace of God should have a long-lasting influence on our lives. There is a future element to grace that I must never lose sight of, because the reality is that I can no more earn my coming glorification than I could my salvation. A day is coming when I will be made complete and whole. I will like Christ, with no more sin nature and an ability to live righteously – completely and permanently. Future grace is a great motivator for present behavior. The future grace of God and the reality of my guaranteed place in His presence for eternity should have a tremendous impact on the way I live my life now.
The same was true for the people of God in Ezekiel’s day. God had given Ezekiel a glimpse of His future kingdom, complete with a newly constructed Temple, occupied by God Himself. God tells Ezekiel to remind the people, “this is the place of my throne and the place where I will rest my feet. I will live here forever among the people of Israel. They and their kings will not defile my holy name any longer by their adulterous worship of other gods or by honoring the relics of their kings who have died” (Ezekiel 43:7 NLT). God then instructs Ezekiel to describe to the people the details of the Temple he has just gotten a tour of. They were to study its plans and go over every specification. Why? Because this was a real place that was going to exist in real time in the future. It was a picture of the future grace of God as He promises to reestablish His presence among the people of Israel. In spite of all they had done to offend God over the years, He was going to extend them grace in the future, and the proof of it was this vision of the rebuilt Temple as given to Ezekiel.
When Dallas Willard says that sometimes we are paralyzed by grace, I think he means that we can easily allow the “grace alone” message to lull us into a sense of spiritual stupor or laziness. God does it all, so we have nothing to do. But grace is opposed to earning, not effort. The knowledge of God’s grace reminds me that I can do nothing to earn His favor. But awareness of His grace should cause me to make every effort to serve Him gratefully and joyfully. By hearing the detailed descriptions of the future Temple, the people of God should be shamed by their own unfaithfulness as opposed to God’s faithfulness. The reality that I have a place reserved for me in heaven should make me want to live my differently here on earth. During their lifetimes, the people of God had desecrated the Temple of God time and time again. And ultimately, God had it destroyed. Today there is no Temple in Jerusalem. In its place sits a mosque. But God has promised that the day is coming when the Temple will be rebuilt. Not because the people of God deserve it, but because God has promised it. It’s presence will be a proof of God’s grace. He will restore the people of Israel – in spite of themselves. That future reality should change their present behavior. And one day God is going complete His work of sanctification in our lives – glorifying us and transforming us into the likeness of His Son – completely and permanently. Awareness of that future grace should shame me when I consider my present behavior. He has done and has promised to do so much for me. How can I live in disobedience and sin when God has such an undeserved future reserved for me?
Father, thank You for future grace. I am grateful for the cross, but never let me lose sight of the reality of heaven. No matter how hard I try, I can’t make myself more holy. I can’t transform myself into the likeness of Christ by sheer effort. But You will one day finish what You have begun. You will glorify me, making me like Your Son. That future promise should have an impact on my present reality. Amen
Grow Pastor & Minister to Men