The Amigo of Grace – again!

Grace delivers us from bondage to laws

and frees us to enjoy God in an enriching

and satisfying relationship

 

In order to grasp the reality of God’s grace we must first understand the reality of our own sinfulness. If we are convinced that in spite of the little vices which we all have, we are basically good people deserving of God’s favor, then we shall see no need for His grace. If we believe that God is obligated to let us enter Heaven because we have tried to keep His laws and done the best we can, then grace is totally unnecessary. The whole concept will appear absurd. But if we accept God’s assessment of our lives—that we are unrighteous, deceitful, desperately wicked, guilty, condemned sinners, incapable of measuring up to God’s standard and unworthy of His acceptance—then a deep appreciation for His grace will begin to dawn on our sin-dulled minds. We will get to know the God of all grace.

We learn a valuable lesson about grace from observing God’s gracious actions toward us in salvation. Just as the root meaning of the New Testament word involves joy and pleasantness, so we notice that God’s grace has an uncanny way of transforming the unpleasant into the pleasant. He takes an unbeliever, chained to his wretchedness and sin and bound for the bitterness of an eternal hell, freely gives him the lovely garments of Christ’s righteousness, then assures him of Heaven’s glory and beauty. What a transformation! That is God’s grace for salvation.

Then He continues to act toward us in grace. Not only does He bring delight to our drab existence by giving us the gift of eternal life, but He keeps on giving us good things to meet our needs and brighten our lives. For example, He gives us the resources to build us up and set us apart more fully to Himself, progressively replacing the ugliness of our daily sin with the attractiveness of holy living. That was Paul’s message to the Ephesian elders:

 

And now I commend you to God and to the word of His grace, which

is able to build you up and to give you the inheritance among all those

who are sanctified – Acts 20:32 NASB

 

That is grace for sanctification.

Sanctification is not slavishly submitting in the energy of the flesh to somebody’s man-made list of do’s and don’ts in order to enhance our own reputation or earn points with God. It is laying hold of God’s gracious plan to become more like Christ for His glory and praise. Grace delivers us from bondage to laws and frees us to enjoy God in an enriching and satisfying relationship. We will be motivated to please Him from within rather than pressured from without. We delight in pleasing someone who never stops giving good things to us.

God also provides grace for Christian service. We have a tendency to get carried away with our own abilities, and we begin to think that God is rather fortunate to have us on His team to do His work. We may feel that He is obligated to prosper us when we do serve Him. Those attitudes often lead to failure. The Apostle Paul admitted without shame that he was unworthy to serve Christ: “I was made a minister, according to the gift of God’s grace which was given to me according to the working of His power” (Ephesians 3:7; cf. also 2 Corinthians 8:1-2).

We do not deserve to have the pleasure of serving the eternal God, but He has bestowed that privilege on us by His grace. We serve Him not to obtain His favor, but because we already have it. Any success we may enjoy will be the gift of His grace. He freely gives us the abilities and strength we need to serve Him. He transforms our feeble, bungling, embarrassing, unpleasant efforts into an effective, satisfying, and rewarding ministry that brings glory to Him. It is all part of His gracious actions toward us.

Grace – The First Amigo

An Undefinable Word

Grace is a subject that is broad and deep. I could take years examining the word of God and not adequately plumb the depths of grace. If I had an unlimited vocabulary and perfect writing skills, I would not be able to adequately communicate the beauty of His grace. There just are no words for it. So I will do the best I can to share what I have learned. But to describe it accurately is to try to accurately describe a beautiful sunset painted on the canvass of the sky. To adequately communicate its affect on the human souls is more difficult than to describe in detail the joy of watching one’s child be born…or their first intentional smile!

A Theological Description

God’s grace is that perfection or attribute of God that enables Him to have mercy on us. It is that part that strives with a rebellious person like me…and you. Like every other perfection (or attribute) grace just isn’t an adjective, it isn’t even just part of God. Grace IS who God is. Just like He is love, righteous, holy, just, etc. God is grace and He sheds His grace on us. Now how He sheds grace on humanity can be different but make no mistake that all of humanity experiences God’s grace one way or another.

 

Important Distinctions

Common Grace

But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven; for He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.                   – Matthew 5:44-45 NASB

Common grace is shed on all mankind, not just the elect. We see it in not only the rain cited in Matthew 5, but also in the healing of diseases, feeding the hungry, withholding judgement of those who scoff at God, murder others, and commit all sorts of unrighteousness. We even saw it at the beginning of man’s rebellion when God was gracious to Adam and Eve by making them clothes and graciously allowing them to live rather than execute judgement on them immediately. God’s common grace is that grace that everyone enjoys whether they recognize it as being from God or not.

