On Monday I posted on Facebook and Twitter a quick thought: “Beyond just singing Amazing Grace, what if we were being amazing grace?” I’d like to expound on that. In fact, this will be a bit of expounding and expanding.
Grace is who we are. It’s not just some abstract theological concept. As followers of Jesus Christ, grace is the very core of our identity. The great, sovereign, and holy God of the universe – against whom each one of us has sinned grievously – has issued an undeniable and incontrovertible verdict: we are all guilty, and we deserve the sentence of eternal death. Yet, out of His infinite mercy and love towards us, this same God has charged His own Son with all our crimes – while pardoning us! Not only that, but God has credited to each one of us the totality of the righteousness of Jesus: our Father now sees each one of us through the lens of what Christ accomplished for us through the perfections of His life, death, and resurrection! This is the good news of the gospel: you and I are justified by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone.
Most of us love to sing about it, but that can be only skin deep. Is grace who we are? Is grace what we do? And – this is super important – DOES GRACE DESCRIBE OUR SHARED LIFE TOGETHER?
I would submit to you today my heartfelt conviction that “Grace” ought to be the banner over our front door, and that grace ought to mark our attitudes and behaviors more than any other descriptor. If that’s not what’s happening in real life, then we don’t really believe in grace.
I’m trying to convince you of our desperate need for experiential grace. It’s much more than a song. It’s our life. In our contemporary culture of “canceling” each other, shouting over each other, and exploiting our differences with each other, a true understanding of grace is all the more critical. So please allow me to “preach” from the crux of my soul …
Grace means that I can love as I’ve been loved.
I’ll quote Sarah Klingler: “We don’t hesitate to sing worship songs about God as a ‘Good, Good Father,’ but juxtaposed to this Good, Good Father is a not-so-good father who views us as juvenile delinquents who deserve whatever comes our way. Yet, the truth of the matter is, the love of God is so vast He calls us His own. He claims us as His children. It’s a love so incomprehensible He stooped low to be with us, to become one of us.” Friends, if you and I know personally this God, how can we not love others? It’s that vertical connection of grace that opens the door for our horizontal experiences of grace.
Grace means that I can share life with others, despite profound differences.
We’ll never be united around politics or preferences. It just can’t, and won’t, happen. That’s the wonder of the church: we’re a straggling group of misfits brought together by only the unsought call of a Savior who had no place to lay His head. We don’t come from the same places, and only some of us like pumpkin-spiced stuff (haha). There are some Cubs fans in our number and a few who like the Wildcats. And, for every one of those lesser loyalties, there are passionate counter-loyalties among us all day long. But that’s what makes us beautiful: our shared life comes from Jesus – and from nobody else but Jesus.
Grace means that I’m a quick confessor.
Most of the time I fail at this one because of what Jesus already said is true about me: it’s much easier for me to see what you’ve done wrong than what I’ve done wrong! That’s why I must stay connected to the vine. I must stay in the Word. I must keep learning to listen before I speak. I must regularly pull away from the noise of the world to think, deeply and introspectively. I’m desperately dependent on the Holy Spirit for this! Are you? We’ll never get there on our own. Unless Christ invades us and has His way in us, we’ll remain permanently self-deceived in our pride and self-justification.
Grace means that I’m a quick forgiver.
When I’m getting an engaged couple ready for their wedding day, I always remind each one of them to be the first to forgive. That is the way of Christ. That is the way of happiness. That is the way of peace. That is the way of conflict resolution. If we take seriously our Lord’s example on the cross, then we know that we’re wasting our time even thinking about whether or not someone deserves our forgiveness. Of course they don’t! But that’s the point. Neither did I. Neither did you. Neither did we.
Grace means that I’m not about bitterness, murmuring, or schism.
This means that I must continue to live in the awareness that I am daily receiving grace from the Lord Jesus. As soon as I forget that I draw my next breath only by His divine permission, life will become all about me – and you will be collateral damage. This chaotic behavior seems built-in to the fabric of our old nature – which keeps trying to rule the roost in each one of us. As soon as life has become all about me, I won’t even recognize that my careless self-absorption – which holds on tightly, like deadly poison in my inner self, to the past offenses of others against me – is perpetrating hostility and division in the relationships around me.
Grace means that my primary identity is not in myself.
Am I willing to be considered a fool for the sake of Christ? Are you? Am I willing to think in such a way that the “attaboy” I’m craving is only the smile of Christ? Are you? When others charge me with a crime, am I willing to admit to myself: “I’m all that, and much worse”? Are you? Because here’s the reality: as long as you and I keep trying to anchor our self-worth in the opinion of others, we’ll never find it. It will elude us forever. In fact, we need something far more than we need self-esteem: we need Christ-esteem. And the moment when we begin to actually believe that we’re as loved by God as the Bible so unequivocally affirms, that is the moment when we will begin to give ourselves away.
Grace means that I don’t have to win because Jesus already did.
Once we really get that, we have in fact won.
Grace. I’m convinced that our spiritual health absolutely depends on it. Only grace can lead us home.