God’s Grace Teaching Us

For the grace of God has appeared that offers salvation to all people. It teaches us to say No to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age, while we wait for the blessed hope—the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ” (Titus 2:11-12, NIV).

Man Kneeling

The doctrine of grace is an amazing concept. Grace, of course, means “goodwill,” “loving-kindness,” or “favor.” I love the commentary that grace is God’s “unmerited favor.” This explains not only the helpless, hopeless, sinful condition of mankind and its need for ransom or redemption; it highlights God’s undying, incomprehensible unconditional love. Grace cannot be purchased. It is a free gift of God—albeit not free in the simplest use of the word. It cost God the life of His only begotten Son. It cost Jesus indescribable, excruciating pain, unfathomable emotional distress, rejection, persecution, torture, and death. Taking mankind’s sin on at the time of crucifixion cost Jesus to be cut off by God. At that instant, Jesus became the sin of the world. God had to turn His face away. Jesus, feeling the abandonment of the Father, cried out, “Eli, Eli, lemasabachthani?” (which means, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me” (Matthew 27:46, NIV).

GOD’S GRACE OFFERS US SALVATION AND JUSTIFICATION

Christian scholars and writers have long considered the connection between grace and justification. “…and all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus” (Romans 3:24, NIV). Ephesians 1:7 says, “In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace” (NIV). It amounts to a full pardon of our sins to the point where God remembers our offenses no more. Hebrews 8:12 says, “For I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more” (NIV). Psalm 103:11-12 tells us, “For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his love for those who fear him; as far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us” (NIV). We’re at a loss to comprehend this degree of grace. There is no human equivalent. We lack the capacity for this level of forgiveness and love.

Romans 5:1-2 says, “Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we boast in the hope of the glory of God” (NIV). Verse 2 clearly states that we have access by faith into this grace. Paul explains in Ephesians 1:5-6 (speaking to non-Jews), that we all have been granted sonship through Jesus Christ “…in accordance with his pleasure and will” (NIV). In the original Greek, the word for “granted sonship” is charitoo, which means “highly favored.” The Greek wording can also signify “the favor of God.”

God’s grace is woven throughout Paul’s writings. Hiebert (1979) writes, “Paul could not think of Christian truth and conduct apart from God’s grace” (vol. 11, p. 439). Guthrie (1990), wrote, “The expression, the grace of God, may fairly be said to be the key word of Paul’s theology…. He cannot think of Christian salvation apart from the grace of God…” (p. 198) [Italics added].

GOD’S GRACE [ALSO] TEACHES US

The grace of God not only saves the souls of all who believe in his Son; it also works in believers’ lives to teach and instruct them. God’s grace, working through His Word, instructs and shapes our thinking and living. God says that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly in the present age. It is the will of God that we turn away from all that is worldly and spiritually compromising. He wants us to walk in godliness, imitating Christ in all we do. God works this into our hearts by His grace.

God’s grace first saves and then trains His people
for godliness and good deeds.

We can actually grow strong in grace. 2 Timothy 2:1 says, “You then, my son, be strong in the grace that is Christ Jesus” (NIV). God’s grace can help, teach, and empower us. The grace that restores our relationship with God through Jesus is theologically referred to as special grace. This is when God opens the eyes of a sinner and illuminates the truth about himself to that person. It is special in many ways, but the word special refers to its lack of common use by everyone. Saving grace is not experienced by the whole world but only by Christians. Common grace is God’s grace that every human experiences. It does not refer to our restored relationship with God, but rather to the gifts God gives both to the saved and the unsaved—to His church and to the world. Special grace affects us spiritually and common grace affects us physically and materially. All things are from God. No human deserves anything from God. Accordingly, all good things we have are by God’s grace. When God restores our relationship with Him through faith in his Son, this is by special grace. When He gives us all we need, this is by His common grace. But in short, all good things, spiritually and physically, are given to us by grace.

God’s grace helps by empowering us to serve Him. In other words, grace is also the power and ability of God working through us. This is paramount to growing and succeeding as a Christian. Without God’s divine power and ability operating through us, we will never make it to the tops of mountains that He is calling us to climb for Him. We will never be able to reach the goals, the aspirations, and the finish lines that God has in store for us unless we have the power of His Holy Spirit working in us and through us. Too many Christians are trying to reach their goals and aspirations operating out of their own power and strength. Paul said in 2 Corinthians 12:9-10, “But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made great in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me” (NIV).

