What’s So Amazing About Grace?

by Andy Wood on August 19, 2015

in Ability, Exploring the Possibilities, Five LV Laws, Life Currency, Love, LV Cycle, Principle of Eternity

Gratitude

Come on, admit it… when you first saw this title you started hearing the old hymn in your head, didn’t you?

I once was lost, but now I’m found,
Was blind, but now I see.

If not, I’ll bet you are now.

With apologies to Philip Yancey for borrowing the title of his excellent book,  I had a curious collision with “amazing” the other day and thought I’d share it. It started when I read this simple greeting from the Apostle Paul to a group of Christians in Corinth.

I thank my God always concerning you for the grace of God which was given to you by Christ Jesus.

Isn’t that sweet?

Any believer anywhere can testify, as John Newton and the Corinthians could, that the grace of God has been given to us by Christ Jesus. And if this verse had no other context or backdrop it would be precious enough. But our thinking about it would soon lose its edge. Sure, everybody who knows Christ can testify of the grace of God.

Next!

Sure, we were “wretches” and now we’re saved. But that was a long time ago for a lot of us. In the immortal words of Janet Jackson, what have you done for me lately, Grace?

The answer to that – Grace in the present, not the past – is what’s so amazing about grace.

Through Many Dangers, Toils and Snares

Let’s try a little context here.

Paul is writing to a very carnal, immature church with lots of problems…

Disunity…

Immorality in the fellowship…

Conflict leading to lawsuits…

Division over spiritual gifts…

Abuse of spiritual gifts and the Lord’s Table…

Arguments over what to eat or drink…

The list goes on and on…

But before Paul gets into any of those things he sets the context for the whole letter here. Read this s-l-o-w-l-y, and remember who he’s writing to:

Paul, called to be an apostle of Jesus Christ through the will of God, and Sosthenes our brother,

To the church of God which is at Corinth, to those who are sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints, with all who in every place call on the name of Jesus Christ our Lord, both theirs and ours:

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

I thank my God always concerning you for the grace of God which was given to you by Christ Jesus, that you were enriched in everything by Him in all utterance and all knowledge, even as the testimony of Christ was confirmed in you, so that you come short in no gift, eagerly waiting for the revelation of our Lord Jesus Christ, who will also confirm you to the end, that you may be blameless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. God is faithful, by whom you were called into the fellowship of His Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.

This church was enriched in every spiritual gift, will endure to the end and be blameless at the coming of Christ. Earlier he calls them saints in Christ Jesus. All that in spite of their behavior and shortcomings.

No wonder he thanks God! There wasn’t much about them to be thankful about!

What’s so amazing about grace? This is what grace does – not in some distant relic of your past, but today.

It turns sinners into saints.

Identify comes first. The grace of God given by Christ Jesus takes people who are unholy and makes them holy. We are saints, not because we behave like saints, but because God says we are. This is the least “saintly” church in the New Testament. And yet Paul calls them “holy ones.”

What’s so amazing about grace? It gives the grossest of sinners a completely new identity.

It calls saved people to a higher standard.

We are saints, but we are also called to live as saints. Grace becomes our motivation for pursuing the character and heart of God. This is why appeals to a bunch of rules (the laws) never ultimately works. Grace remembered and celebrated (that’s why we Christians sing so much about it) raises our vision and motivation far more than a cold list of standards or rules ever could.

What’s so amazing about grace? It makes it possible for flawed humans to live a transformed life.

It unites all believers, however different we are, under the name of the Lord Jesus Christ.

Grace gives every saved person something to claim as a basis of common life. “Their Lord and ours,” Paul says – ALL who in EVERY place call on His name. I have a colleague – a Nigerian brother, a pastor, with a beautiful smile and a great sense of humor. (Translation: He thinks I’m really funny.) We couldn’t be more different. But something in his spirit connects with something in my spirit. We share a common life, and it’s all because of the grace of God.

What’s so amazing about grace? It has the power to remove every human barrier.

It enriches all believers in speech and knowledge.

Yes, this is a hint from Paul (v. 5) at what is to follow about their childish attitudes about knowledge and tongues, etc. But first, he confirms that only the grace of Jesus can make otherwise spiritually blind people have insight and words of wisdom, prophecy, teaching, and worship. Only the grace of Jesus can make poormouths, loudmouths, or mutes speak with Spirit-anointed power.

What’s so amazing about grace? It empowers the powerless to be mightily used by God, today.

It gifts every believer uniquely to worship and serve God powerfully in their setting.

“You come short in no gift,” Paul says. Sure, you misunderstand them. You misuse or abuse them. But that doesn’t change the fact that when God goes about equipping his people for service, He doesn’t wait for the highly-trained or educated to show up. Everyone who has received the grace of God has also received the unique grace gifts of God. Do you know what yours are and how you can use them to serve your local church or fellowship?

What’s so amazing about grace? It gives every believer the capacity to contribute to the life of the church in a way that nobody else can.

It confirms God’s children and preserves them as blameless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ.

“Tis grace hath brought us safe thus far, and grace will lead us home.” Grace doesn’t just hit a “reset” button for you when you first believe, and then leave you on your own to figure out how to live righteously. It defines the rest of your life! You are blameless today, and will be preserved as blameless when Jesus comes collecting. And that’s before any consideration of your behavior or conduct.

What’s so amazing about grace? It keeps blame-worthy believers in a place of blamelessness before God throughout their lives.

It calls all believers into a fellowship of the Son, the Lord Jesus.

Grace doesn’t leave you to fend for yourself, however tempted you may be to want that. It calls you and me out of our isolation and individualistic pursuits to join in a larger community of shared life. And that’s a good thing. Because if you really knew the real me, you probably wouldn’t like me very well, and that would hurt my feelings. Then I would get all pouty and offended and insult your cat or something. Grace continually calls people into relationships. Forgiveness. Unity. Mutual service. Sensitivity. Love!

What’s so amazing about grace? It continually brings radically different people together in shared faith, hope, and love.

 

I can’t wait to meet some of those Corinthians when I get to heaven. Do you realize how many people have been helped and encouraged through the years because of the ways they learned to unpack and unleash the grace of God?

No wonder Paul said “I thank my God always concerning you for the grace of God which was given in Christ Jesus!” If it did all that for the Corinthians, maybe there’s hope for me.

You, too.

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Martha Orlando August 19, 2015 at 12:32 pm

Yes, grace gives hope to us all and breaks down the barriers between us as Christians. When we see, by grace, how the Lord sees, we can truly live rich lives of service.
Blessings, Andy!
Martha Orlando´s last blog post ..Love All Around!

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