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Grace Notes

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A GENIE IN THE BIBLE
by Philip Owen

We all remember the story of Aladdin and his magic lamp.  When he rubbed it, a genie would appear and grant him a wish.  Similar stories abound involving powerful spirits that inhabit bottles and use their supernatural powers for good and evil in the affairs of men.  Sadly, as silly as these tales are, many people seem to have a view of God that is very similar in nature to these Islamic myths.  They view God as little more than a Genie in the Bible, who is subservient to their beck and call.  He is to be kept out of the way and out of sight, only to be loosed when His “master” has a need to be supplied or a desire to be fulfilled.

Such a view of God is unscriptural and irreverent, if not blasphemous.  Yes, God is good, and, yes, He is gracious, and, yes, He answers the prayers prayed in faith by believers.  But we must never allow God’s proffered fellowship to degenerate into presumptuous familiarity.  And though we could not even exist, much less prosper, apart from His abundant grace, He does not live for our sake; on the contrary, we are to live for Him.  We are to be, if you will, at His beck and call.  We are to live for His glory.  And the blessings He so richly lades upon us are to be used, not to make our lives unceasingly and excessively comfortable, but to make His grace unceasingly and extensively known.

At least two points undergird this reality.

His character.  The chief attribute of God is holiness.  Whatever else that word designates, it indicates that God is uniquely set apart.  He is different from, separate from, and above all His created beings.  The author of Hebrews explains that “the Lord shall judge his people.  It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God” (10:30b, 31).  Shortly thereafter, he exhorts believers to “serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear:  For our God is a consuming fire” (12:28b, 29).  This is not to dismiss the truth that God is loving and good, gracious and kind.  But it is to assert that God is fundamentally, first and foremost GOD.  He is to be revered, honored, exalted, and worshiped.  He is to be held in awe and reverence.

It is good to remember that when Moses asked to see God’s glory, God replied:  “I will make all my goodness pass before thee, and I will proclaim the name of the Lord before thee; and will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and will shew mercy on whom I will shew mercy. . . .  Thou canst not see my face:  for there shall no man see me, and live” (Ex. 33:19, 20).  God’s gracious condescension in the Person of the Son does not alter His divine holy character.  His Person should elicit a holy fear in us.

Our calling.  The obvious and essential corollary to the character of God has to do with the consequent calling of the believer.  Who and what God is entails absolute consequences upon the objects of His love.  Yes, we are the recipients of His bountiful grace, but such grace is not intended to engender egocentrism or an entitlement mentality on our parts.  On the contrary, it should engender humility, thankfulness, and devotion.

God is not bashful concerning what our response to His grace should be.  We are not to become egocentric and self-indulgent.  “What?  know we not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own?  For ye are bought with a price:  therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God’s” (I Cor. 6:19, 20).  “He died for all, that they which live should not henceforth live unto themselves, but unto him which died for them, and rose again” (II Cor. 5:15).

Clearly, believers are the recipients of the manifold grace of God, but we are not to use that grace “for an occasion to the flesh” (Gal. 5:13).  For we have been redeemed and called to serve a most holy but altogether gracious God.  May we gladly give God His just due that He might freely give us His gracious blessing.

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