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Grace is a gift

 Grace 101

The word “charis” means, in its various forms, to give or a gift.  The charismatics were those who celebrated the spiritual gifts.  But the word means much more than gift.  It is the word for “grace.”

So the point of grace is that it is a gift.  Let’s go further.  Grace is a gift of something you don’t already have, can’t get for yourself, and couldn’t afford if you could find it.

You see, God knows our condition.  He knows that we were lost.  Everything we know, we learned while we were lost.  He has reached into our lives and has saved us, but we still think like lost people and we are still limited in what we can do.  For example, we couldn’t save ourselves before and now we still can’t keep ourselves saved.  We couldn’t stop sinning before and now we still think we have to do the same things.  We couldn’t solve our problems before and now we still can’t solve our problems.  In ourselves, we are as weak and helpless as we were before.

So God gives us what we need.  He gave us salvation as a free gift and He keeps us saved as a free gift.  He delivered us out of sin’s power and He daily gives us victory over sin.  He gave us new hearts and a new mind and He gave us His Spirit to guide us into becoming what we are.  He graciously gives us everything we need.

You want to be a good parent for your children?  Trust the Lord to give you what you need.  You want to get rid of some sin in your life?  Trust the Lord to deliver you.  You want to have victory over your fears?  Look to the Lord who cares for you.  Everything you need, even the most practical things, are gifts from Him.

How do I know this?  Through Peter, the Lord gives us His Word:

. . . His divine power has given to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of Him who called us by glory and virtue  2 Peter 1:3

This has become one of my favorite verses.  “His divine power has given to us all things that pertain to life and godliness.”  Think about that!  All things that pertain to life—gifts from Him.  All things that pertain to godliness—gifts from Him.  He has given us these things.

Jesus said—to us—something wonderful:

Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.
Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.
For My yoke
is easy and My burden is light.”   Matthew 11:28-30

How does He give us rest when we are responsible to be holy and good and righteous?  These are gifts He gives us.  He has given us holiness and goodness and righteousness.  We don’t have to strive to be good enough for Heaven.  We just have to trust what He has given for us.

And remember that the word for “gift” is the same word as “grace.”  This is what grace is all about.  Something you must have, but can’t get by yourself or from others, given to you as a gift from the Lord who loves you.

That’s grace!

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His Grace

Grace 101

 

Words mean things.  Mathematicians have numbers.  Physicists and engineers have formulas.  Writers and teachers have words.  If the numbers don’t mean the same thing from one point to the next, the mathematicians have no way to do their work.  The same is true for the formulas and those who depend on them.  But words seem to fluctuate in meaning all the time.  It depends on who’s talking.

So, when I use words like “grace,” I try to be careful.  I try to stick with a simple definition.  Grace, in my vocabulary, means the activity of God on our behalf.  Sometimes I say it is the activity of God’s love, or even more simply, what God does.

But I almost never use the word to mean an act of kindness between people.  The reason for that is twofold:  First, we have no clear examples of that use in Scripture. If I am going to let my use of the word be guided by Scripture, I will use “grace” only in reference to what God gives us.  There is no call that I can find for me to “give grace” to others.  And, second, not being careful to use correct words causes misunderstandings and compromises our communication.

Now I understand that I am going against the flow a little here.  It has become popular to use the word “grace” in human relationships.  We hope that the boss will have grace toward an employee.  We speak of “giving a little grace” when someone wrongs us.  We say that she is a “woman of grace” even though she doesn’t know Jesus.  And we try to be “gracious” toward others.

But there are other words for these uses.  Yes, they might fit with certain inflections of the Hebrew or Greek words usually translated as “grace,” but there are more precise words for us to use.  We actually hope that the employee will find “favor” in the boss’s sight.  We give “mercy” to the one who hurts us.  She may be a lady of “poise” or “charm,” rather than grace.  And we are called to “love” one another.

The unfortunate effect of using minor variants as applications of a word is that the primary meaning becomes forgotten or compromised.  Over the years the idea of “grace” has become diluted by references to human relationship or institutionalized by obscure and complicated doctrinal uses.  But there is an amazing concept taught by Scripture that is breaking into the hearts of God’s people.  We need what we cannot find in ourselves or receive from other people.  We need the grace of God.

Let’s love people and forgive them and show kindness toward them and grant them mercy.  And let’s be compassionate and gentle and considerate and patient.  But let us also understand that grace is a gift from God to us because He loves us.  Grace is the power and activity of God on our behalf.  Grace is a big word because the One who gives it is big.

There’s a passage in Acts that illustrates the size of this simple word:
And with great power the apostles gave witness to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus. And great grace was upon them all.   Acts 4:33 (NKJV)

What was this “grace” that was upon them?  Was it love?  Yes!  Was it mercy?  Yes!  Was it patience, or kindness, or forgiveness, or charm, or excitement, or favor, or something else?  Yes, yes, and yes!  God poured out His Holy Spirit upon the people and gave them great grace.  It flowed from Him through them to each other in a variety of ways.  But it came from Him.  His power.  His love.  His grace.

It is always His grace.

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