Utilization of Grace Orientation. Genesis 13
We have to understand that grace orientation is built on the faith-rest drill. Ultimately, all the problem-solving devices function off the faith-rest drill. The faith-rest drill in itself focuses on the trustworthiness of God to do what He promised. We need to understand that the promises of God need to be implemented on a regular basis. Do we really believe God when He makes those promises? That we should not be anxious for anything, but that we should go to Him in prayer expressing a thankfulness for the situation, knowing God's peace which surpasses all comprehension will guard our souls. Sometimes we do and sometimes it is an effort, a struggle. In the midst of certain crises in life, certain pressures, it is a moment by moment wrestling sometimes just to come to grips with that promise and make it a reality in terms of our own thinking. That is the process of spiritual growth. We need to focus on the essence of God. It is a good exercise just to go through each attribute of God and to think in terms of how that applies to our problem, whatever it may be, and what it means in terms of a solution. God's integrity is the foundation of His relationship with man and it is from this foundation that God's grace flows to us in the period of time between the fall of Adam and the new heavens and the new earth. As we look at that we understand that grace then becomes a problem-solving device, it becomes a way in which we can look at certain adversities and handle them by application of grace.
What does that mean? We often talk about the application of grace. How do we use grace as a problem-solving device? Paul and Peter talk about it in this way in two passages: 2 Timothy 2:1, "Thou therefore, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus." So by understanding grace we can have strength in the midst of certain pressures and adversities in life. 2 Peter 3:18, "But grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ."
What are the mechanics of utilizing grace? What are the characteristics that we run into in grace orientation? In spiritual childhood we master five different spiritual skills—confession, filling of the Holy Spirit and walking by the Holy Spirit, the faith-rest drill, grace orientation and doctrinal orientation. Then as we master these skills we move on through the next level of spiritual growth which a personal sense of our eternal destiny, learning to live today in light of eternity. We see the same thing happen with young people as they grow up. As they go through the adolescent years as teenagers they make decisions and never think about the consequences. As they grow older they begin to realize that there are consequences to their decisions and they begin to postpone gratification, certain activities until later so that they can achieve what they want to achieve in terms of longer goals than just what is going to please them today or tomorrow, and this is a sign of maturity. Spiritual adulthood is when our whole concept of love begins to mature. Biblically there are three categories of love. There is personal love for God. This doesn't means that a new, young believer doesn't have some measure of love for God, because he does. To the degree that he has understood his salvation and to the degree that he understands what God's grace meant at salvation he has that measure of love. Then there is impersonal love for all mankind and occupation with Christ. These three spiritual skills are all built on the three basic skills of the faith-rest drill, grace orientation and doctrinal orientation. There is a logical structure there. If we don't understand grace orientation and the elements in grace orientation we can't have a mature love for God and we can't learn to have impersonal love for all mankind. We can't learn to implement what Jesus said in John 13:34-35, "…that you love one another as I have loved you. By this all men will know that you are my disciples." So there are certain prerequisites to the more advanced spiritual skills and the ultimate spiritual skill is sharing the happiness of God or inner happiness.
While we look at the five basic spiritual skills in terms of a logical relationship there is a dynamic relationship. They interconnect and interrelate. The all blend together. You don't just learn one, then the other, and another; they all function interdependently. So that as you learn certain promises that is doctrinal orientation, you believe them. You learn something about the essence of God and so you enter into a problem and you are claiming that promise or principle. You latch on it to it, you know that God is omnipotent and therefore is greater than any problem you face. You know He is omniscient and therefore aware of that problem from eternity past and that in His grace He has provided a solution for it. So you see, you have learned some doctrine about the essence of God, now in terms of the faith-rest drill you are latching on to that doctrine, mixing your faith with that doctrine, and then you are applying that to the situation. In the same sense, as we understand the grace of God we begin to understand how God's grace was demonstrated to us and that that becomes the basis for our social skills, as it were, how we relate to people is in the same way that God has related to us in grace orientation. So these skills are interrelated.
