I am a trophy of grace

Not Left on the Shelf

For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus. For it is only right for me to feel this way about you all, because I have you in my heart, since both in my imprisonment and in the defense and confirmation of the gospel, you all are partakers of grace with me. ~Philippians 1:6-7 NASB

Partakers of grace. That’s a different kind of trophy. Not the kind that is won, set up on the shelf, and left to collect dust. We, the prize of Christ, the proof of His power and of His grace, are also instruments of that very grace. Commissioned to participate in His Kingdom not only as jewels to His crown, but as citizens and ambassadors of His love.

I received a dictionary about twenty years ago—a nice one. Hardback, embossed with my name and everything. It was a prize, a trophy of sorts, for an academic achievement. It’s the only trophy from my high school days I still keep on the shelf. Not because I use it to brag about accomplishments long since won, which is not the point of this post, but because it’s useful. It doesn’t serve merely as a decorative dust-collector. It has a commission in my life and continues to be useful.

Jesus didn’t win us to His kingdom simply to put us on His display shelf. His love and good intentions go so far beyond that. We have been called to display His character to the world. Called to bring Him praise with everything we do. We’re a unique kind of trophy. Won for His glory and commissioned with purpose.

Has the dust begun to gather? Seek His kingdom. Participate in His gospel. Approve the things that are excellent. Let Him fill you with the fruit of His righteousness. Partake in His grace.

There is much to do. Praise God, His grace does not leave us on the shelf.

I am a trophy of grace

Trophy Wife

Husbands, love your wives, just as also Christ loved the church and gave Himself for her, to make her holy, cleansing her in the washing of water by the word. He did this to present the church to Himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, but holy and blameless. Ephesians 5:25-27

As hard as it is to imagine one single human (myself) being presented a trophy of grace, it is harder still to image a whole group of humans (my church and yours) presented as the spotless Bride of Christ. I myself am deeply flawed. Add me to a few hundred other folks, and you have more flaws than I’d care to count.

Yet Christ grouped us together into churches on purpose, every sinful one of us, and commanded us to love one another. He’ll one day gather all those local congregations into one beautiful Church, and he’ll present her to Himself in “splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, but holy and blameless.”

Do we deserve it? We Christians have fractured ourselves into denominations, and denominations square off against themselves in opposite political camps. Individual congregations bicker. It’s a common malady. American Christians singing in varnished pews, Chinese Christians whispering in darkened houses, and African Christians banging drums under mango trees – all of us sin. And the answer is no, we don’t deserve to be the Bride of Christ.

And that brings us right back to grace. Why is the Church, the bride of Christ, spotless and wrinkle free? Why can we be presented in splendor? Because of Jesus’ death for us. He made us holy. And because he keeps washing us, urging us to follow his word, perfecting us until the day we are perfect – our wedding day.

Once again, his work, not ours.

I am a trophy of grace

Trophies on Display

For what is our hope, or joy, or crown of rejoicing? Are not even ye in the presence of our Lord Jesus Christ at his coming? For ye are our glory and joy.  1 Thess. 2:19-20, KJV

I’ll bet my co-author can relate to these verses with a keen accuracy. Picture coronation day as she walks beside those brothers and sisters from another continent, another culture–another world. I can only imagine the joy she’ll experience watching those she loved and taught being welcomed into the kingdom.

Trophies of grace. But not hers. Jesus’s. How glorious is that?

Hope.crownmemeA few years ago I was visiting with a couple who had been called out of darkness and into His light. Their testimony is quite beautiful–though the journey was littered with ugliness. Hearing their story lifted my soul. A phrase echoed in my mind as I rejoiced in Jesus’s breathtaking work.

Trophies of grace. How amazing is that?

One of my favorite sights on any given Sunday morning is that of a group of young men. Still in high school, but not for long, they stir a unique joy in me. They’re not your average teenagers. They are godly young men who behave with honor, holding each other accountable in a small group bible study they initiated. They astound me–largely because I knew them back when they were folding paper airplanes in my SS class. Now they volunteer their time to work with Awana kids, and lead soccer camp for our church every summer. They look to their futures with the Son in their eyes.

