Sunday, November 15, 2009

Grace-Scope & Impact

Grace. The Grace of God. We have often heard it spoken of. We, perhaps, have even used the term ourselves as we have taught a class, given a sermon, or studied the Bible with someone. But, I wonder how much we really understand it. Do we really know the scope of God's Grace? How far does He extend it? What are the limits? CAN we know these things?

When I was young, I used to read my Bible every evening before bed. I did this because I wanted to. I did it because I loved God. Now, I think we'd pretty much agree that reading the Bible is a good thing, and that doing it everyday is another good thing. And, I liked doing it. But a funny thing happened as the years went by. I was influenced by the "expectations of men." It was imposed upon me that I MUST read my bible on a DAILY basis to be in a right relationship with God, and to be in the best relationship, I needed to do it in the morning. If I didn't do this, then I was falling short of God's expectations of me. The result was that I began to dislike reading my Bible. That dislike sprouted into a type of personal rebellion. Ultimately, my bible study dropped to nearly a non-existent level.

Here's my point from the illustration: Something that I once did because of my love for God suddenly became a rule imposed by man. When that happened, my nature wanted to rebel. When law was imposed, it began to kill the spirit with which I had begun. My motivation was no longer my walk with God, but rather, I was motivated by trying to keep the law, a law created by man. It nearly killed my spiritual life.

Thankfully, I was able to refocus my life, and began to Embrace the Grace. I started reading the scriptures looking for Grace. And, you know, it is all over the Book! It is especially strong in the writings of Paul, but it is scattered all through the Old and New Testaments! And, what a concept it is!

When we mess up and do things that are wrong (and we all do), it is Grace that allows us to stand. When we misunderstand some aspect of doctrine, it is Grace that provides our spiritual footing. When we don't always do every good thing that opportunity allows, Grace fills in the deficit. It is funny how we sometimes think that God's Grace is there for long as they are at least as good, or as correct, or as competent as we ourselves are. We make ourselves the standard by which God may dispense his Grace. Who do we think we are?

If we believe that through the Grace of God, a murderer, or a rapist, or any other person involved in abhorrent sinful activity can be saved, why do we sometimes have trouble believing that God's Grace could extend to someone who other otherwise is spiritually focused, but misunderstands a point of doctrine? Again, it is funny how we think our own potential misunderstandings don't rise to the level of putting us in danger of "losing our salvation," but we so quickly begin to see others as "lost" who don't completely agree with our own perspectives.

I have no idea what the scope and limits are in God's Grace. I'm very happy to leave it up to Him to make the decisions about where it stops in a person's life. Not my job. Don't want it. Perhaps, one day, when we are all in His Presence, we might begin to understand it. In the meantime, I think we should just attempt to accept and appreciate it. Perhaps, we can allow it to be our motivation. Oh, and maybe, just maybe give a measure of our own grace to others as well.

I'd love to read your own perspectives on the Grace of God and the impact it has had on your lives. I'll look forward to the responses.

Grace to you all,


  1. Mike, so good to hear from you. Let me offer to all my heartiest and deepest recommendation for a book I have just finished: The Prodigal God by Timothy Keller. He deals with the Grace of God in a back-handed sort of way and will take you to the depths of your soul. It has been a long time since a book brought me so devistatingly to my knees as this one did. I cannot begin to tell you how thoroughly convicted me or how completely it blessed my spirit. It dealt with me so completely, it left me with nothing but Grace. You'd almost think it was Biblical.

    All my best....Dave Terrell

  2. Thanks Dave. I'll check it out. I've read a few books on Grace. Probably my favorite to this point is "What's So Amazing About Grace" by Phillip Yancey. I appreciate the recommendation.


  3. Anything from Yancey is great. I agree that his book is the top of the list on grace.

  4. Mike, Excellent statement on grace.

    My two cents – not an exegesis – just something practical

    God’s grace has always been there Old Testament and New Testament. It has and is extended to all of His children but only a few have decided to reach out and accept that gift of grace.

    We all know the standard Scriptures on grace and maybe even some of us have memorized those Scriptures but there is so much more to grace than any of us fully comprehend and one of those things I will mention later on in this writing.

    I would like to put forth two challenges for us: The first is for us to share something on a personal level about grace, our thoughts and its affect on us. The second I will share towards the end of my thoughts. Both of these can be helpful for others to read and put into our hearts.

    On a personal level, at 24 years of age, being raised Episcopalian I finally recognized that God was reaching out to me with a gift, which we call grace, in His hands and all I had to do was reach out and take hold of it. God sent His men to me, in particular Neil Parsons, Ed Powers, Dennis Morris and Don Walters, with a message and that message was GRACE. Yes, they told me to hear, believe, repent, confess Jesus as Lord and be baptized into His death, burial and resurrection for the forgiveness of my sins and they whether they verbally said it or not I also saw God grace for me and how that grace translated into love for me. When I saw God’s love I wasn’t able to refuse it. Some of us came to God out of fear, later realizing God’s love for them while others among us realized that love immediately and came to God on that basis. Either way, hopefully by now we have realized how much God loves us and our obedience to God is based on love and not fears. He first loved us!

    I thank God often for those men and many others throughout the years for each sharing a little more of God’s grace with me. Some of those experiences included loving me no matter who I was or where I came from, whether I was conservative or liberal or whether I was abrupt in my presentation of what I believed or more diplomatic and sensitive. Some other experiences included passing remarks both positive and negative, get-in-my-face confrontation of my sin, as well as some were well-intending men of God trying to do what they thought was right for me and for the Kingdom of God. I was helped, hurt, loved and despised over the years by both people in the Kingdom of God and those outside the Kingdom of God. Some of that happened at WBC, some even by those reading this entry and some by brothers in Boston, Indianapolis and even where I currently live in Philadelphia. One thing I hold as true throughout all those years is that God was always there and always held out to me His grace.

    I mentioned above that grace is so much more than any of us fully comprehend. We can look at grace from a theological perspective as to the definition of the word and proof it exists and is given to us by God. I think it is good to understand that and be able to share that with people but if we don’t also show people how that grace is really love than we totally miss the point. If we don’t realize that grace is really love from God to us than we are to be pitied. Yes, grace is a gift. A free and unmerited gift from God to us. But, even more grace is God’s love for you and me.

    I also mentioned above that I would tell you a second challenge that I have for everyone reading this, that is to read the Scriptures in such a way to replace the word grace with the word love and see what the Scripture says to you. Don’t think of grace as just a “gift”. Don’t think of grace as just “forgiveness”. Don’t think of grace as just “anything”. Think of grace being tied into the love of God. While God is giving us a gift, forgiveness, etc He is also holding you in His arms.

    Howard Elwell

  5. Howard, you said it best "While God is giving us a gift, forgiveness, etc He is also holding you in His arms." I once asked a Roman Catholic priest how he could know so much about grace. I was stunned by his reply, "We teach best that which we need most." That has certainly been true for me.


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