The word “instructing” means, “child-training.” It includes teaching, but also, correcting and disciplining. It is a process that begins at salvation and continues until we stand before the Lord. Note that grace does not mean, “hang loose and live as sloppily as you please.” Paul succinctly stated, “What shall we say, then? Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase? By no means! We are those who died to sin; how can we live in it any longer” (NIV).

Grace trains, disciplines, and instructs us in godly living. When we experience God’s unmerited favor in Jesus Christ, it motivates us to want to please Him in everything we do. So we open God’s Word. As we read, we begin to realize that there is much in our lives that displeases the Lord, who gave Himself on the cross to save us from His judgment. We are to begin walking on the path that Jesus described as denying ourselves daily, taking up our crosses, and following Him (see Luke 9:23). Grace trains us to live righteously. This refers to a life of integrity and uprightness in our dealings with others. It means conforming to God’s standards of conduct, as revealed in the commandments of His Word.

CONCLUDING REMARKS

Most of us don’t really understand the full power and scope of grace. Yes, we know we’re “saved by grace.” That’s easy. Well, maybe simpler. We don’t even begin to understand the real power it can release in our lives. The Bible gives us many examples of the power of grace available to the early Church in Jerusalem. That same power is available to anyone who’s ever sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. Thank God, that means you and I qualify! Whenever we’re beleaguered by Satan, we need to follow the example of the early Christians.

Christianity teaches that what we deserve is death with no hope of resurrection. While everyone desperately needs it, grace is not about us. Grace is fundamentally a word about God.

Remember, God’s grace is free and it is unmerited.

References

Guthrie, D. (1990). Tyndale New Testament Commentaries: The Pastoral Epistles, revised ed. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Press.

Hiebert, D. (1979). The Expositor’s Bible Commentary. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Press.

 

 

A Daily Prayer Regarding Grace

Heavenly Father, we rejoice with great gladness that Your new covenant of grace is the wondrous manner in which we are invited to relate to You. In this rich covenant, we have found forgiveness of all our sins. Praise be to Your name! In this bountiful arrangement, we can grow in intimacy with You. In this generous provision, we can anticipate being changed and enabled by You from deep within our hearts. We are ever so grateful, and the only manner by which we can even remotely begin to “repay” You is to pay it forward. Grant us boldness to go forth, therefore, and tell others about Your incredible grace.

A Daily Prayer (Draw Near)

Holy Father, You are perfect in character. Your law is perfect in standard. Your law rightly demands perfection of us. Father, we ask that You remind us often that we cannot live up to that divine requirement on our own resources. Bring to our remembrance this inability of Your law. Stir our hearts to trust in that better hope. Lord, we desire to walk closely with You. Thus, we trust in Your grace as the only sufficient hope that will allow us to draw near to You, in the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.

A Daily Prayer

Heavenly Father, I am awestruck at the magnitude of Your grace. Forgive me for underestimating that grace so often. For squandering it. Using it as a get out of jail free card. Enlighten the eyes of my heart that I might know the richness of Your grace. May the immeasurable ocean of Your grace supply my daily need, through Jesus Christ my Lord, Amen.

Stop Stuffing Your Stuff

One of the primary ways people avoid dealing with pain is to “stuff it.” So often, when people hurt us, we stuff it down deep in our hearts instead of dealing with it. And when we stuff pain for too long, it finally explodes in one big ugly fit of anger. It took me years to understand why I would explode over some seemingly minor situation that certainly was not sufficient cause for my ridiculous behavior. I now know that the explosions came from many negative emotions I had stuffed deep inside and was refusing to deal with. The incident that seemed to be the problem was just the trigger for the explosion that was hidden and ready to go off at any time.

I was ignoring the real problem and blaming my bad behavior on anything and anyone I could. No matter how spiritual I pretended to be on Sunday at church, my friends and family knew the real me. I managed to ignore the problem for years by making excuses and blaming others, but eventually I had to let God “clean out the refrigerator” so to speak, and get to the root of the problem.

