The Throne of Grace

Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need. (Hebrews 4:16 ESV)

One of the most attractive, unadulterated and treasured words in the English language is the word GRACE. It connotes a wide variety of desirable attributes ranging from beauty, elegance, refinement, dignity and ease . . . to kindness, forbearance, responsiveness, mercy and compassion. To be a recipient of grace and graciousness is often a disarming, deeply impressionable and even transformative experience. Gracious actions by gracious people have a way of overwhelming us because graciousness is often undeserved and unexpected.

Grace takes on an even more transcendent meaning when understood in the context of the Christian faith. It is a word that is used over 170 times in the New Testament in a wide variety of applications but most importantly it is the term used to communicate God’s free gift of salvation and all its accompanying blessings that come to us through faith in Jesus Christ. (Ephesians 2:8)

In order to really understand grace and thereby experience it in its fullness, we must always start at the place from which grace proceeds – the throne of grace. The very phrase “throne” of “grace” seems strangely incongruous in marrying/linking two such seemingly opposing ideas of absolute authority and sympathetic compassion. And yet the writer to the Hebrews, in the context of his explanation of how Jesus fulfilled the requirements of the Old Testament covenant in order to establish a new covenant, beckons us to that throne of grace with these words: “For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” (Hebrews 4:15-16 ESV)

The key to comprehending the magnitude of this grace that flows from this throne is found in discovering more about the one who sits upon this throne.

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I want to know Him!

“I want to know Him.” Philippians 3:10

It was some thirty years after walking with and serving Jesus that the apostle Paul wrote these words. Some would think it a bit curious that one as experienced in the things of God as Paul, would still be driven by that one over-arching desire, to know Him better. But it was the all-encompassing pursuit of his life ever since his Damascus road conversion when Jesus first revealed Himself to him in a blinding vision with the words “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting.” The unfathomable grace of this Jesus, who would choose to arrest a man from being a persecutor and call him rather to be an ambassador, forever captured Paul’s heart. Paul’s life from that moment on was dedicated to getting to know this Jesus better and better, who had intervened and shown him such unmerited grace and mercy.

Norman Grubb, beloved Christian author of the past century, wrote an autobiography entitled “Once Caught No Escape.” I have often thought that title aptly encapsulates the story of every follower of Jesus who like Paul has been apprehended by His grace. It is lifelong quest to seek to comprehend such grace and mercy calling us out of darkness into His marvelous light, even while we were yet sinners, separated from Christ, without hope and without God. (1 Peter 2:9, Romans 5:8 &Ephesians 2:12)

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Turning weakness into strength

The Greek word which is translated weakness in this verse is astheneia. It is defined as an ailment of mind or body that deprives someone of enjoying or accomplishing what they would like to do. That is why weaknesses in our lives are so despised. They are joy robbers and frustrate us in our pursuit of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.
Weaknesses in our lives have a dichotomous effect upon us. In whatever form they may take, they cause us to run the emotional gamut from being difficult to acknowledge to being an object of obsession and regret. We treat them like someone who is a nuisance. We start off trying to ignore or deny the fact we know them, and when confronted by them in a face to face encounter, we conjure up any excuse possible that will enable us to slip away from them in hopes of focusing our attention on more pleasant things. But the lingering effect of the unpleasantness of our encounter with them is not as easy to shake off and readily dismiss. Like being in a magnetic force field we are drawn into replaying the exposure of our weakness again and again. We hate the fact they have such a debilitating effect upon us. We desperately want to move beyond them and break free from their gravitational pull.
Much is being made today, both in the business world and in the church about identifying, developing and working out of one’s strengths. It could go without saying, but both intuitively and objectively, the idea of maximizing our strengths does promise the best return for our labors. Many a case has been made for the extrinsic as well as intrinsic benefit and fruitfulness from utilizing our talents and strengths. And that is true as far as our labors go.
But there is another level of accomplishment that is both counterintuitive and much more subjective, and that has to do with maximizing our weaknesses. In the natural we do not associate weakness with power or perfection. Quite the opposite. But Jesus’ advice to Paul, who was experiencing the perplexity of a weakness he could not overcome, is life giving advice to us as well. “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” (2 Corinthians 12:9a)

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