For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast.  Ephesians 2:8, 9

Have you noticed that ‘grace’ is a hot topic these days?  Everyone is talking about it.  I’m so glad.  Grace is life-giving in a way that the non-grace is not.  How do we recognize non-grace?  Non-grace has 2 versions: either your Works, that is to say what you do yourself to earn favor, or the Law, an evaluation of what you are doing wrong.  What this means is this:  if it’s not about grace, then it’s about your being good or your being bad.  Grace bypasses that distinction in a way that seems almost too good to be true.

What’s wrong with Law?  Law IS helpful, because it shows us that we can’t measure up (but we already know that, right?).  Law shows us HOW to love.  But Law lies.  It leads us to think that we can ‘do love’ correctly…… if we are just instructed well enough in the law.  Law SEEMS legitimate, but Law lets us down.  Under Law, we labor because we know we are losers.  The dirty little secret is that we can never succeed.  Law is endless performance and never measuring up.  It is life-sucking.

Grace, on the other hand, is God’s way.  It produces gratitude.  It gives us the POWER to love.  We are free.  We are safe to acknowledge that we can’t ‘do love’ on our own.  Fortunately we are not expected to.  Grace is a gift from God.  It is life-affirming.  It is gratuitous, extravagant.  It almost makes us feel guilty, because it seems too good to be true.  It is nothing short of freedom, pure oxygen for us humans.

I’m going to recommend a book. (My school year ended two weeks ago and I am enjoying a richer and fuller reading schedule.  Each morning I ‘allow’ myself the pleasure of reading until 10 a.m. or so).  Steve Lawson has written the first 2 of a five-volume opus about grace.  I’ve been reading volume one – his Foundations of Grace.   Every page is life-giving. By spotlighting the doctrines of grace, starting with the Pentateuch, he feeds the thirsty soul.  The act of calling pagan Abram out of Ur is one such example.  There was nothing to commend Abram to God.  His election is totally God’s doing.   Moses is another example to be found early in scripture.  God chose and favored him, causing Pharaoh’s daughter to rescue him.  Even Adam & Eve irresistibly answered God’s call and were saved.  As Lawson illumines the many Old and New Testament examples of radical depravity, sovereign calling, specific and limited atonement (i.e. Jesus’ death on the cross) for the elect, irresistible grace and the security of those called, my love for God is growing.  I can’t get enough of grace!!!

I mentioned that Grace seems to be the doctrine du jour (not to slight it – it is certainly THE biblical underpinning of Christianity).  Tullian Tchividjian (Billy Graham’s grandson) preaches nothing but grace.  And he is well-qualified.  He was a modern day prodigal before being regenerated by God at the age of 18.  Then he erred on the legalism slide before burning out. Now he preaches grace.  As a dad of 2 teenage boys and a precocious pre-teen girl, he has lots of lab time to practice grace at home and report back to his congregation whether ‘this grace thing’ really works.

Yes, grace is counter-intuitive.  We are all much more comfortable with works and law and having to earn our gold star.  That is predictable….and SAFE!!!  But as CS Lewis brings out in The Last Battle, Jesus is not necessarily “safe”, but he is good.

As a final point, I would like to mention Dan Franklin of ‘GroupThinkRescue’.  Dan, a pastor who is married to Karina, Randy Alcorn’s daughter, podcasted a helpful illustration of how to look for grace in the Bible.  He worked through the David & Goliath story, first acknowledging the traditional interpretation and then sharing the grace grid.  Who hasn’t heard a sermon emphasizing the fact that we all have giants in our lives and that with God’s help we can face and conquer them?  Grace tells a different story.  Grace shows up when the Hebrews, stewing in paralysis, have no hope of any rescue.  They are helpless in the face of the overwhelming specter of Goliath.  David (the type) prefigures Jesus (the anti-type) when he saves the Hebrews.  So the story of David and Goliath is not about what WE should do.  Instead it’s a story about what God has DONE.  And that is the whole gospel message of grace.

Revel in this good news.  We don’t have to DO anything.  God already DID it.  Jesus announces on the cross that IT IS FINISHED.   May God help us daily, hourly to soak up that message of hope.

PS:  Buy the Steve Lawson books!