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Enabling Grace Blog


"Grace 101: Understanding the grace of God, part 1"


 

If I were to ask a hundred church-going people what grace is, I would probably get a hundred different answers. Grace is a misunderstood word and because of that, some people have taught it incorrectly, making it something that it’s not, and others have grown a distaste for even the message of grace to be talked about. People teach things like, “We have to balance God’s grace with His judgement.” Others teach, “Christians need a balance of grace and law; so that they’ll know what to do and how they should live their lives.” Teachings like these things have confused many sincere, seeking believers who want to know the truth about grace. Look at what Paul said in Col 1:6 — “which (gospel) has come to you, as it has also in all the world, and is bringing forth fruit, as it is also among you since the day you heard and knew the grace of God in truth. Look at that last phrase, “knew the grace of God in truth”. I’m sure that is exactly what you desire; to know the truth about the grace of God. So let’s get into it!


Paul uses the word grace over a hundred different times throughout his New Testament writings and he only wrote 13 letters! Evidently, grace was very important to him, because that is what he wanted his readers to get a hold of just like he got a hold of it. Paul, since his conversion to Christ, didn’t always have a handle on God’s grace. I know that most of us think that Paul, right out of the gate, had a handle on grace. In his early years of ministry, he even circumcised another minister of the gospel, see Acts 16:3. But Paul does give us his testimony of when he got a hold of the message of God’s grace that dramatically changed his life, see 2 Cor 12:1-10. Paul had been dealing with a nagging problem of persecution that kept happening to him everywhere he went to preach the gospel. Probably, like most of us, he was wondering, “If I’m doing what You called me to do, then why do these things keep happening?” He never got an answer to his question, until finally, on the 3rd time he heard the Lord tell him — “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.” Think about this in the light of his question; it doesn’t say anything about the tribulation he kept facing — or does it? What the Lord told Paul about his troubles, is the same message that He’s telling us as we live in this troubled world: MY GRACE IS ALL YOU NEED! 


From that 1 message, the Lord started unfolding to him the reason why His grace is all that he needs in those situations. The Lord said that “MY STRENGTH” — His strength, His power — is made perfect through His grace! That means that all of the power we will ever need in a given situation is in His grace! But please understand that the answer that Paul received from the Lord about His grace didn’t change what kept happening to him, because those things kept happening, but it changed Paul’s mindset, attitude and behavior about those situations! This is what the correct understanding of what grace is will do in our lives — it brings dynamic change to our mindsets, attitudes and behaviors! 


What is the grace of God?


Like I stated earlier, some have said that grace is a church doctrine; others have said it is a movement; the list goes on and on what people think that God’s grace is. I like to stick with the definition that has been around for a while: 


“Grace is God’s unmerited favor.”


Grace is UNMERITED, because it can’t be earned or deserved by anything that one does. Grace is God’s FAVOR, because He is the one performing the work FOR us. We’ve heard the Scripture many times, Eph 2:8-9 — “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast.” This verse describes the power of God’s unlimited favor in bringing salvation to our lives! Grace is a GIVING word — God giving us things. Grace is a SHARING word — God is sharing Himself with us. Grace is a word that describes God’s GENEROSITY — He is lovingly and actively involved in our lives. I am convinced that if we could understand the simple definition of grace, God’s unmerited favor, our lives will become more of a witness to this world! 


Like I said earlier, Paul used the word GRACE over a hundred times in his writings and several of other times when he was teaching on it, he didn’t use the word. Let us look at one of these times from Phil 2:12-13 — "(12) work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, (13) for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure." Every believer is to WORK OUT their own salvation, because our great salvation is a personal matter; it’s one-on-one with the Lord. To work something out is to understand and figure it out. Just like when we work out a problem, we find its solution. We are to find a solution by thinking about our salvation. I know that may sound weird but stay with me. You remember what we just looked at with Paul and what he learned about grace being God’s strength amid his persecution? Well, that was him working out his salvation (deliverance) for those situations. So, what are we to work out regarding our own salvation? Paul gives us the answer in v. 13. He said that it’s “God who works in us both to WILL and to WORK for His good pleasure”. We all as unlearned believers, tend to think that we must to help God to get our salvation (deliverance) by doing our “spiritual disciplines”. When all that God wants from us is our faith and trust in Him and in His promises. What do I mean by spiritual disciplines? Things like prayer, Bible reading, fasting, witnessing, you get the idea. These are the things that man-made religion has taught us to do to help God, or to earn His favor. What happens is when we start living by that man-made, religious hamster wheel, we experience condemnation, frustration, disappointment and confusion — just to name a few. This is because it’s a never-ending cycle that raises such questions like “How do I know when I’ve done enough?” and “Lord, are you pleased with me yet?” (You get the idea.) Then we start making our own standards and limits for living the “Christian” life. This is exactly what Paul had in mind when he said (2 Cor 10:12) — “For we dare not class ourselves or compare ourselves with those who commend themselves. But they, measuring themselves by themselves, and comparing themselves among themselves, are not wise.” If we look around our churches, this is exactly what we see. This is because these are the results of a graceless life.


Look at what Paul said in 1 Cor 15:10 — “But by the grace of God I am what I am, and His grace toward me was not in vain; but I labored more abundantly than they all, yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me.” See, it’s when we start living by God’s unmerited favor, His grace, we end up doing the things that promote our spiritual growth. Grace makes man-made disciplines become spontaneous and effortless on our part. Someone rightfully said, 


“It is amazing how much work gets done when you are resting.” 


Prayer should be an effortless joy, because we are resting in Christ, talking to our Dad and enjoying our fellowship with Him. Reading our Bibles becomes a great joy when we are resting in Christ, because we are finding out more about Jesus and what He has done for us through the work of Redemption. Grace gives us an effortless life of victory.  


You can hear the incredible joy that Paul had as he wrote these words in 1 Cor 15:57 — “But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.” We know from his writings that almost everywhere he went, he was beaten, or taken to prison, or shipwrecked, or many other such things; things, that at one time, he questioned them before the Lord. Did Paul have a “fake-it-to-you-make-it” mindset when he wrote that verse in 1 Cor 15:57? No. He learned the secret to a victorious life and that is living by faith in God’s grace (That’s 2 Cor 12:9 that we looked at above.) Look at what he said in that testimony as he received that message and worked out his own salvation — “Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in needs, in persecutions, in distresses, for Christ’s sake. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” That’s the confidence of victory that grace gives, “For when I am weak, then I am strong”! The confidence of grace says, “It doesn’t matter what things may look like on the outside; inwardly, I am strong because Jesus is the strength of my life!” See, grace makes all the difference!


 
 
 
 

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