GRACE. Philip Yancey calls it “the last best word.” Others say it is the single most important concept in the Bible. And many (including me) still struggle to grasp its full meaning. But scary? How could grace scare anybody?
Welcome to Mindful Monday, and while my intention is not to frighten you as you begin your week, I do want to grab your attention as we delve into a very serious topic this month: God’s GRACE.
I have spent the last 8 months studying and teaching the book of Romans. Romans is a doctrinally rich book of the Bible. Many say it is the crown jewel of the New Testament. The apostle Paul, who writes this letter, tackles some of the weightiest issues of Christianity with blunt force. But the underlying current running through all of Paul’s teaching is GRACE. God’s grace. The kind of grace that we often misunderstand, take for granted or ignore.
Why? Why is it so hard to look this kind of grace full in the face and accept it?
Because true grace will scare you.
Yes, you read that correctly, but please keep reading and allow me to explain. Because it does not have to scare you.
In the next few weeks, we are going to break down grace, take it apart, and examine it closely. Together, we are going to deal with the fear, the doubts, and the questions that arise. My disclaimer is that I do not have all the answers. I am not a trained Bible scholar, theologian, or pastor. I am just a simple girl reading the Scriptures and asking the Holy Spirit to reveal God’s truth to me.
We will try to take some of the mystery out of GRACE looking at it from 3 perspectives:
- GRACE DEFINED: What is grace?
- GRACE DELIVERED: How do we receive grace?
- GRACE DISPLAYED: What does grace look like?
The simplest definition of GRACE is this: the free, unmerited favor of God toward man (Bible Dictionary).
What is God’s grace really? Where does grace come from? And how do we actually experience this unmerited favor, this gift of God?
In the New Testament grace means God’s love in action towards men who deserved the opposite of love. Grace means God moving heaven and earth to save sinners who could not lift a finger to save themselves. Grace means God sending His only Son to die on the cross so that we guilty ones might be reconciled to God.
John MacArthur adds, “Grace is a terribly misunderstood word. Defining it succinctly is notoriously difficult. Some of the most detailed theology textbooks do not offer any concise definition of the term. Someone has proposed an acronym: GRACE is God’s Riches At Christ’s Expense. That’s not a bad way to characterize grace, but it is not a sufficient theological definition.”
Here are some other ways people have defined GRACE:
“Grace is free, sovereign favor to the ill-deserving.” ~B.B. Warfield
“Grace is love that cares and stoops and rescues.” ~John Stott
“[Grace] is God reaching downward to people who are in rebellion against Him.” ~Jerry Bridges
“Grace is unconditional love toward a person who does not deserve it.” ~Paul Zahl
“Grace is the good pleasure of God that inclines him to bestow benefits on the undeserving.” ~A.W. Tozer
In some of these definitions, you may begin to see why GRACE may scare you (and you may not even realize it!).
TRUE GRACE–GOD’S GRACE MAY SCARE YOU…
1) Because it is FREE
We live in a world of earning, deserving, and achieving. There are winners and losers, right? And we are judged according to how we measure up or perform. However, these rules do not apply to God’s GRACE. It is completely free and undeserved with no strings attached. We can do NOTHING to earn it, and it is very hard for us to wrap our minds around this. We are scared because we cannot believe it is true. We dare not even hope it could be true. How can God accept me as the broken, messed up wreck that I am and not expect anything in return? We are convinced that we have to DO something to earn this kind of favor from God. The Bible tells us that grace is a FREE GIFT.
Ephesians 2:8-9 (ESV)
“For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.”
Romans 4:16 (MSG)
“This is why the fulfillment of God’s promise depends entirely on trusting God and his way, and then simply embracing him and what he does. God’s promise arrives as pure gift. That’s the only way everyone can be sure to get in on it, those who keep the religious traditions and those who have never heard of them…”
2) Because it is FIERCE
Those of you who have experienced God’s GRACE know this to be true. It is not a warm, fuzzy feeling but a fierce, all-consuming force. GRACE does not come and quietly sit on your lap…it comes roaring like lion taking over everything. It reminds me of the description of Aslan in C.S. Lewis’ The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe:
“Aslan is a lion- the Lion, the great Lion.” “Ooh” said Susan. “I’d thought he was a man. Is he-quite safe? I shall feel rather nervous about meeting a lion”…”Safe?” said Mr. Beaver …”Who said anything about safe? ‘Course he isn’t safe. But he’s good. He’s the King, I tell you.”
So it is with God’s GRACE…it is not safe, nor did He ever want it to be. It is the power to save us from our sins and rescue us from certain death. GRACE has to be fierce.
Ephesians 2:4-5 (NLT)
“But God is so rich in mercy, and he loved us so much, that even though we were dead because of our sins, he gave us life when he raised Christ from the dead (It is only by God’s grace that you have been saved!).”
Romans 3:23-24 (NLT)
“For everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God’s glorious standard. Yet God, in his grace, freely makes us right in his sight. He did this through Christ Jesus when he freed us from the penalty for our sins.”
3) Because it is FOREVER
GRACE is not something we just pick up when we need a little boost or want to feel God’s love. GRACE actually changes our standing with God. It gives us a new identity and thus a new way of living. It gives us a hope and a future. GRACE promises forever with God. And in our commitment phobic culture, this may scare us. GRACE relentlessly pursues us and refuses to let go.
Romans 5:1-2 (NLT)
“Therefore, since we have been made right in God’s sight by faith, we have peace with God because of what Jesus Christ our Lord has done for us. Because of our faith, Christ has brought us into this place of undeserved privilege where we now stand, and we confidently and joyfully look forward to sharing God’s glory.”
2 Timothy 1:9 (NLT)
“For God saved us and called us to live a holy life. He did this, not because we deserved it, but because that was his plan from before the beginning of time—to show us his grace through Christ Jesus.”
So on this Mindful Monday, I want you to consider if maybe you have been running from GRACE instead of toward it. Maybe deep down you are a little afraid of a force that is free, fierce, and forever. It’s okay. God knows where you are what you need right now.
The only thing you need to do is pause, ponder, and pray about God’s GRACE this week. I will be praying for you and am always here if you need me.
Let’s meet back here on Faithful Friday so I can give you some more resources and reflections on this amazing thing we call GRACE .