Do you love the Easter season and the fresh beginning that it brings? New life peeks from the ground as green shoots, and the first glimpses of color begin to bud out on the trees. Suddenly the black and white of winter changes to technicolor. I suppose it is fitting that eggs go hand in hand with Easter, as they symbolize new life. But, the true Easter story of God’s grace has nothing to do with bunnies or chocolate, or beautiful dresses for that matter.
Easter is the story of God’s grace to me, to you and mankind.
It is the unbelievable story of me never being good enough for God, and Him making a way for me. It’s the story of God sending His Son to earth to die, as a sacrifice, for me. God provided a bridge, through Jesus, to Himself.
This word ‘grace’ gets itself tossed about liberally today, especially in Utah. We use it in all sorts of situations, and it carries a multitude of definitions. A ‘graceful’ ballerina seems to float with the music, lighter than air. Even the word itself seems to effortlessly whisper from the tongue, a peaceful gentleness.
Dearly loved friends ‘grace’ me with their presence when they visit. I can also choose to ‘give grace’, (which probably does not happen often enough in my home), and heaven smiles when I intentionally overlook or forgive hurtful words or actions.
Webster defines it as:
1a : unmerited divine assistance given humans for their regeneration or sanctification b : a virtue coming from God c : a state of sanctification enjoyed through divine assistance
2a : approval, favor stayed in his good gracesb archaic : mercy, pardonc : a special favor : privilege each in his place, by right, not grace, shall rule his heritage — Rudyard Kiplingd : disposition to or an act or instance of kindness, courtesy, or clemencye : a temporary exemption : reprieve
3a : a charming or attractive trait or characteristic Among disagreeable qualities he possessed the saving grace of humor.b : a pleasing appearance or effect : charmall the grace of youth — John Buchanc : ease and suppleness (see 1supple 2b) of movement or bearing danced with such grace
So, what does this word, this idea, mean in church circles, for followers of Jesus?
Grace is, simply, the unmerited favor of God.
The concept of Biblical Grace is mind-blowing and illogical and is completely upside-down thinking. It doesn’t make sense.
Where I live, in beautiful Utah, the local culture tags this concept with a different definition than what is taught in the Bible. I thought it important to define here exactly what it means.
Grace, and only grace, is the foundation of the Christian life.
This simple yet deeply profound idea really is amazing. How does one digest a notion that God rescues us and gives us the riches of heaven for no reason whatsoever except that He loves us? It blows me away that He pursues us. He cherishes us. He longs to keep company with us. That’s why He created us in the first place.
The perfect God created a perfect place.
God is Perfection. It began that way with Creation and the Garden of Eden. He created Adam and Eve, and they were perfect. They were the crown of His creation! They were gifted with a perfect world of lavish beauty, and they enjoyed a perfect relationship with their Creator. God hung with them.
But they weren’t robots. Because He longed for them to choose to love Him back, He gave them, and us, a free will. I think He wanted them to want Him to come over! (I can so relate to this as a mom of adult children.)
He wanted them to be excited about His company, as any dad would. Perhaps He wanted to be able to laugh about what the elephants looked like or how the giraffes took a drink. He wanted them to share about what vegetables and fruits they’d tried, and what they thought was good. He gave them instructions on how to live and and what to eat. And, they were free to choose obedience to Him or to choose disobedience, which is what we now know as sin.
The evil one showed up.
You probably know the story. The evil one, the devil, showed up on the scene and used seduction, his specialty, to play on the gift of free choice. He invited them to question God and His instructions about what fruit they were permitted to eat. The evil one, in the form of a serpent, enticed them with the concept of ‘more’. He lied and told them they, too, could be like God, knowing good from evil. Of course they would never be able to be like God. But somehow the idea brought intrigue and longing and envy of God’s very nature.
So Eve, then Adam, chose wrongly and sin (disobedience) was brought into the perfect world. They ate the forbidden fruit, and immediately, they saw themselves differently. Sin’s partner, shame, came along too and Adam and Eve tried desperately to cover themselves, and what they’d done, with fig leaves.
Isn’t it interesting how sin changes relationships?
Don’t you know that feeling when you’ve done something wrong? Boy, I do. It eats away at my soul until forgiveness – mercy – washes it away. Can you imagine if you’d never before done anything wrong? The guilt? Suddenly Adam and Eve could see themselves as imperfect, mortal, and much different from God himself.
But still, God came looking for them, just like He does for us now, though we are still in the middle of our messy sin. His love for them had not changed, though He knew exactly what they had done. But because He was Almighty God, their relationship had to. They felt they had to hide their own nakedness, their mortal bodies, their imperfection. They tried fig leaves but you can imagine what that was like. Their sin separated them from God. Then God did something interesting.
God made them clothes out of animal skins.
And, just like that, death was introduced to the world. Adam and Eve saw their animal friends die because of what they had done. That animal had been perfect, and now their hides covered Adam and Eve, giving them a constant reminder that something innocent had to die because of their actions. This is the first sacrifice in the Bible.
Until this moment, Adam and Eve had no concept of death, so God needed to show them. He slaughtered an animal. Just imagine Adam’s reaction to seeing the lifeless body of an animal friend he’d just named. God spilled the blood of an innocent friend, to make garments to cover Adam and Eve. After seeing the sacrifice, suddenly they were aware of their own mortality.
God covered them with the blood of an innocent. HE sacrificed an animal to hide their nakedness. HE did the work. Adam and Eve did not. They later had to work to feed themselves outside the garden, but the sacrifice allowing them to come before God was done by God alone.
Couldn’t God have found another way? Why blood sacrifice?