By way of introduction grace was defined as unearned favor or unmerited kindness. This is the basic meaning of grace. It is the expression of God's love to creatures who do not deserve it. Therefore grace can only be demonstrated to fallen creatures who have –R, lack righteousness. When Adam and Eve were in the garden before the fall, when they had perfect righteousness, God related to them on the basis of His perfect love because His perfect righteousness has affinity with their perfect righteousness, God is giving them everything out of His love. It is not unmerited, not unearned, because there is affinity between His righteousness and their righteousness. But as soon as there is the fall and they have lost righteousness, then God's dealing with them is no longer based on their possession of righteousness, it is based solely and exclusively on His character: who he is, not on who they are. To understand that is the foundation for being able to move beyond the basics of grace orientation into impersonal love, because impersonal love is not based on who somebody is or what they have done. That is removed from the equation. In grace orientation the focus is on the character of God. In God's grace towards us the issue is His character, not who we are or what we have done. When we in turn are exercising grace orientation towards others it is not based on who we are, it is based on who God is. The model that is given in Scripture is that we are to forgive others as God for Christ's sake forgave us. So the model becomes what God did for us. We are to deal with others in grace in the same way that God dealt with us. It always comes back to the character of God.
As we try to wrap our minds around what grace orientation entails we can break it down into several elements. First, we have grace in salvation. This is the source of understanding what grace is. Romans 5:8, "But God demonstrated his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us." This is the expression of His grace. It is fundamentally rooted in His righteousness. He is going to do what is right for us despite the situation. How did Abraham understand grace? Because what is happening in Genesis 13 as he has this conflict between his servants and Lot's servants and this great interpersonal problem has developed, is that Abraham takes Lot up on a hillside and shows him all the land. And he makes this magnanimous gesture and tells Lot to take whatever he wants. Abraham is operating from a position of strength, he is not trying to keep the best back for himself. So in his generosity he is handling the problem, he is using grace toward Lot. How did he come to understand grace? If we look at the Old Testament the word grace has only been used one time so far, and that was in Genesis chapter six when we were told that Noah found grace in the eyes of the Lord. Even though the word has only been used once up to that time obviously God has been dealing with man in grace. So historically Abraham would know about the grace of God, first of all by how God dealt with Adam and Eve at the fall, that He provided a means of salvation for them, and he understood the whole dynamic of sacrifices that had been laid down in the previous dispensation. And we have seen that he had gone through the land and built altars, so he understood the whole principle of grace. He would understand grace historically through the fall, through the flood, from his own salvation (Genesis 15:6), and he would understand it from the Abrahamic covenant. He would think about the fact that this land wasn't his to begin with, he didn't have an inherent right to this land. In the same way, we don't have an inherent right to anything in life. As fallen creatures if we got what we deserved we would be sent to the lake of fire immediately. But God in His grace gives us a lifespan and an opportunity to trust in Him and come to salvation. That is grace. In Abraham's case, not only does he have a grace based salvation but on top of that God gives him this covenant, gives him this land, and it is not based on anything Abraham has done or on his character. But what we see is that he is understanding the fact that the and is his by a free gift, even though he has no right to it, and it is up to God to fulfill the promise. Once he understands that in fellowship, that all that he has is really from God, then he is free to be generous with it because he knows that God is going to sustain him and provide for him. This is our basis for understanding grace orientation towards people, to be magnanimous to those who don't deserve it, to treat people with kindness.