 

Saving Grace

But we believe that we are saved through the grace of the Lord Jesus, in the same way as they also are.  – Acts 15:11 NASB

 

The saving grace of God is on full display during the Council of Jerusalem in Acts 15. In Acts 15 the Council has been convened to discuss the issue of gentiles getting saved. A question arose that centered around the issue of whether the gentiles needed to become Jewish and hold to the Law before they could be saved. It was an honest argument that later turned into a legalistic requirement by some. Anyway, the result of that discussion is the verse quoted above: ALL mankind are saved by the grace of God.

 

In Ephesians 2 Paul states

For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast.                                            – Ephesians 2:8-9 NASB

 

Some Questions for Thought

God’s grace is what saves us. So what does this have to do with justification and sanctification? And what about security? Can we once saved ever be not saved? Does God’s grace keep us as well?

All these questions are good ones that need straightforward answer. They all will be addressed in the next few weeks as we continue to consider the three amigos of grace, justification and sanctification. It may get a little tangled, but there are very important things to understand about these three amigos and how they apply to life. We’ll also be able to understand how each is distinct from the other but how each works with and enhances the other. I hope you stick around for the ending. It is really awesome.

And I do mean AWE-some

 

 

God’s Radical Grace

 

godsradicalgrace copy

Have you ever thought about the nature of God’s grace? We don’t often do that but we should. We should contemplate what He has done for us. We should think about the effect it has on us. We should recognize the fruit it bears through us. But we don’t.

Grace has been described as amazing, wonderful, and matchless. But have you ever really thought about God’s grace? Most, sadly, have not. Many in the Church have figured out what grace is and is not. Usually this is done through consulting a lexicon. Grace is defined as unmerited favor. Well there ya go! Grace is simple and direct. Unmerited favor. Let’s move on to something more interesting.

Grace isn’t one of the sexy doctrines. If grace was a piece of art, it would be perceived as a simply line drawing. Simply black ink on a white sheet of paper. Nothing more, nothing less. We see this in the teaching of the church. We tend to teach about the exciting things – missions, tongues, etc. but rarely do we go deep on God’s grace. Why is grace found to be so boring?

One reason is we may think we have it all figured out. We define it, grasp it, and then move on. But in our hurry to declare ourselves wise regarding grace, we show ourselves fools for having missed out on one of the deepest, most beautiful doctrines and actions of God. When we define it simply without attending to the meaning of it, we see God’s grace as a simply a vehicle to get us from sin to righteousness. It is a black-and-white drawing of a map. That is all. Next, much more exciting doctrine is next.

Grace is not a punchline and it isn’t simple. Grace is not a shallow doctrine to be understood with simple phrases and trite sayings. Grace is not a simple drawing. No, God’s grace is a masterpiece. It is an oil painting, full of contrasts that seem incongruous until the Master’s intent is revealed in the totality of the painting.

Grace is full of wonder and awe. Grace touches every part of our being. It rules and reigns supreme in a life that has been touched by it. A person who has been touched – truly touched – by God’s grace is never again the same. A grace-touched person is like his  Master. The grace touched person is a one who simply is a certain way, defying the simple definitions

Grace affects every facet of life. It changes us and remakes us. Learning about God’s grace – more importantly living God’s grace – is a revolutionary thing. Being touched with God’s grace makes me and you different.

Grace is often misunderstood and misapplied. Confused with a license to sin, grace gets a bad rap. Grace is also abused when it is used to excuse bad behavior and fail to hold everyone accountable to God’s standards.

Grace is ignored by others, opting for rules and regulations where God’s grace has provided freedom. Yes, God’s grace is not simple…but is is simply beautiful!

Grace is vibrant. Grace is alive. Grace is the way we live and have been enabled to live. Grace is beautiful, freeing and restraining as well.

Grace is amazing, wonderful, and matchless. And God’s grace is…

 

Radical.

God’s radical grace saved a sinner such as I. God’s radical grace is something worth understanding. Understanding grace is worth the effort and the struggle.

To understand God’s radical grace – a tall order to be sure – is to get a peek into the very nature of God. Experiencing God’s radical grace is the starting point for each Christian. It is also a main ingredient in the portrait God is painting of each Christian’s life.

Are you willing to give trying to comprehend God’s radical grace? Are you willing to join me on a journey to understand and appreciate God’s radical grace? I hope so. But be warned. To begin this journey is to begin a journey on being radicalized. For no one who experiences and understand God’s radical grace ever returns the same person.

No one.