Tuesday, January 4, 2011

CHARIS - GOD'S GIFT UNWRAPPED (GUEST BLOG FROM NEW ZEALAND!)


by 
DEB BURTON!
UPLIFTING MESSAGE FOR POST-CHRISTMAS BLUES!!!

For a long time I have been concerned that our concept of the word `grace', as translated in our Bible, falls far short of its actual meaning.  It has been spoken of as a gift - which indeed it is - and totally undeserved by any being on the earth, but I believe it is a gift we have barely opened!  The fact that we have received salvation by grace is only a small, but vital, part of the overflowing riches of grace.  It is a powerful and important concept, so important that we cannot become a Christian, or live as a Christian without its operation in our lives.  I would like to suggest that the nature of grace is very like a treasure chest of spiritual riches, and will use a number of ways to illustrate this.1/ THE IMPORTANCE OF GRACE - BY THE LAW OF `MUCH MENTION'Grace is the most common translation of the Greek work `charis'.  It appears one hundred and fifty four times in the New Testament [Strong's Concordance number 5485].  By the `law of much mention', this makes it an important word.  This principle asserts that the more times a key word or phrase appears in God's word, the more significant it is in His eyes.  There are also a good number of words directly related to charis which can be added to the total.  We use "charisma" for the gifts of the Spirit - which is a more specific form of charis - some say the gifts are little graces.  And remember just how amazing these gifts are - miracles and healings, prophecy etc.  How much greater is the total package wrapped up in the little word "grace".

Grace comes from the words for joy and rejoice.  We still use words like Eucharist, for Holy Communion - but it was originally used for giving thanks for a meal - as when Jesus prepared to feed the multitudes.1.  This is why we call the before meal prayer - "grace"...  Eucharist literally means "good grace".  We also have a closely related word referring to Mary being "highly favoured" - and us also, in Ephesians. 1:6 "wherein he hath made us accepted in the beloved."  And yet another word, sometimes translated "give" but also "forgive" as in Ephesians 4:32 "And be kind one to another, tender-hearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ's sake hath forgiven you."  Yet another means congratulations - as in sharing in another's joy.2  All these concepts are part of the huge and wonderful package we call grace.2/ A MORE ACCURATE DEFINITION OF CHARISCharis is not as common in ancient Greek writings as it is in Scripture.
The Theological Dictionary of the NT says, "Plato has the meanings "good pleasure", "good will", "favour", "what pleases", and "thanks".  And in Hellenism it is "a fixed term for the `favour' shown by rulers, or other dignitaries - even the `gods' grace and wrath is discussed in philosophy.  A second development in Hellenism stresses the power in charis.  This power, which comes from the world above, appears in the divine man and expresses itself in magic".3
Charisma is a specific grace.  William Barclay said it was a military term...
When an emperor came to the throne, or when he was celebrating his birthday, he gave his troops a donatirim [donation] or charisma, which was a free grant of money, a free gift.  They had not earned it as they had their wages; they got it unearned out of the goodness of the emperor's heart.4

So grace has just a little to do with prayer before meals, or with a person who is pleasing, beautiful, stately, admirable etc.  Strong's concordance has "graciousness (as in gratifying) of manner or act (abstract or concrete, literal, figurative or spiritual; especially the divine influence upon the heart, and it's reflection in the life; including gratitude.)"

Biblical grace really means - everything God gives us freely, out of the goodness of His heart.  It doesn't just mean God's mercy and kindness - there is so much more God gives to us.  And the gift that we so often forget, is - His "influence upon the heart, and it's reflection in the life."  In other words, the ability to live the Christian life comes totally from Him - "For by grace are you saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: not of works, lest any man should boast". (Ephesians 2:8-10)

God's grace is not static - it is a vital, living, breathing in and out of the power of His Spirit.3/ FAITH - OPENING THE TREASURE CHEST OF SPIRITUAL RICHESTreasure!  It's an exciting word in our materialistic culture.  But these aren't earthly riches, rather those of the Spirit.  And it is not until we see our spiritual poverty and admit our weakness, that we will be looking for God's treasure.  So many of us strive mightily against self-focused flesh - and frequently fail.  We think this is what it means to live as a Christian - to try and "be good", yet in three of the Gospels, Jesus said that "No one is good--except God alone".5  It is humanism that asks us to be good - God asks us to do good - in His strength.  He asks us to be perfect - not the faultlessness of a perfect machine, but maturity - a perfect baby cannot work for God's kingdom.

When we see our poverty - and look at what God is offering, our next step is to take up the key - faith.  We believe that God can do all these things - but we must believe He wants to do them for us, in us, and through us.  There are those who don't know God personally who trust Him to help more than many Christians do.  Yet to know Him is the greatest gift in the treasure chest - for it is the difference between darkness and light, fear and love, between hell and heaven.  To have that sure foundation for the Christian life is an eternal issue.  But God wants to give so much more - an abundant life filled with joy and peace and love and light, sometimes despite the circumstances.  The spiritual life doesn't depend on circumstances, but in the treasure chest is victory over them.  "He said to me, `My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.' Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.  Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in needs, in persecutions, in distresses, for Christ's sake. For when I am weak, then I am strong." (2 Corinthians 12:9-10)  A life of adventure, companionship and fulfilling work - all this and heaven too.

A.W. Tozer shares a prayer..."God, unto whom all hearts be open... and unto whom no secret thing is hid, I beseech Thee so for to cleanse the intent of mine heart with the unspeakable gift of Thy grace, that I may perfectly love Thee and worthily praise Thee. Amen".6  It is grace which enables us to love God, each other and ourselves - and so "fulfilling all the law in one word, even in this: `You shall love your neighbour as yourself'." (Galatians 5:14)  It is by God's grace that we grow into the maturity we need to love one another, and to love those we come into contact with - enough to make the kind of difference that will show, that will draw people to us, and to our God.

The writer to the Hebrews puts it best: (4:15-16) "For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathise with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are - yet was without sin.  Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need."  


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