Grace is this multi-faceted aspect of God that defines His nature and underlies everything He is and does. It is the engine that drives His purpose here on earth to help us move at Grace Speed.
For at least 50 years I thought grace was just something that happened at salvation. If it is only that, it would enough in and of itself. However, it’s even more awesome than that.
Grace for Salvation
As a child, I stole candy from the grocery store which made me realize I was a thief or the “wretch” the evangelist hollered about during revival services.
I knew God was perfect and that no sin can enter heaven. I had knowingly committed sin. Therefore, I would not go to heaven unless I accepted Christ’s sacrifice for my failure.
When I repented of my sin, which right then was stealing candy from the grocery store, asked God to forgive me and then asked Jesus to save me, the power of grace did something truly amazing. It transferred me from the column labeled “Eternal Separation from God” to “Forever with God.”
I moved from destined towards a sure death to bound for an eternity in Heaven. Just thinking about that now is more than astounding; it is life-changing, but I was just a kid. I’d never known life without going to church every Sunday. So in reality nothing dramatic changed for me. I was just happy I wasn’t going to hell for taking the penny candy when my Dad wouldn’t give me a dime.
Grace, the Foundation
Still that day God’s free gift of grace opened the door for me to have a close relationship with Him, one where I could walk right into the throne room and share my deepest thoughts, fears and concerns with Him.
Out of His great love for me, He covered all my failures, past, present and future. He did this so I would be free to follow Him.
It was a foundational relationship of love. He loved me and He desired that I love Him in return. However, it was not an obligation. I still had to make the choice to follow Him, but now I had His Spirit living in me and I was free to make that choice. His grace compelled me to follow Him, make right choices and do His will.
Grace for Failures
God knew my tendencies. He knew even before I stole candy from the grocery store, that sugar would be a barrier to following Him completely. Yet, when I came to Him He didn’t hesitate. With open arms, He gave me grace that covered all my failures past, present and future, (Ephesians 1:7-8 CEB).
If I were God, though, I wouldn’t do it that way. I’d legislate that if a person says they want to follow me, they would have to show by their actions that they fully commit to following me. I’d have a period where they’d be closely watched and if they didn’t toe the mark and do what I said, they’d be out.
God, though, doesn’t operate that way. When I made the initial response to Him, He wanted my continued relationship to be my own choice. So He covered me with His grace in the midst of all my struggles to figure out how to follow Him correctly, how to honor God with my body, how to take care of the very temple of His Holy Spirit which is my body.
For many years, I felt like I was in a tug-of-war with God. I was still wanting to do my own thing and I thought He was pulling against me trying to pull me along and make me do His bidding. That is far from the truth
Many times I was wanting His stamp of approval on what I wanted to do, how I wanted to eat, how I felt I needed comfort foods and sugar to get me through the day. I wanted Him to help me lose weight and eat all the things I wanted at the same time.
He had already told me how to lose weight. He had showed me my issue was eating things made with processed sugar and flour and I needed to focus on eating meats, fruits and vegetables. He wasn’t pulling me. However, I was pulling against Him.
His end of the rope was slack. He was not trying to drag me over to His side kicking and screaming. He let me play my own game until I finally become utterly exhausted, spent, at the end of my rope. He was always there. Never judging. Never condemning. Always waiting for me to come home to Him.
Grace for Reunion
Like the prodigal son, I looked around at the pigpen of my life and realized how much I needed the Father to set me right no matter what it took. It couldn’t be any worse than me living tired, overwhelmed and exhausted from carrying around 430 pounds plus tons of emotional baggage I didn’t know what to do with.
I dropped the end of that rope I’d been tugging against and He welcomed me back with open arms. Just like it says in Luke 15:20 NLT. As I stepped closer to Him, He ran to meet me. I was never really alone. He was just waiting for me to come home.
He knew I was going to comfort foods, desserts and fast food for comfort and sustenance. He also knew those things were never designed to comfort me and will never sustain me. He knew my eyes were so blinded by my life-long struggle that I didn’t remember what it felt like to be comforted by Him, to fall into His arms and just be held.
Grace for the Journey
So He embraced me and I remembered. I remembered what it felt like to be close to Him. I remembered what it felt like to be held close. I remembered what it felt like wrapped in His arms of comfort and love. Why did I ever search for that anywhere else but in Him? Close to the Father, wrapped in the Spirit, led by Jesus —It’s from this foundation that my real journey began.