God uses the truth to set us free (see John 8:32), but it is not the truth about someone else that sets us free; it is the truth about ourselves that we need! Facing truth about myself has always been very difficult for me, as well as emotionally painful. But it is also the beginning of my healing. Whatever the truth is, go ahead and admit it. If you’re angry, admit it. If you’re afraid, admit it. If you’re jealous of someone, admit it. Go to God and say, “You know what, God? I know I have a bad attitude. It really stinks and even I can smell it. I want to understand why I have this problem. What is in me? Will you please show me why I have this problem?”

Maybe the Lord will show you immediately what your struggle is. Perhaps you are insecure; maybe you do not know who you are in Christ. You might be comparing yourself to others too often. Perhaps you suffered a major hurt or disappointment years ago and you have not been willing to forgive or allow God to heal you yet. Make a commitment to start being honest and owning our feelings. Refuse to stuff them and immediately stop making excuses and blaming others for your negative emotions. You will probably have to talk to God a lot, and you may even need to seek help from a trustworthy friend or your pastor. But whatever you have to do is worth doing it if it helps you to be free and enjoy life.

Whatever has hurt, angered or offended you, determine today that you are going to go through the pain of facing it and dealing with it. A friend of mine told me recently that when he has a day where he feels depressed, impatient, frustrated, or easily upset, he asks himself what happened the day before that he has not dealt with. He said God almost always shows him something he did not deal with properly, and helps him recognize that as the root of his bad behavior. That is a much better approach than ignoring what you’re feeling, or stuffing your emotions deep inside you.

As believers, we have an enemy. He will oppose us any way he can. He uses our own thoughts and feelings against us. The devil actually sets us up to get upset. He knows we cannot enjoy power if we have no peace. He knows that the love of God cannot flow through us if we are upset. I have heard it said in AA meetings that anger and resentment cut us off from the Sunlight of the Spirit. The devil will always attempt to upset us, but we can learn to stay calm, cool, and collected at all times. Of course, it takes practice and it takes the grace of God. The next time something happens that could easily upset you, ask yourself if it is worth it. Will being upset change anything? Can you afford to waste your energy being upset? Will it distract you from God’s purpose for your life? Every day we are faced with good and evil. We decide which to choose.

Every time we suffer hurts, injustices, or offenses, we need to remember that people are not our enemies. Satan is our enemy. God has given us a secret weapon, one that is sure to defeat the devil and destroy his strategies and plans. You have a secret weapon against the enemy, and he hates it because he knows he cannot stand against it. I call it a secret weapon because most believers completely miss it. Your weapon is your God-given ability to be good to people who offend you. Your flesh may want revenge, but God says press through your pain by repaying evil with good. This is difficult to do when you are in the flesh. When you are emotionally distraught or offended. It is much easier to do if you can train yourself to remain calm no matter what the devil is doing.

We should pray to God for this ability to forgive, to love, and to let go of offenses. We’re instructed in the Scriptures to forgive others no matter what the offense. We need to access God’s blessings and righteousness and forgiveness, remembering that we must also forgive, or we will not be forgiven. Mark 11:25 says, “And when ye stand praying, forgive, if ye have ought against any: that your Father also which is in heaven may forgive you your trespasses.” Remember when Peter asked Jesus how many times we are to forgive someone who sins against us? “Seven times?” Peter asked. Jesus answered him, saying, “Not seven times, but seventy times seven.” That’s 490 times. Every day. Even if it’s the same offense over and over. In other words, there is to be no limit to our forgiveness of others.

When you do not think you can obey God’s command to forgive others, all you have to do is say, “God, by Your grace and mercy I am going to be good to that person. I am not going to tell others what he has done to me. I will not speak ill of that person, but I will pray for him, as You want me to. If I see the person who hurt me, I am going to walk right up to him and say hello. I am going to be kind and obey Your word and overcome evil with good.” You may not have warm, fuzzy feelings toward a person who has hurt you, but as a Christian you must deal with your anger in a biblical way. Do that, as an act of your will, and the right feelings will eventually follow.

To me, freedom means I am able to make choices about how I will behave and not be a prisoner to negative emotions. I can act according to God’s word instead of reacting to situations. The devil may be alive and well on earth, but he is not going to control me any longer. He has no right to control you either. God is on our side, and that makes us more than conquerors. So rather than harboring resentments against others and stuffing our anger and disappointment, we need to seek God’s grace in dealing with those negative feelings and letting go of the offense. If we don’t do this, things build up like a pressure cooker, and we explode at what others perceive to be the littlest things. The more we practice this, the easier it gets to accomplish it.