This weeks "thought" come to you via in "." It's a great reminder of how words can become "trite and debased through misuse and overuse" -- something we must refrain from doing when it comes to the word grace.
God's grace to us in Jesus is unfathomable, yet if it fails to humble or occasionally bring tears of inexpressible gratitude to our eyes, then we've probably fallen prey to the "debasing through overuse" he warns against.
The greatness of the Gospel, and the glory of God's unspeakable mercy and kindness to us in Jesus, lose their awe-inspiring nature when we trifle with the concept of grace. His book helps keep us from such a danger. This excerpt is just a taste to whet your appetite! Enjoy.
"On a blustery October night in a church outside Minneapolis, several hundred believers gathered for a three-day seminar. I began with a one-hour presentation of the gospel of grace and the reality of salvation. Using Scripture, story, symbolism, and personal experience, I focused on the total sufficiency of the redeeming work of Jesus Christ on Calvary. The service ended with a song and a prayer. Leaving the church by a side door, the pastor turned to his associate and fumed. "Humph, that airhead didn't say one thing about what we need to do to earn our salvation!"
Something is radically wrong. Though lip service is paid to the gospel of grace, many Christians live as if it is only personal discipline and self-denial that will mold the perfect me. The emphasis is on what I do rather than on what God has done and is doing. In this curious process God is a benign old spectator in the bleachers who cheers when I show up for morning quiet time. We transfer the Horatio Alger legend of the self-made man onto our relationship with God. We believe that we can pull ourselves up by our bootstraps -- indeed, that we can do it all ourselves. Our huffing and puffing to impress God, our scrambling for brownie points, our thrashing about trying to fix ourselves while hiding our pettiness and wallowing in guilt are a flat denial of the gospel of grace.
The word itself - grace - has become trite and debased through misuse and overuse. It does not move us the way it moved our early Christian ancestors... The word has lost its imaginative power. Yet biblical grace, by comparison (to the way we often use the word grace in our society) is radical in nature. 'Justification by grace through faith,' is the theologians phrase for what Chesterton once called 'the furious love of God.' He is not moody or capricious; He knows no seasons of change. He has a single relentless stance toward us. He loves us. He is the only God man has ever heard of who loves sinners.
With his characteristic joie de vivre, Robert Capon puts it this way: 'The Reformation was a time when men went blind - staggering drunk - because they had discovered, in the dusty basement of late medievalism, a whole cellar full of fifteen-hundred-year-old, two-hundred proof grace; of bottle after bottle of pure distillate of Scripture, one sip of which would convince anyone that God saves us single-handedly.' The word of the Gospel, after all those centuries of trying to lift yourself into heaven by worrying about the perfection of your bootstraps, suddenly turned out to be a flat announcement that the saved were home before they started...
Grace has to be drunk straight; no water, no ice, and certainly no ginger ale; neither goodness nor badness nor the flowers that bloom in the Spring of super-spirituality could be allowed to enter into the case. To live by grace means to acknowledge my whole life story, the light side and the dark. In admitting my dark side I learn who I am and what God's grace means. As Thomas Merton put it, 'A saint is not someone who is good, but one who experiences the goodness of God.'
The gospel of grace nullifies our adulation of tele-evangelists, charismatic superstars, and local church heros. It obliterates the two-class citizenship theory operative in many American churches, for gace proclaims the awesome truth that all is a gift. All that is good is ours, not by right, but by the sheer bounty of a gracious God. It is not reward for our faithfulness, our generous disposition, or our heroic life of prayer. Even our fidelity is a gift. 'If we but turn to God,' said St. Augustine, 'that tself is a gift of God'...'
My deepest awareness of myself is that I am deeply loved by Jesus Christ and I have done nothing to earn or deserve it. The Good news of the gospel of grace cries out - 'We are all equally privileged but unentitled beggars at the door of God's mercy!' Unlike Quasimodo, the hunchback of Notre Dame, we need not hide all that is ugly and repulsive in us. Jesus comes not for the super-spiritual but for the wobbly and the weak-kneed who know they don't have it all together, and who are not too proud to accept the handout of amazin' grace.
Jesus sat down at table with anyone who wanted to be present, including those who were banished from decent homes. In the sharing of a meal they received consideration instead of the expected condemnation. A merciful acquittal instead of a hasty verdict of guilty - amazing grace instead of universal disgrace... My friends, if this is not good news to you, you have never understood the gospel of grace."
God's blessings upon your week, Pastor Jeff
Dr. Jeffrey F. Evans