THE GIFT OF GRACE: Back to the Basics
All educators understand the importance of “the basics.” Without mastery of the basics, many of our students will be unable to learn what is needed to make them successful. For example, I was visiting with a frustrated English teacher who made the following statement: “How can I teach students to identify the subject of a sentence when they can’t even find all of the nouns and pronouns?” As teachers, it is hard to move on when students are missing prerequisite skills and information. What do we do in these situations? We go back to the basics. If not, discouragement and frustration will set in for us and our students.
I wonder if this example might parallel our Christian walk. How many of us are trying to learn and grow spiritually apart from the gift of God’s grace? How many believers have forgotten one of the basics? As any good educator would do, let’s review the basics of grace.
What is grace?
Grace is one of those concepts that may be easy to define but hard to grasp. Grace is often defined as the unmerited or undeserved favor of God toward those who are condemned. J.I. Packer in Knowing God describes grace as, “God operating in love toward people in a way that is spontaneous, self-determined, and kind.” Packer goes on to say that many in our churches simply give the term “grace” lip service. Understanding and embracing God’s grace is an education in itself. Consider five basic truths regarding grace.
1. God’s grace is a gift.
For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God. Ephesians 2:8
And since it is through God’s kindness, then it is not by their good works. For in that case, God’s grace would not be what it really is—free and undeserved. Romans 11:6
The only requirement to receiving this free gift of God is acknowledging our sinful condition and accepting Jesus as our Savior. This is hard for many today. No one likes to think of himself or herself as sinful or—as the song Amazing Grace says—a wretch. Yet, apart from Jesus, that is exactly what we are. Without this basic acknowledgement, it is difficult to grasp the magnitude of God’s grace. Even Christians can lose sight of their wretchedness apart from Christ, but Jesus said, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I have not come to call the righteous but sinners to repentance.” Luke 5:31-32
In Tony Evans’ Book of Illustrations, he shares, “When Christians understand that grace is a gift of God, they will make the choice to say no to wrong and yes to right. If Christians lose sight of grace, then they become irresponsible with the life given to them by God.”
2. God’s grace is sufficient.
In a world of want (especially during the holidays), we never seem to have enough. God wants us to know that He alone is enough. I have watched God come through in difficult situations so many times in my life, especially in the lives of my children. It makes me ashamed that I ever doubt him.
God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that always having all sufficiency in everything, you may have an abundance for every good deed. 2 Corinthians 9:8
God’s grace is always enough, even when it doesn’t feel like it. Paul testifies that even in our weakness, we can experience His grace.
Each time he said to me, “My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.” So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ can work through me. 2 Corinthians 12: 9
3. God’s grace gives power.
I love this statement by John Piper: “Grace is not simply leniency when we have sinned. Grace is the enabling gift of God not to sin. Grace is power, not just pardon.” This is affirmed in the Scriptures.
By his divine power, God has given us everything we need for living a godly life. We have received all of this by coming to know him, the one who called us to himself by means of his marvelous glory and excellence. 2 Peter 1:3
4. God’s grace gives us reason to celebrate.
Even though we often struggle in this Christian life, we don’t have to live in a place of defeat, self-condemnation, and despair. Jesus provides a way out. That is worth celebrating! Remember, He came so we could experience abundant life. Our hearts can be filled with joy simply because of God’s grace!
God’s law was given so that all people could see how sinful they were. But as people sinned more and more, God’s wonderful grace became more abundant. So just as sin ruled over all people and brought them to death, now God’s wonderful grace rules instead, giving us right standing with God and resulting in eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord. Romans 5:20-21
5. God’s grace comes through Christ alone.
Make no mistake. Not everyone will experience God’s grace. It’s not because God withholds His grace. Receiving God’s grace is a matter of each person choosing to receive His ultimate gift—Jesus. It takes action on our part. Randy Alcorn said it so simply, “There’s only one requirement for enjoying God’s grace: being broken and knowing it.” In essence, God’s unconditional grace is only available to those who repent, ask for forgiveness, and place their faith in Him.
But there is a great difference between Adam’s sin and God’s gracious gift. For the sin of this one man, Adam, brought death to many. But even greater is God’s wonderful grace and his gift of forgiveness to many through this other man, Jesus Christ. Romans 5:15
For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. John 1:17.
Jesus told him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one can come to the Father except through me.” John 14:6
Sometimes it is good for all of us to go back to the basics. God’s gift of grace is a priceless gift we can open every day, not just Christmas morning!
Packer, J. I. Knowing God.
Evans, T. Tony Evans’ Book of Illustrations.
Alcorn, R. Does Grace Still Amaze You. Retrieved from www.desiringgod.org, April 13, 2019.