One of our annual vacations has been a two-day camping trip over the memorial day holiday. We have camped with friends at Carpinteria State Beach for the last couple of years. The campsite is within walking distance of the beach and the city. There are train tracks nearby, so you hear the train whizzing by, while at night, you hear the sound of the crashing waves on the shore. A bonus (not really) are the crows that wake you up in the morning. One of my favorite times during the trip is waking up early in the morning to walk on the beach while the sun begins to rise.
I like to reflect as I look out into the sea that seems endless, watching the wave goes back and forth. I feel a sense of peace and tranquility as I take in the sounds of the sea and the sights of birds overhead. A particular Scripture kept coming to my mind on this trip, which emphasizes God’s grace. The verse that came to my mind is found in the Gospel of John:
“14 And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth. 15 (John bore witness about him, and cried out, “This was he of whom I said, ‘He who comes after me ranks before me, because he was before me.'”) 16 For from his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace.”John 1:14-16
God’s grace is not some vague concept nor some special force. God’s grace is found in and through the Son, Jesus Christ. The Gospel of John tells us that from Jesus’ fullness, we have all received grace upon grace. The concept of grace is expressed theologically as both common grace and special grace. At the beach, people enjoy God’s common grace: swimming in the ocean, eating with friends and family, the gentle breeze, and having fun. Yet, there is a special grace only given to those who trust in Christ. As I looked out into the ocean, the waves going back and forth reminded me of grace upon grace. Believers experience God’s special grace not just in salvation (Eph 2:8-9) but daily. This grace comes from the fullness of Jesus, who was full of grace and truth, and he gives grace to those who know him. There are many different ways we experience the grace of God, but the two that came to my mind as I walked by the ocean were these.
- Grace for my sins
I sin…a lot. The longer I live my life, the more I see the depths of my depravity. At first, I thought sin was just the external behavior sins, but then I learned that there are heart sins that drive our behavior. When I first became a believer, I remember that I heard a preacher say, “you will never improve your flesh.” He was absolutely right. Although we are given a new heart in salvation, there is a constant ongoing war until we reach glory (Gal 5:16-17). Each day I need God’s grace for my acceptable and shameful sins. The apostle Paul said that where sin abounds, grace abounds even more (Romans 5:20). Jesus’ fullness includes his compassion for saints who sin. He is not looking down on me and condemning me when I sin, but instead walking alongside me and calling me back to himself when I go astray. As I could never quantify the amount of water in the ocean, it is impossible to quantify the amount of God’s grace available when I sin. The waves keep rolling in, one after another. Jesus died to pay for all my sins, the past, present, and future, grace upon grace.
2. Grace to motivate my obedience
God’s forgiving grace is not a license to sin but a motivation for obedience. Two common motives for obedience are fear and gratitude. Fear may cause one to obey, but obedience can feel like drudgery. A more powerful motive for obedience is God’s grace. God’s grace can help fill the heart with gratitude for all that Christ has done in his life, death, and resurrection. Jesus paid the total penalty for sin so that the power of sin might be dealt with, knowing that he would remove the presence of sin when we are in heaven. The Lord Jesus calls us to obedience as a response to the abundance of his grace, not out of fear of punishment or hope for reward. Grace motivates us with a desire to honor the Lord, and when we fail, as a reminder that we can be forgiven again. Our salvation is secure not because of our obedience but because of Christ’s perfect obedience. This is amazing grace that our relationship with the Savior is not based on our merit but on his. As a response to his grace, the desires of my heart can change from “I have” to obey to “I want” to obey.
Each and every day, God’s grace is sufficient to meet the day’s needs, both to pardon my sin and grant me the power to fight against sin.
Wave upon wave, grace upon grace!