He pulled gifts from His huge storehouse. He lavished them on me. Gifts like prophesy, faith, serving, teaching, encouraging, giving, leading, kindness, love, hospitality and so many, many more. And just like Romans 12: 6-8 NLT says He gave me those gifts to do the things He wants me to do and do it well.
The particular, individualized gifts He chooses for me are not a reward, but a way to help me on the journey He knows I am now able to take. It’s a journey toward my destiny.
Grace for Destiny
God has big plans for me and for you. We know from Jeremiah 29:11 that they are plans for good and not disaster. They are plans for our future and our hope. Grace is an integral part of that.
Without grace, as a believer my destiny would not be mine. If God legislated how I should act and what I should do in order to earn my future, I would be a robot to some kind of cosmic dictator.
A crucial part of God’s plan is also choice. He wants a people who choose to love Him, not who are legislated to love, (1 John 4:19 NLT).
Grace allows that choice to be mine. I am free to choose. Even though I belong to Him, I am not obligated to choose God’s ways and thereby, try to earn my right to enter into heaven. It doesn’t work that way.
Grace for Propulsion
I am thankful that there was a time when I chose to follow God’s ways. I finally realized that I didn’t have the strength to do what He wanted me to do. When I admitted my weakness and willingly surrendered it to Him, I found God not only met me there, but walked with me. He actually propelled me forward into greater abundance than I’ve ever known before.
He tells us like He told Paul. “My grace is sufficient for you. My lovingkindness and My mercy are more than enough—always available—regardless of the situation; for My power is being perfected and is completed and shows itself most effectively in your weakness,” (2 Cor. 12:9 AMP).
Paul finally understands what God is telling Him and says, “Therefore, I will all the more gladly boast in my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may completely enfold me and may dwell in me. So I am well pleased with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, and with difficulties, for the sake of Christ; for when I am weak in human strength, then I am strong truly able, truly powerful, truly drawing from God’s strength,” (2 Cor. 12:10 AMP).
God is strong all the time, but when I stop trying to fix my own problems and agree to do things His way, His strength shows up big time. I am weak because I’m human. It’s in admitting that and understanding I have no strength, that I realize that what I do have is the supernatural strength of God, a power no human can match.
This still doesn’t mean all my problems disappear and everything magically goes my way, what it does mean is I understand how to me more connected to God. In that connection, I find my purpose spelled out in ways that continually blow my mind.
Paul explains God’s love even more when speaking to the church at Ephesus in Ephesians 3:15-21 MSG, “I ask Him that with both feet planted firmly on love, you’ll be able to take in with all followers of Jesus the extravagant dimensions of Christ’s love. Reach out and experience the breadth! Test its length! Plumb the depths! Rise to the heights!
“Live full lives, full in the fullness of God. God can do anything, you know—far more than you could ever imagine or guess or request in your wildest dreams! He does it not by pushing us around but by working within us, his Spirit deeply and gently within us.”
We are the hands and feet of God here on earth. We carry out His ultimate purpose, which is to bring all people to the saving knowledge of Jesus Christ. If we choose to follow Him, to surrender all our selfish thoughts, feelings and desires to Him, it simply shows Him that we love Him with everything that is in us. There is no greater purpose than that.
Grace to Change the World
Grace is the foundational principle of the Kingdom. Grace is undeserved favor and at the same time it is explosive power to change the world.
These days I’m more aware of that than ever before. It seems we are looking to solve the world’s problems with our own intellect, knowledge and reasoning. Once again Paul spoke out strongly about this same thing.
“We are human, but we don’t wage war as humans do. We use God’s mighty weapons, not worldly weapons, to knock down the strongholds of human reasoning and to destroy false arguments,” (2 Cor. 10:3-4 NLT)
We can’t fix what’s broken in our own lives or the world fighting with human weapons. We need to use God’s spiritual power to change the world. That power is grace. It’s an expensive mix of God’s Love that sent Christ to die for us and the explosive power of the Holy Spirit to change hearts.
All the ammunition we need is grace. It can change us. It can change the world. It definitely changed mine.
I talk more about this on my latest podcast, episode 38. Check it out HERE.