Trophies of grace. The kind you never saw coming. How awesome is that?

I am a trophy of grace

Escaping the Performance Trap

 He (God) presented Him (Jesus) to demonstrate His righteousness at the present time, so that He would be righteous and declare righteous the one who has faith in Jesus.  Were then is boasting? It is excluded.  By what kind of law?  By one of works? No, on the contrary, by a law of faith.  For we conclude that a man is justified by faith apart from works of the law.  Romans 3:26-28 HCSB (parentheses mine)

Sometime when I still lived in Africa, I underlined these verses and wrote in big block letters to the side, “No guilt.” Why that, next a verse that is talking about the evils of boasting? Because I tend to get tangled in the performance trap – feeling as though I’m never quite doing “enough.”  There I was, a missionary, who knew in my heart that too often I’d rather hide in my house rather than share the gospel with an African.  I knew that instead of loving those hungry little village children, I was too often annoyed with them. I knew all the myriad of inadequacies in my sinful heart.  I fell short.  I was guilty.

And one day, sitting in the heat and reading my Bible, I came upon this verse.  “Don’t boast,” it said.  And the Holy Spirit?  He said something like, “No matter how good of a job you did as a missionary, no matter how many people you lead to Christ, or how many languages you learned, or how many little kids you loved, you’d still fall short.  You’d still have nothing to brag about.  And you’d still be guilty. 

I did the work, not you.

I declared you righteous.  Because you weren’t righteous on your own. And you can’t be. No matter how hard you try.

You can’t do anything to be good enough.

But that’s okay.  Because I’m good enough for you.”

I needed to remember that today.  If I am to be His trophy of grace, I’ve got to remember the grace part.  Certainly, I am unworthy to be a trophy. 

And that’s the point of grace.

I am a trophy of grace

I am a Trophy of Grace: A Joint Post

And although you were formerly alienated and hostile in mind, engaged in evil deeds, yet He has now reconciled you in His fleshly body through death, in order to present you before Him holy and blameless and beyond reproach. ~ Colossians 1:21-22

From Jen

I love watching the Rehab Addict on HGTV. I dream of restoring an old house, bringing it back to what the builder intended it to be when he raised its walls and crafted its character. I actually grieved when a rickety old house in town was demolished. The city saw an eyesore held together by termites. I saw a masterpiece begging for redemption.

Nicole says something rather profound about her passion for rescuing old homes in her sound bite for that show. She says, “These homes are my projects—they’re my treasures.” Think me insane, but that statement actually beckons tears. Not because of her, or her homes, but because of the verse above.

I’m not only Jesus’s project of love. I’m His treasure. By nature, I’m an ugly, condemned woman waiting for destruction. But because He bought me, reconciled me, and redeemed me, I am now His prize. The trophy of His grace.

From Susan

My son loves his soccer trophies.  He sets them all out on his bookshelves so he can daily delight in their golden shininess.  But the thing that seems to give him the most pleasure is when he can show them off to a visitor.  When he does, he wants his guest to admire the beauty of the trophies.  But more importantly, he wants his friend to praise him, the soccer player, for doing such a great job.

As I read Jen’s words and thought about the verse she chose, I saw Jesus himself presenting me – redeemed and remodeled by his own hand – as a trophy to God the Father.  “Look, Father, what I have done.  Isn’t she beautiful?”

The praise belongs not the trophy, but to Christ Himself, for doing such a great job.  He remade me through His grace, and by the time I reach Heaven, He will have perfected me.  He paid a dear price to do this, his own death and suffering.  How He must love me to be willing to do that for me – not only to die, but to clean me up, to gentle my hostile mind, to forgive and eliminate my evil deeds.

Praise the trophy-bearer.  Praise Him for his amazing grace.