Since God’s standard was, and is, perfection, Adam and Eve’s sin left them imperfect and they were no longer permitted to live in the perfect garden with the perfect God. God can only dwell in, and with, perfection. That’s just His awesome nature. They were either perfect, or they were not. We are either perfect or we are not. After Adam and Eve, all humankind is born with a sin, imperfect, nature. This is seen early in toddlers who do not have to be taught to disobey.
BUT God offered the antidote, the blood of life, a sacrifice. From this point forward, the only way to approach God would be through the blood of a sacrifice. His Word tells us in Hebrew 9:22 that “without the shedding of blood, there is no forgiveness of sins.”
Blood sacrifice continued throughout the Bible. The Jews were instructed to use animals in atonement for their sins with intricate detail. (See the book of Leviticus.) It all began with Adam and Eve.
For the life of the flesh is in the blood, and I have given it for you on the altar to make atonement for your souls, for it is the blood that makes atonement for the life. Leviticus 17:11
The Hebrew word for atonement is kaphar: to cover, forgive, pardon, repay. Strong (AMG’s Annotated Strong’s Old Testament Dictionary) goes on to say : “At its most basic level, the word conveys the notion of covering but not in the sense of merely concealing. Rather, it suggests the imposing of something to change its appearance or nature. It is therefore employed to signify the cancellation or ‘writing over’ of a contract.” I love this.
Blood atonement in the Old Testament pointed to Jesus’ death in the New Testament.
This notion of blood atonement was not a new idea to the Jews by the time Jesus lived on this earth thousands of years after Adam and Eve. Blood atonement throughout the Old Testament pointed to the coming Christ Jesus, who came from the perfection of Heaven, and was, in fact, perfection. His willingness to die was the reason He came. The WAY He died, gruesome, horrible, with His blood spilled, bought our redemption. He was and IS the final blood atonement for all time.
Grace = (G)od’s (R)iches (A)t (C)hrist’s (E)xpense.
He came as both fully God and fully man, which would be the only way perfection could be attained. He was born of a virgin, Mary, hence His title, God’s Son.
It is HIS blood that covers us and allows us to have a relationship with our Father in Heaven, God. And all we have to do to be made perfect, is believe that Jesus did this for us. If we believe that He came for us, that His perfect blood covers us, we are able to be seen as perfect in God’s eyes. And we get to have a relationship with Him. We get to hang with Him.
This one perfect sacrificial death created a path for our imperfect selves to have a relationship with God.
He did this for me. He did this for you. By dying on the cross, Jesus atoned for all human sin that ever was or ever will be. Because of our sin nature, we will die. But because of Jesus, we can have a relationship with the perfect GOD both now and also after we die here on earth. He died a gruesome death as our substitute. And the invitation is open for anyone who will believe. His blood that He shed when He died on the cross 2000 years ago was shed for us even today! That’s it! Mind blowing!!
When God sees us, covered in Christ’s blood, from our belief in what He did on the cross, it makes us perfect, righteous.
No amount of good works will make us perfect, because we will always be unrighteous by our sin. Let me repeat, nothing we DO will make us perfect. Ever. Our need to be ‘more’, to be like God, always making ourselves ‘better’, is actually sin. Our own good works actually leads to our own pride. We will never be like God, or even a god. The ONLY thing that makes us perfect is Jesus’ blood atonement on the cross.
Jesus’ blood was not shed to ‘make up the difference’ on the ladder of our own quest for perfection.
God knew we would never make it up the ladder to Him. It’s impossible. He requires perfection. So He sent Jesus to us. Grace has nothing to do with our actions, or inactions. It has everything to do with Jesus’ actions. Grace = Jesus’ blood. Jesus’ blood covers our imperfection with His perfection.
“Blood is not only the symbol of life, it is life; it is what keeps a person alive. Blood is messy. Blood is respected and feared. Blood is not something that people take lightly. God wanted us to understand the severity and graveness of our sin and the cost of what it would take to redeem us (buy us back) from our sinful state. He wanted us to know that sin’s nature is so depraved that the only way to bring us back to a place of life was for Christ to suffer the most bloody, the most excruciating, the most graphic death we could think of so that we never lose sight of the wonder of the cross. Blood was in the mind of God as the perfect way to display the supreme cost and infinite value of our salvation!” (http://www.citylightchurchwb.org/blog/post/blood-and-the-mind-of-god–leviticus-17:11)
Jesus Christ came to earth to die for us, BUT He didn’t stay dead!!!!
How amazing is that? After three days, He rose from the dead and conquered the idea of death forever. This is just another piece of evidence of His innate diety. By His death and resurrection, the bridge to the Almighty God was complete. Jesus is our bridge, the only way to God. Instead of a ladder, Jesus himself became our elevator to God. All we have to do is believe and step inside.
For God loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life. John 3:16
We celebrate His miraculous resurrection on Easter morning! And we remember the gruesome way he shed His own blood to rescue us. The Bible tells the story of Jesus through its entirety, both Old and New Testaments. History tells the story. History is in fact HIS-STORY.
The Easter Story is the greatest story ever told. It is the story of God coming to earth to rescue us, simply because He loves us. His love doesn’t make sense to our human brains because we see our naked sinful selves just like Adam and Eve.
And, this story is different from every other religion in the world. All of them teach that we must do ‘something’ to get to God.
The Easter story is not about religion,or about us working our way up to God. This miraculous story is about God coming to us, creating a bridge, a way to a relationship, with Him.
Please feel free to share this post if you’d like someone else to know this amazing story!
Have a wonderful Easter!
HE IS RISEN!