I once spent time talking with a man who considers himself a Christian. He also practices things that God plainly says is wicked and sinful. This man listened to what I had to share in a highly grace-charged, yet, frank and blunt way about God and His stand on his lifestyle.
Then I watched him decide to choose his sin over the Lord.
I am struggling to come up with a way to describe the near hopeless sensation that washed over me as I observed him choose his carnal desires over the obvious desire of the Lord for his life. Sadness is just on the outskirts of where I eventually found myself as I prayed for him and for insight as to what the Lord would have me do in regards to him.
In my ministry I see a phenomenon emerging: people who claim Jesus as their Lord yet hold to beliefs that the Lord finds repugnant and simultaneously claim to love the Lord. Their ability to do both at the same time seems to be waning. Their hunger to practice sin is too strong and their true identities are too compelling for them to cast down. A line is being drawn and the Lord seems to be causing it to emerge from within them.
In short, the Lord seems to be hastening His separating of sheep from goats. Actually, the die has been cast and the sheep and the goats are voluntarily moving to the sides of their respective masters. It is awesome and horrible to behold. People ARE showing themselves.
“Do you not know that to whom you present yourselves slaves to obey, you are that one's slaves whom you obey, whether of sin leading to death, or of obedience leading to righteousness?” (Romans 6:16)
Yesterday, in the Spirit, I saw a vision. I “saw” streams of grace flowing from the throne. Separate streams of varying volume. Effervescent. Thick, yet liquid - like thin streams of holy honey. The supply was endless and the flow was enthusiastic. It was evident that the Lord had more than enough to give and wanted to, and so, was giving it.
“Do not fear, little flock, for it is your Father's good pleasure to give you the kingdom.” (Luke 12:32)
The streams ended at people. Actually, they led to people and some received it; far too few received grace from the Lord – barely any did, really. Most people are lost and therefore the grace they receive is primitive grace, if you will: oxygen, gravity, human interaction – the bare minimum.
Some were basically channels through whom the streams flowed to others; in some cases there were chains of such people. These are the yielded ones, walking in the Spirit, loving one another. The Lord was obviously meeting their needs and they were content and were flourishing.
Most, though, were oblivious to the Lord's grace. Some stood adamantly against it. Some were simply ignorant. Most were non-believers and for them virtually none of the grace was received. Some were believers and in their case just a small amount of all the grace given to them was absorbed. For both these who were resistant to the Lord, pools of grace lay at their feet - slowly draining off into the ground and evaporating. Still, the supply was constant.
I asked the Lord, "How long will You waste Your grace?" He replied, "Nothing from Me is wasted. I have plenty to spare."
My understanding is that as far as God sees it, His grace is never wasted - even if we don’t receive it. While we might let it slip away from us and it is, therefore, wasted to us - we will ultimately know that the Lord was the Lord all along and He did provide. He is and will remain Jehovah Jireh, the Provider. (Genesis 22:14)
“...and my God shall supply all your need according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:19)
As I think about people (including myself at times) who squander God’s grace - I am grieved. God is calling to us and wants to gift us with all the grace and power we would ever need. He has for us everything we need to be so content that we would never have to waste our lives trying to provide for ourselves what He already has given.
He has far more for us as people than the transient thrill of blatantly mocking an All-powerful God. He has far more for us than the package deal of passing satisfaction and lasting disappointment that self reliance gives us. He has true life for us.
Grace is a gift. It's ours for the taking.
How long will a person have access to a stream of God’s grace? I am really not sure. While I would like to be able to say “forever” – I don’t believe that is so. As I prayed about it this week I found this passage while teaching:
“...you have forsaken Me and served other gods. Therefore I will deliver you no more. Go and cry out to the gods which you have chosen; let them deliver you in your time of distress.” (Judges 10:13-14)
So, it seems that there comes a time when the Lord will withdraw His blessings from a person (or people-group) who has purposed in his heart to never receive from God. In the case above the people repented but there are other places, in the Old Testament especially, where they do not and God obviously withdraws His graces.
Some might say that in the New Testament God deals with His people differently. I do not think Ananias and Sapphira (Acts 6) would agree. Apparently when it became evident that they would not repent of their presumption regarding the Holy Spirit, God withdrew their grace for breathing.
Romans 1:18-32 is a harsh passage of New Testament scripture. In it the Lord basically releases people to whatever it is they truly want – which is a horrible thing in this case.
“God gave them up” (Romans 1:24, 26) “God gave them over” (v28)
I believe that God loves us and I believe that He grieves over those who choose experiential and eternal spiritual death over abundant temporal and eternal life. I believe He loves us so much He is willing to grant us our desires, even if it means that we choose to resist His grace, peace, supply, etc. He gladly chooses to allow us true freedom while He suffers grief when we decide to choose things that hurt us and others.
“And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption.” (Ephesians 4:30)
He chooses to give us freedom and I believe this makes His joy all the more complete and delicious when we receive from Him and move in obedience.
“Now to Him who is able to keep you from stumbling, And to present you faultless Before the presence of His glory with exceeding joy, to God our Savior, Who alone is wise, Be glory and majesty, Dominion and power, Both now and forever. Amen.” (Jude 24-25)
Isn’t that interesting? When Jesus presents those of us who have lived yielded to Him, have received His grace and have been preserved and perfected by His grace – He will do so with “exceeding joy!”
I said earlier that I had a conversation with the Lord in which I asked Him, "How long will You waste Your grace?" He replied, "Nothing from Me is wasted. I have plenty to spare." Then I said that I also believe that there comes a place where He will withdraw His grace. Some might wonder, where is that place?
My first response is to say that if one spends his time trying to see where “too far” is, he would live a life of folly. If I approach Jesus from the standpoint of wanting to know how close to “too far” I can get, so as to enjoy sin while still expecting Him to pour out His blessings on me, I am being presumptuous.
That level of disesteem and disrespect toward Him can only cheat me of the benefits of being in relationship with the “God of all grace” (1 Peter 5:10).
Secondly, I believe God deals with us individually. Therefore, I believe that there is no heavenly chart somewhere that says, “if any individual gets thus far, no more grace for him.” Rather I believe it works more like this: God monitors our hearts and knows when we have made the decision to never stop resisting Him. At that point it is the person who stops the flow of His grace in our lives – not God. By not forcing Himself into the lives of those who refuse Him, God is honoring their wishes and IS actively loving them.
“This is a faithful saying: For if we died with Him, We shall also live with Him. If we endure, We shall also reign with Him. If we deny Him, He also will deny us.” (2 Timothy 2:11-12)
It is my belief that as we walk in relationship with others and see the struggles and triumphs they experience, we will experience the same grief and joy as does our God. We must give those with whom we walk the freedom to choose obedience or disobedience so that when they choose obedience they will know it was in freedom and not through compulsion. In this way, they will stand a greater chance of receiving more of the manifold grace that God has for them.
God has given us the gift of being able to watch His hand in our lives and the lives of those we are learning to love. Let’s never take that for granted. Let’s esteem it for what it is.
“As each one has received a gift, minister it to one another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God.” (1 Peter 4:10)