When I say the word ‘grace’, what do you think of? There are a multitude of meanings for this lovely word. You may think of movement, ballet, elegance or charm.
I saw a bumper sticker once that said, “American by birth, southern by the grace of God.” Having grown up about 50 miles south of the Canadian border I’m not so sure I’m connecting with this particular aspect of God’s grace.
I saw a deer loping across a field not long ago and where the field meets the road there was a high fence, much taller than the deer. She didn’t even hesitate. It was a thing of beauty. With unbelievable grace she left her feet and sore through the air over that fence and land effortlessly on the other side.
I see grace in the Olympic event, synchronized swimming. I saw a beautiful bride take a long walk recently toward her groom. It was a true picture of grace. That bride is now my daughter-in-law.
For some of you, grace is a name. It might be your name or you may know someone named Grace. We have friends living in Atlanta who have a three year old daughter named “Gracie” and a little boy the age of our son, Kameron. I asked my six year old the other day had he decided who to marry yet and he surprised me by saying, “Yes, I have.” Well, I had to know so I asked him whom he had decided on. He said in a matter-of-fact way, “Gracie”. So I just had to know why and he said, “Because if I marry Gracie I’ll always be able to play with Hayden’s toys.
Try to wipe your mind clear of all these ideas of grace and let’s go to the biblical idea of grace. It comes from the Greek word, Charis. Its English sister is charity which means love. When we speak of grace we are inferring love. Grace doesn’t exist alone. It only exists in the hearts of people or a person. It is like hatred, or evil or goodness. It is not a thing, it is an expression.
Grace is the unmerited mercy given to us by God the Father and made available only through his son, Jesus Christ. Grace is God’s Redemption At Christ’s Expense. It is forgiveness when forgiveness is undeserved.
When I was growing up in the northwestern town of Meadville, Pennsylvania, we had a bully living in our neighborhood. He was a 15 year old who loved to terrorize those of us who were still in Junior High School. We never walked anywhere alone for fear we would run in to him.
Let’s consider another neighborhood bully.
His name was Saul and he was on the road to Damascus. He was an ornery fellow if there ever was one. He had a deep seeded hatred for Christians. He persecuted Christians and assisted in the murder of Christians until he experienced a miraculous event in his life. This is how he described it in his own words: “About noon as I came near Damascus, suddenly a bright light from heaven flashed around me. I fell to the ground and heard a voice say to me, ‘Saul! Saul! Why do you persecute me?’ ‘Who are you, Lord?’ I asked. ‘I am Jesus of Nazareth, whom you are persecuting,’ he replied. My companions saw the light, but they did not understand the voice of him who was speaking to me. ‘What shall I do, Lord?’ I asked.” (Acts 22:6-10)
Saul experienced a wonderful conversion that day. He experienced Saving Grace. His name was changed to Paul and he became the greatest missionary who ever lived. He is probably responsible for more souls finding Christ than any other man in history.
Later on in his life he is telling his Christian brothers about this event. “For I am the least of the apostles and do not even deserve to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace to me was not without effect. No, I worked harder than all of them—yet not I, but the grace of God that was with me.” – (1 Cor. 15:9-10)
1. Saving Grace is generous. We may or may not receive forgiveness from men but God is generous in his grace. He wants more than anything to forgive you. Our God loves to give and he gives mercy and forgiveness freely to those who will seek it.
2. Saving Grace is undeserved. If you have experienced his saving grace, you received something you didn’t deserve. It is the unmerited favor of God. You can do nothing to earn this grace. It is available not only to those who don’t deserve it but it is available to the very enemies of God. It is for those who despise God and who are ungrateful and entirely undeserving.
3. Saving Grace is available. There are those who teach that this grace is limited to only a select few. This smacks of a sort of Christian elitism, our four and no more. Christ does not limit his atonement for a select few. He is not willing that any should perish. “For God so loved the world that whosoever believeth in him shall not perish but have everlasting life.” (John 3:16)
One can experience saving grace in a moment of time. He then claims that he is saved. But salvation is more than an instantaneous experience, it is a life-long process. Isn’t it more accurate to say, “I am being saved” rather than “I have been saved?” Salvation is not just an event, it is a journey. It is the long process of becoming more and more like Jesus.
Paul said, "Now is our salvation nearer than when we first believed." (Romans 13:11) Full salvation doesn’t happen in a moment, it happens over a lifetime. We are not yet perfect but we hope for perfection: "Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is. And every man that hath this hope in him purifieth himself, even as he is pure" (1 John 3:2-3).
One man humbly prayed to God, “Lord, I’m not what I ought to be, I’m not what I’m going to be, but praise God, I’m not what I used to be.”