ON THE WAY TO GRACE

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What prevents us from  coming to   grace and  thus entering   eternal life? This question is of paramount importance because a remedy  can be  done  only after proper diagnosis. 

Hardness of heart  is  one reason that prevents grace from reaching us. ‘They are darkened in their understanding, alienated from the life of God because of their ignorance and  hardness of heart’ (Eph 4:18).  Hardness of heart leads to ignorance in divine matters and  darkness in understanding. To a person whose intelligence  is so darkened, eternal life would not be  much attractive. ‘In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the  unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light  of the  gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God’ ( 2 Cor 4:4). Unbelief, like  hardness of  heart,  also  blinds  our minds.

This was the case of Pharaoh. In the book of Exodus  chapters four through fourteen describes Pharaoh’s heart  becoming  harder by  the day. When Moses and Aaron requested Pharaoh to  release Israelites, what was  his  reply?  ‘Who is the Lord that I should heed him  and let Israel go?  I do not know the Lord, and I will not let Israel go’ (Ex 5:2).

With every sign from God that  Moses worked  in Pharaoh’s presence, his heart became harder until the moment of the death of all the firstborn of his  kingdom. But  this softening of  heart did not  last and as a result a whole army  had to be drowned in the sea. 

Why  did Pharaoh fail to  appreciate the anointing  revealed  in Moses? Paul the apostle gives the answer. ‘Those who are unspiritual do not receive  the gifts of God’s Spirit, for they are foolishness to them, and they are unable to  understand them because they are spiritually discerned’ (1 Cor  2:14). It is the worldly man in  us that prevents the  flow of grace into our hearts. ‘The mind that is set on  the flesh is hostile to  God; it does not submit to God’s law- indeed it cannot’ (Rom 8:7). How  can grace  nourish a  soul  that has stubbornly decided to  rebel against God? If  ‘friendship with  the world is enmity with God’ (Jas 4:4) how can  God’s  grace embrace a soul that is deeply attached to this world?

Faith  is the channel through which we  receive grace. It should be an all-weather channel making  seamless communication with  God possible. When their  channel of communication with God  was   weakened it took Israelites forty years to  reach the promised land  that was hardly  a month’s journey from Egypt. Faith should be firm  and unshaken ‘for the doubter, being double-minded and unstable in every way, must not expect to receive  anything from the Lord ( Jas 1:7-8). 

Another obstacle to the flow of grace is the impurity of  heart.  See how God revealed the heart of  Simeon who  came with money to buy the  gifts of the Spirit, to Peter; ‘You have no part or share in this, for your heart is not right before God…….. For I see that you are in the gall of  bitterness and the chains of wickedness’ (Acts 8: 21-23). 

Pride not only obstructs but totally  prevents the  flow of grace. Our God who  is against the  arrogant (Jer 50:31)  is  also one who ‘opposes the  proud, but gives grace to the humble’ (Jas 4:6). 

Greed is equivalent to idolatry (Col 3:5). It was when Zacchaeus gave up money ‘the love of which is  a root of all kinds of evil’ ( I Tim 6:10) that he  and  through him his whole family tasted  salvation.  The tragedy of  the rich young man was  his attachment to  wealth.  Jesus  waited for his  departure to  give  an important teaching. ‘Truly I tell you, it will be hard for a rich person to  enter the kingdom of heaven’ (Mt 19:23).  While writing to Timothy, Paul mentions about a certain  Demas  who deserted Paul and went to Thessalonica for the  love of this world’ (2 Tim 4:10). No hope remains to those who  once put their hands to the plow and then looks back’  (Lk 9:62). 

Another important factor that  blocks  God’s grace from entering our heart is the   direct influence of the  devil. Such people need a  thorough deliverance. Once the forces of evil are cast out,  grace will start  filling their hearts. In the gospels we read about Jesus casting out  demons from many people. 

Grace and eternal salvation are God’s  gifts and not our  privilege. Considering  our fallen nature, we are  not worthy to  receive  these gifts. Yet the merciful God  forgave our sins and  invited us into his  kingdom. Since God  forgave us, we are also  bound to  forgive others lest  we will not be able to earn God’s grace and  his  salvation. 

Let us  do an introspection. What are the  factors that  prevent heavenly graces reaching  us? Identify them and pray for  getting the strength to  rectify them. 

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