Grace is a word I have long not understood or just couldn’t wrap my brain around. And in some ways I think maybe I’ll always have something to to learn and understand. Maybe we never fully grasp grace but understand it more and more deeply as we walk through life and grow in Christ. I’m not sure. But in the second week of Dance Stand Run and God began to open my eyes and teach me some amazing things about grace.
I think we have all heard that we have been saved by God’s grace. That grace is something we have been given that we don’t deserve. But it is so much more intimate than that.
The Hebrew work for friend has intimate undertones in its meaning. In the first week of Dance Stand Run, I learned friend, by definition, is someone dearly loved in a personal and intimate way, a trusted confidant, someone held dear in a close bond of affection.
Now, Jesus calls us friends and grace means literally that which affords joy, pleasure, delight, sweetness, charm, loveliness. That is definitely words that describe an intimate relationship. Therefore the action, Him extending grace to us, becomes an intimate act. And it’s that same grace that allows the blood of Jesus to cover us and make us perfectly holy and righteous before the Father. Realizing that just blew my mind. I was not taught the intimate nature of the relationship with God growing up but I am so grateful God is opening my eyes and teaching me that now. It sure sheds a whole new light on things!
I have been surprised at my hearts response to understanding the intimacy of the Lord with me. Adoration and a desire to be near the Lord is sprouting in my heart. Although my parents were very clear that salvation was most definitely works based but by grace alone, the fear of God was used as a parenting technique to keep me on the straight and narrow. Whether or not it was intentional, I was one of those people who grew up viewing God as a disciplinarian and with a deep sense of responsibility to please the Lord. But understanding grace in the light of being His friend and holy before Him along with really understanding the Hebrew and Greek in scripture has made me want to please the Lord more than seeing Him as a disciplinarian ever did.
Where I once thought that kids need to be disciplined with the “shoulds” and “should nots” of being a Christian to make good choices, it has become blatantly clear from my experience that what will produce the most fruit is to help them experience God as their friend and someone who delights in them. That will have more draw on their lives to follow Him and seek purity than a list of rules and regulations ever will. Oh, I praise God for His timely work in my heart!
Grace also means good will, loving-kindness, favour, specifically “of the merciful kindness by which God, exerting his holy influence upon souls, turns them to Christ, keeps, strengthens, increases them in Christian faith, knowledge, affection, and kindles them to the exercise of the Christian virtues” (blueletterbible). In essence, it is the undeserved favor of God.
This means that God ultimately enables and allows us to come to Him, live lives that please Him and do His will. Just as a person cannot come to Christ unless the Father draws him and we cannot make ourselves more holy, so we are powerless to live godly lives and grow in Him apart from His grace, His favor, extended to us. As Jess Connelly puts it:
“Jesus gives us the truth of what we are to do and extends Himself in grace to accomplish it”
Apart from Him, we really can do nothing and what we do it’s all a work of grace, God’s favor extended to us. And He chose me. If you’re saved, he chose and delights in you, too. That is unbelievable amazing news! But how small and unworthy yet loved that makes me feel! It makes me wonder why me- what could He possible see in me because it’s nothing I have done.
God doesn’t leave is there though. In Luke 6:32-36, we are given a valuable word picture. Although I’ve heard this story so many times, I was blown away with what God showed me this time as I read it in light of studying grace. It became clear to me that this passage is not so much a how you should live but rather an example of God modeling the grace we should extend to others. See, we need to live out the grace extended to us and not just to our friends and family.
“If you love those who love you, what benefit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them. And if you do good to those who do good to you, what benefit is that to you? For even sinners do the same. And if you lend to those from whom you expect to receive, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, to get back the same amount. But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return, and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, for he is kind to the ungrateful and the evil. Be merciful, even as your Father is merciful.
-Luke 6: 32-36
We are told God is kind to the ungrateful and the evil and he is merciful. That is grace in action toward us. In turn, we are to love our enemies, do good and lend expecting nothing in return. We are to give grace as God has given us grace, not just to those who reciprocate and our friends, but to those not in God’s fold and those who don’t deserve our grace.
Perspective is everything and I am so thankful for this particular perspective on grace.