Only by God’s Grace

Based on:  Ephesians 2:8-9

“For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast.”

If you ever live or travel in the southern part of the United States – I’m talking about Louisiana and Mississippi – you just might hear the word “lagniappe”.  It is a Cajun word and it means “a little something extra.”  If you order French fries at Burger King and an onion ring happens to find itself mixed in with your fries, that’s lagniappe.  If you ask your kid to cut your grass and he does the edging too, that’s lagniappe.  If you put money in a vending machine for your favorite candy bar and two come out – that is certainly lagniappe.  You get the idea – it is a bonus you didn’t expect.  

Now take the idea of lagniappe to the extreme and you get “grace”.  If you, in anger, told your neighbor all the hateful things you have been thinking about him and he then invites you over and offers to grill out for you, that is grace.  When someone willingly takes back an unfaithful spouse, that’s grace.  When we ignore God or set him aside for awhile or follow our own desires instead of God’s and God comes to us and tells us he forgives us, that is certainly grace.  Grace is God’s love for us and it is something we neither deserve nor earn.

Throughout his life God gave him things to enjoy and he responded.  God gave him material blessings and he took care of them.  In particular, he took care of the farm machinery and his cars so that they were meticulously clean and in working order.  God gave him friends and neighbors to visit with.  And he would visit with them – on the line fence when perhaps there was other work to be done, or as a stop along the way on a Sunday afternoon drive to nowhere in particular.  God also gave him a family that loves him. From eating out with his family to praising one of them for finding the part that fell off the tractor, He took care of his family.  He loved his family and especially loved his grandchildren.

After saying all of that we must also mention the area of his life where God’s Grace is most clearly seen.  As I got to know him it became clear that for most of his adult life his church attendance and the opportunities to hear about his Savior were not the priority in his life that they should have been.  This is not what God desires for his children.  In the book of Hebrews God tells us directly, “Let us not give up meeting together.”  The Apostle Paul also describes all believers as a body and Jesus Christ as the head of that body.  You can not claim to have Jesus Christ as your head and ignore the rest of the body.  No, God wants us to come together so that our faith grows in God’s Word.  As I talked to him this past May he understood that this relationship with God and other Christians was missing.

That’s where we see God’s Grace in his life – that God continued to bring his promise of forgiveness to him.  His family told him over and over again these past few months that Jesus Christ suffered the punishment for all of his sins.  I also had the privilege of sharing that message with him.  So even as the cancer was growing in his body, faith was also growing as he heard about God’s Grace.

That is the nature of Grace.  No matter how much we ignore God, no matter how much we offend God with the things we think, say, or do, God says, “Jesus Christ suffered the punishment for those sins and now you are forgiven and heaven is yours.”  That is what Paul was talking about in that passage I read.  It was all done by God, there is nothing left for you to do to get into heaven – even the faith that you have is a gift of God.  That is grace.  As God says,

“For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast.”

Amen.

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