Offer Them Christ
The Weblog Of J.F. Howard

Chosen By Grace

         Some time back the church youth group went to Wake Forest University for an afternoon of pick up basketball games in the school’s team practice facility. One of the highlights of the afternoon would be the chance for the youth to play basketball with Rusty LaRue (a church member and a highly regarded part of the Wake Forest basketball legacy). During his years at Wake Forest, Rusty had played guard on the basketball team, quarterback on the football team, and been a member of the baseball team.

         The youth were excited to be on the Wake Forest campus and to play games with the highly regarded Demon Deacon athlete, Rusty LaRue.

         At the invitation of our youth pastor, Kevin, I went along as a chaperone and to take in the experience. When everyone hit the court I duly noted that I was the oldest person in the gym…by a great number of years! I began looking for my seat to enjoy the afternoon’s basketball games.

         Soon it was time to pick teams. The captains were selected. One team would be led by our youth pastor. The other team would be led by Rusty LaRue. The youth pastor selected first and he rightly chose the tallest and best player among our youth. Rusty picked next. He chose me. This was so unexpected that at first I didn’t even realize I had been chosen. My response was “What? Who did he pick?” Rusty replied, “I chose you, preacher.”

         Suddenly I went from spectator to participant! I was going to be in the game.

         I understood right away that Rusty had not selected me because of my great height (I’m 5’ 7”). Nor had I been selected because of my Division I basketball skills (which I do not have). As I walked out to the court I knew that the only reason I had been chosen was because of grace. Rusty knew that he alone could play against a team of five youth group members and win the game. He did not need me at all. But he chose me, not because of my skill or merit, but because of his grace.

         So we played that day. Me, the out of shape, middle-aged preacher on the same team with the NBA and ACC champion. As expected, we won. I scored 2 points. Rusty LaRue scored nearly all the rest of the points. I ended the game sweating profusely and panting for breath. Rusty barely broke a sweat and at the end of the game looked like he could play all day.

         To this day, years later, I remember that game, not for the points I scored (both of them!) but for the grace I received. I did not deserve to be on Rusty LaRue’s team. Truthfully, I did not deserve to even be in the game. That is why it was grace. To be chosen for the team had nothing to do with me and everything to do with the one doing the choosing.

         When I think of that basketball game on the Wake Forest University campus, I remember, God is a God of grace. He names Jesus team captain.

         The Bible says, “4 God chose us in Christ to be holy and blameless in God’s presence before the creation of the world.. 6 and to honor his glorious grace that he has given to us freely through the Son whom he loves.

(Ephesians 1:4, 6, Common English Bible).

         By the grace of God, I am chosen to be on God’s team. It is not at all because of my skill, my merit, or my hard work. I am chosen because of God’s grace and through “the Son whom he loves” and the amazing work of salvation provided by Jesus Christ on the cross.

         I cannot get past the first phrase in this passage, “God chose us in Christ.”

         When I was chosen by Rusty LaRue I was not even expecting to play in the game. To be chosen for the team was a surprise to me. How much more surprised and amazed am I to read “God chose us in Christ.” I am chosen to be a member of God’s team! It is not by anything I did. I am chosen “in Christ.” Through the grace of God and the salvation of Jesus Christ I am now part of the “in” crowd. I am “in Christ.”

         I do not deserve to be “in.” In fact, I deserve to be “out.” But by the grace of God I am “in Christ.”

         The passage also reminds me that I am “to honor his glorious grace” (Ephesians 1:6). God’s grace is “glorious” because it is a gift to me, freely given for the glory of God. It is my calling to accept the gift of grace and then live out my days on this earth honoring the glorious grace of God to proclaiming grace and demonstrating grace to everyone everywhere.

         The Bible tells me that this “glorious grace” is given to me “freely through the Son” Jesus Christ (Ephesians 1:6). Since grace has so freely and generously been given to me through Jesus, I am called to spread grace to all by words and actions. What I have received freely, I should be willing to give freely.

         Just now I can hear the voice of Jesus Christ. He is choosing members for Team Grace. If you listen closely, I think I can hear Jesus calling your name.

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