As we think through everything that God has given us and how He supplied everything, that in turn leads us to developing genuine humility. We see the connection here in James 4:6, "But he gives more grace. Wherefore he said, God resists the proud, but gives grace unto the humble." True genuine humility is related to grace orientation. In humility we recognize that we don't have anything that is ultimately the result of our own efforts or who and what we are; everything comes from God. This begins to impact our view of the details of life. Most of the time we fall into the trap of thinking that happiness comes from people, circumstances, or events. If circumstances were just a certain way, then I could do thus and so … if only. But the real source of stability, meaning and happiness is our relationship with Him, and that only comes from having doctrine in the soul that we can rely on and which provides that foundation and stability. In James chapter one we see that as we develop true humility it leads to gratitude, gratefulness for all that we have, and even if we don't have it. This develops the mastery of the details of life. We don't have to worry about getting or keeping or changing the circumstances to have happiness and stability. This gives us a position of strength to operate from. This is why Abraham is able to tell Lot to take whatever he wants. He is so secure in the knowledge of God providing for him that he recognizes that it is not up to him to get, to acquire or to change the circumstances. Because he is resting in God's promise that God is going to give him the land he is now free to be generous towards Lot and to treat him in kindness, even though Lot may not deserve it.
James 1:9ff, "Let the lowly brother rejoice in his exaltation." The word here for the lowly brother is the brother who is in humble circumstances, it is talking about someone who doesn't have the details of life. He is to have as the basis of his glory what God has given him—glory in his high position, literally, not exaltation. Our high position is what we have in Jesus Christ. In contrast we have the rich person, verse 10, "and let the rich man glory in his humility [not humiliation, as in the KJV]." So the wealthy man is not to glory in his wealth, it is not the fact that he has all the details of life, he is to glory in his humility, his grace orientation, not in the possession of the details of life. Then we have the illustration: "because as the flower of the grass will pass away." The rich person needs to glory in his humility because in the same way the flower of the grass will pass away. This isn't an attack on wealth, it is a recognition that grass produces the flower, the extra benefit. The grass is always there but there are only flowers at certain times and seasons. So sometimes it is there and sometimes not there. In the same way the wealthy person may have the details of life this decade but the next decade he may not have the details of life. They may pass away; they are temporary. The illustration continues in v. 11, "For the sun is no sooner risen with a burning heat, but it withers the grass, and the flower thereof falls [the person is still there, not the details of life which disappear under the heat of adversity], and the grace of the fashion of it perishes: so also shall the wealth [not the rich man] fade away in his ways." So this is talking about the fact that the one who is wealthy in the details of life needs to have humility because the details of life may disappear. It is only when we are grace oriented that we can have a proper understanding and appreciation for the details of life that God gives us. This is the same attitude expressed by the apostle Paul in Philippians 4:10-11, "But I rejoiced in the Lord greatly, that now at the last your care of me hath flourished again; wherein ye were also careful, but ye lacked opportunity. Not that I speak in respect of want: for I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content." In other words, whether I have the details of life or I don't have the details of life I am just as happy. This is the expression of inner happiness as a problem-solving device. What is it built on? It is built on genuine humility and grace orientation.
James 1:12, "Blessed is the man who endures testing." This is what is happening with Abraham, he is learning to endure testing and to handle the testing by using those spiritual skills that God has supplied. When he does that he builds endurance. That is the theme of James chapter one. "…he shall receive the crown of life, which the Lord hath promised to them that love him."
Every test boils down to the sin nature, to the question as to whether we are going to try to handle the circumstances through our own efforts, ability, through some kind of sin or human good, or whether we are going to handle the situation by relying on promises, principles, and provisions of God, and the faith-rest drill, and then utilization of various other spiritual skills. So those who endure by staying in fellowship pass the test and move forward and advance to spiritual maturity. Grace orientation involves understanding what happened at salvation, thinking about it, reflecting on it, on God's goodness and kindness to us in salvation and in providing everything we need logistically and in grace as we advance. It is related to genuine humility. In genuine humility we develop gratitude for all that God has given us, and then we are not concerned about the details of life, that is in God's hands. That frees us, then, to have a relaxed mental attitude. We are going to relax in the circumstance, just as Abraham relaxes in all of the turmoil going on around him between Lot's servants and his servants. He relaxes and makes an objective decision and utilizes grace in how he handles Lot. He deals with him in generosity.