Grace! This word is rich with meaning and oozing with significance. As Christians we love grace, and we should. It is God’s unmerited favor and kindness towards us. Grace is by definition undeserved. We talk about grace. We sing about grace. After all, it is by this grace that we have forgiveness. Ephesians 2:8-9 are exciting verses: We are saved by grace, not by works! Consider this, my works cannot make me acceptable to God, therefore God accepts me based on His work. Isn’t this a glorious thought? Yet, there is a trend in Evangelicalism to relegate grace to the diminished domain of mere forgiveness. In other words, we hear grace talked about alot in regards to God forgiving sin, and we should! But when we limit grace to only be about forgiveness, then our goal becomes about being forgiven rather than being changed. Grace isn’t less than forgiveness; it is so much more. Rather than grace becoming the scapegoat to cover our vices (turning grace into a passive security blanket), grace is radically active.
Grace Empowers Action
Peter calls us to be “preparing your minds for action, and being sober-minded, set your hope fully on the grace…” (1 Peter 1:13). This grace is both preparing for action and forward looking (hope looks forward)! In other words, grace not only deals with our past, but with our present and our future. Our hope being set on grace must arouse within us a holy confidence that God is going to work through our lives actively. This is what the Apostle Paul is getting at in Ephesians 2:10. Right after he speaks of God’s grace rather than our works saving us, he goes on to speak of God preparing good works for us to walk in. In other words, the grace that saves us really does save us. It saves us from the cultural status quo. It saves us from investing our lives in mediocrity. It saves us from our claustrophobic little world, where we wrap our identity and significance around trinkets and hobbies.
Grace is for Today
This empowering grace means we can act in faith towards God today! After all, we have already been given all that we need for life and godliness (2 Peter 1:3). We don’t need to wait for grace. We have it now! Sometimes our inactivity is us saying, “if it takes effort then it is not grace working.” We seem to be waiting for the Spirit of God to pull us off the sofa and to pry our white-knuckled hands off the TV remote. We tell ourselves that we do not want to get ahead of God, and so we passively wait. Some have even used the phrase, “if it’s by perspiration, then it’s not by inspiration.” Now, I get what is meant by that phrase. We are never to trust in our efforts or abilities. But we are to trust God to energize our efforts and abilities. I don’t need to wait for grace to love my wife and kids. I have it. I need to act on it. This doesn’t mean that loving others and serving others becomes effortless. Faith towards God and repentance from sin takes effort. But if we are relying on the grace of God, we trust that our efforts will be effective because of grace.
In a culture where grace is truncated to ‘getting saved’, let us be counter-cultural. May glorious grace be demonstrated by our grace-empowered lives, not merely as something that covers our godlessness, rather as something that enables our godliness. For it is God who works in us both to will and to do for his good pleasure! Oh that we would let this world see grace that not only pardons sin, but fuels change. What if our friends, family, neighbors, and colleagues could see God’s grace being worked out in our lives – God’s grace actively changing us? Have you succumbed to the decline of grace? Has grace been boxed into the realm of divine pardon? By God’s grace, open the box. Allow the grace of God to be unleashed in your life today. Let the glory of grace be displayed in a life actively being changed by the Spirit of God. This change is life long, but in the words of John Newton’s famous hymn Amazing Grace, “This grace has brought me safe thus far, and grace will lead me home.” I will close with the Apostle Paul’s benediction in 2 Corinthians 13:14, “The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all."