Beautiful Mannequins—A Classic Misunderstanding of Grace

There’s no need to pretend.

For the first few years of your life, you were loved and wanted for no reason.  You made messy diapers, broke expensive things, disobeyed, and generally acted out—all while being unconditionally valued.

Slowly though, everything around you became an on-ramp to meritocracy.  We all learned that the measure of our worth was based on personal awesomeness of some type or another.  But the energy drain that goes into sustaining good looks, praiseworthy behavior, or enviable success, became unbearable.

When the grace of Christ found us, we welcomed it, still somewhat supposing that God, like the rest of the world, expected us to be beautiful mannequins.  This assumption led to a bumbling three-legged Christian race, where we partly trusted Christ, but mostly our awkward selves.

The resulting false starts and collapses were actually unnecessary.  God happily hands everything over, but He resists selling it, or owing it to anyone.  This was a template established long ago at the root of His olive tree–the very genesis of His people (Rom. 11:18).  It was there that the experience of Abraham illuminated the principle of faith in the Father who calls us, and the experience of Isaac served to underscore grace, the unmerited favor of God in Christ.

Whatever is true of the root, will also be so for the branches (Rom. 11:24).  Though you are the newest believer in Christ, and the smallest tender shoot in God’s entire tree, grace is your immediate and unfailing experience.

We only need track Isaac’s life to see grace unfolding:

  • From the very beginning he should never have been born.  Abraham and Sarah were too old.  Isaac then, was the miraculous result of God’s promise.  Likewise, your second birth happened, “not of blood, nor the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God” (John 3:13).  Having believed in Christ, “you, brothers, like Isaac, are children of promise” (Gal. 4:28).
  • Isaac would have died had it not been for God graciously providing a ram to replace him (Gen. 22:13-14).  Now the grace of that same substitution at the root of the tree is available to every branch grafted into it.  We know because we would have perished if not for the fact that “Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us” (Gal. 3:13).
  • Isaac received the unmerited gifts of God.  He received a wife apart from his own efforts (Gen. 24); he received all that Abraham had without earning it (Gen. 25:5); he received the promises of God without being “special” in any worldly way (Gen. 26:3-5).  This blessed dynamic at the root is yours in Christ.  As John wrote, “from His fullness we have all received, grace upon grace” (John 1:16).
  • Isaac found grace.  His works were mainly related to digging water wells and unclogging old ones his father Abraham had dug (Gen. 26:18-22).  Not all grace is readily found at surface level, but the willingness to go deep can expose fresh new supplies of it.  Such “found” grace is also our experience now, as we “with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need” (Heb. 4:16).

Abide in this grace, because it flows to branches.

Not mannequins.

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