Christina Fox received her Master’s Degree in Counseling from Palm Beach Atlantic University. She writes for a number of Christian ministries and publications including Desiring God and The Gospel Coalition. She is the author of A Heart Set Free: A Journey Through the Psalms of Lament and Closer Than a Sister: How Union with Christ helps Friendships to Flourish. You can find her at www.christinafox.com, @christinarfox and www.Facebook.com/
I started blogging about twelve years ago. If you don't already know, blogging and writing can be a lonely venture. At that time, I didn't know any bloggers. So I explored around online and joined a few blogging communities. Some of those communities had hundreds of bloggers!
As I read blogs and got to know other bloggers, I thought I had found my place. After all, I heard familiar words I had grown up with in the church: words like grace, mercy, love, and redemption. It's kind of like when you go somewhere new and you meet someone who knows someone you know. You start sharing stories about that person and you smile and laugh over the shared connection. It started out like that for me, but the more I participated in some of these communities, the more I realized we didn't actually know the same grace that people wrote about. It was like talking to someone about Susie Smith from high school and then realizing there were two Susie Smith's and we were each talking about a different Susie.
What I discovered was, though we used the same word, our definitions of grace were very different.
In Christianity these days, and even outside of Christianity, many people use the word grace. Everyone knows the hymn Amazing Grace and even popular musicians sing it. But not everyone knows the grace of the Bible.
There are multiple ways I've heard grace misused and misunderstood. Sometimes it is nuanced in a way that leads to misunderstanding. Sometimes people emphasize grace in one area of faith but not in others. Sometimes they use it interchangeably with words like patience or forbearance. But the definition that concerns me the most is when it is used to mean overlooking something (most often sin) as in "This is who I am and God accepts me that way. He gives me grace to be myself."
God's grace is bigger, greater, deeper, and more amazing than many people realize. It is important that we understand the grace of the Bible so that when we hear people talk about it or read it in a blog, article, or book, we know what the writer is talking about. Because believing in a grace that is different from the Bible is not only misleading, it is also dangerous to our faith.
There is much to learn from God's word about his grace, but here are few things to start:
A FEW THINGS ABOUT GOD'S GRACE
God's grace provides all things; all is grace: Everything we have, even the very breath we breathe is a gift of God's grace. "Nor is he served by human hands, as though he needed anything, since he himself gives to all mankind life and breath and everything" (Acts 17:25). Even those who are not saved benefit from this grace, which we call God's "common grace." "For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust" (Matthew 5:45).
God's grace awakens us from death to life: Grace is God's unmerited favor toward us as sinners. It is love and kindness that we don't deserve. It began in eternity past when he chose us in Christ to be adopted into the family of God (Ephesians 1:4-5). By his grace, he awakens us from spiritual death and gives us new life, "And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked...But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved— and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus" (Ephesians 2:1-6).
God's grace saves us: We can't save ourselves; salvation is God's work. "For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast" (Ephesians 2:8). "Unless we are born of the Spirit of God, unless God sheds His holy love in our hearts, unless He stoops in His grace to change our hearts, we will not love Him. He is the One who takes the initiative to restore our souls." (From: The Holiness of God, p. 180).
God's grace trains us: Upon salvation, God does not leave us in our sin. He forgives our sin because of the sacrifice of Christ on our behalf and accepts Christ's perfect and righteous life lived for us. But he doesn't leave us there to continue in our sin. He doesn't overlook our sin and say it's all okay with him. Rather, he trains us by his grace to put off sin and put on obedience. "For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age, waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works" (Titus 2:11-14).
God's grace sanctifies us: By his grace, God changes and transforms us into the likeness of his Son. "But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace toward me was not in vain. On the contrary, I worked harder than any of them, though it was not I, but the grace of God that is with me" (1 Corinthians 15:10, emphasis mine). "Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure" (Philippians 2:12-13, emphasis mine).
God's grace completes us: God will finish the work he began in us. "He will sustain you to the end, so that you will be blameless on 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." (1 Corinthians 1:8-9). "And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ" (Philippians 1:6).
Grace is a beautiful word that is essential to our faith. It is the ground on which we stand. Because it is so important, we need to know what it means so that we are not drawn away or misled by false teaching. And the more we learn, understand, and consider God's grace—the depth and breadth of it—the more we are able to sing "Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound!"