“LAW VERSUS GRACE”
One of the blessings we as pastors experience, and one that helps us to be steadfast, and not throw in the towel when discouragement comes—and it always does—is humble servants in the local assembly who are faithful, dedicated, cheerful encouragers. I was privileged to have several during my 37 years pastoring Three Lakes Community Bible Church near Troy, Montana. One of them, Hazel Dare, just recently died at age 91 and I officiated at a memorial service for her this past Friday. She had been at Three Lakes from its beginning so was there during my entire ministry and always prepared the elements for our monthly communion services, took care of the plants, helped with the cleaning and often brought beautiful flowers from her garden to share with the assembly. I used to call her during the week before communion to remind her, but quit doing so because she was so dependable.
Hazel and I shared a love for gardening, and she would often bring us—and many others—new plants or flowers to try out. I’m sure that all throughout the Bull River and Kootenai River valleys, there are lots of things growing that got their start in Hazel’s garden. I was always amazed at how hard Hazel worked. She was small in stature but was one “tough” gal! And what an encouragement she was to me. Whenever she came around she always had a cheery smile.
When Kathy and I met with the family last Tuesday evening I asked them to think for a moment and to give me some one-word descriptions of Hazel. Here is the list we came up with: strong, gentle,—(what a great combination)—dependable, busy, dedicated, faithful, peaceful, non-judgmental, cheerful, thrifty, servant, humble. Hazel had come to know Christ early on in life and continued to grow in grace and knowledge. She had little sticky notes all over the house with Bible verses on them. By her kitchen sink, for example was Jas. 1:2-4: “Consider it all joy, my brethren when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its perfect result, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.”
Hazel’s grandson, Chaz, said the passage of Scripture that reminded him of his grandma is I Cor. 13:4-7. As I quote it, think about the one-word descriptions of Hazel. “Love is patient, love is kind and is not jealous, love does not brag and is not arrogant, does not act unbecomingly, it does not seek its own, is not provoked, does not take into account a wrong suffered, does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.” The agape love that had been “poured out within (Hazel’s heart) through the Holy Spirit” who was given to her at the time of salvation (Ro. 5:5) was definitely manifested in and through her life.
During our memorial service, Hazel’s son, Casey, shared a very moving testimony that was such a beautiful life application of “Law versus Grace.” Hazel’s husband, Casey’s dad (who died 15 months ago) had been a very demanding, harsh father. His only appearances at church were for special occasions. He was definitely uncomfortable talking about spiritual matters. To Casey, his dad represented the “Law” which makes great demands—as in perfection—but doesn’t enable us to keep it. Casey rebelled and started smoking, drinking, and carousing. On one occasion he stayed out all night and was afraid to return home, for fear of what his dad might do. So, he waited until his dad was at work and came walking down their driveway, tired, hungry and dirty—and full of guilt and shame. His mother was working in the garden when he arrived. She came up to him, looked him lovingly in the eye and said very compassionately, “You must be hungry!” Casey replied “I am.” She invited him in to clean up while she fixed a meal. To Casey, Hazel represented “Grace” and its unconditional love. It really melted his heart, and it wasn’t long before he committed his life to Christ and has been living for Him ever since, actively involved in church.
Casey had written out his story and was going to have someone else read it, but he decided to try it and though he struggled a few times with his emotions and had to pause, he managed to make it through. It was so powerful and such an amazing picture of the difference between Law and Grace. In Romans, Paul writes: “For what the Law could not do, weak as it was through the flesh (i.e. our old sinful nature), God did: sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and as an offering for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the requirement of the Law might be fulfilled in us, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit” (Ro. 8:3-4). As someone has described it, GRACE is “God’s Riches At Christ’s Expense.” God gave us that law to show us our sinfulness, our rebellion and then sent His Son to pay the penalty for our sin so we can become new creations in Christ when we trust in His death, burial and resurrection for us. Because Casey had experienced God’s grace through her mom, it brought him to a place where he was able to receive God’s grace through Jesus Christ. He realized there was no way he could ever do and be all that his father required of him but discovered that the heavenly Father’s Son, Jesus Christ, had fulfilled the Law for us so that we can be justified (“just as if I hadn’t sinned”) through faith in Him. “For by grace are you saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God, not as a result of works (trying to keep the Law), that no one should boast” (Eph. 2:8,9).
Are people around you and me drawn to the Grace of God because of our unconditional love for them? Something to think about.