Archive for God’s Grace

Grace Is Jesus

For the grace of God has been revealed, bringing salvation to all people. And we are instructed to turn from godless living and sinful pleasures. We should live in this evil world with wisdom, righteousness, and devotion to God.

Titus 2:11-12 NLT

Grace is not an abstraction, a loose religious word that applies to any unexpected blessing. Grace is not a quantity that is handed out by heaven when I need a little help. Grace is not something I pray for after I’ve done all I can do. Grace is not something I obtain when all else seems to fail.

Grace is Jesus. Grace is a Person. Grace lives in us by the personal presence and power of the Holy Spirit (1 John 4:9). Grace is pardon, when I don’t deserve forgiveness, upon repentance, the Lord pours out his love and mercy. Grace is enabling power, grace enables you and I to refuse temptation, rebuke sin, and stand in righteousness (Titus 2:11-12). Grace is Jesus being available power to live the Christian life anywhere, anytime.

There is no such ‘thing’ as grace! Grace is not some appendage to Christ’s being. All there is is the Lord Jesus Himself. And so when Jesus speaks about us abiding in Him and He abiding in us – however mysterious it may be, mystical in that sense – it is a personal union.

Christianity is Christ because there isn’t anything else. There is no atonement that somehow can be detached from who the Lord Jesus is. There is no grace that can be attached to you transferred from Him. All there is is Christ and your soul.

Sinclair Ferguson on “John 15” at the 2007 Banner of Truth Ministers’ Conference in Grantham, PA.

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Grow in Grace

Rather, you must grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

2 Peter 3:18 NLT

Grace is a person, Jesus, living his life in and through you and me. Grace empowers us to live a righteous and holy life (2 Co. 9:8, 2 Cor. 12:1-10, Titus 2:11-14). Grace is God’s heart extending itself towards us as he initiates in us the ability to overcome our weaknesses, failures, and inadequacies. Jesus in us empowers us to obey scripture, love people, and serve God. Therefore, grace is not the freedom to sin, but the freedom not to sin. The foremost characteristic of living by grace is trust in the redeeming work of Jesus Christ. This trust frees us to enjoy God’s adequacy in the midst of our overwhelming struggles and troubling inconsistencies. Grace is a present reality for children of the burning heart, we find Christ ready and available in this moment. As a result, we are enabled to say, “no” to unrighteousness and “yes” to holiness. Everyday, we can grow in the grace of Christ as we learn to hold steady in his presence.

When the New Testament speaks about the fullness of grace which we find in Christ, it does not mean only forgiveness, pardon and justification. Christ has done much more for us. He died for us, but he also lived for us. Now he has sent his own Spirit to us so that we might draw on his strength. He grew in grace, and when we draw on his power we shall likewise grow in grace.

Sinclair B. Ferguson, Grow in Grace (Carlisle, Pa.: Banner of Truth Trust, 1989), 10

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The Power of Grace

He gave his life to free us from every kind of sin, to cleanse us, and to make us his very own people, totally committed to doing good deeds.

Titus 2:14 NLT

Grace is not an ethereal force that blesses us with benefits when we perform random acts of kindness. Grace is not an excuse for passivity–God does it all and I do nothing. Grace is not a sort of generalized blessing when I have done what I can, then God comes through for me.

Grace is Jesus being the desire, ability, and power in us to respond to every life situation according to the will of God. [DeVern Fromke, Life’s Ultimate Privilege (Cloverdale, Ind.: Sure Foundation, 1986), 118.] Jesus is our desire for he works in us a hunger for holiness. Jesus is our ability for he enables us to make godly decisions and choices. Jesus is our power for he strengthens us to overcome the world and its influence, the flesh and its passions, and sin and its inbred bondages. Grace is all of him in all of us to do his will all the time.

True grace always produces vigilance rather than complacency; it always produces perseverance rather than indolence.

Jerry Bridges

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Grace: Power Not to Sin

Sin is no longer your master, for you no longer live under the requirements of the law. Instead, you live under the freedom of God’s grace. Well then, since God’s grace has set us free from the law, does that mean we can go on sinning? Of course not!

Rom. 6:14-15 NLT

Grace is not the freedom to sin, but the freedom not to sin. Grace is a mighty force: Jesus in us freely bestowing to us his power for victory over sin. Jesus being grace is available at any time, in any place, and for any situation to strengthen us to walk apart from the selfishness and destructiveness of sin (2 Cor. 9:8). Grace comes and quenches our sinful desires and extinguishes our immoral passions.

I believe there is not a single desire of the heart that is known to a man to exist, which may not be completely quenched by the grace of God that is given us through Jesus Christ, if that appetite or desire or taste be contrary to the mind or will of God.

I believe the grace of God is able so to put forward the blessed Lord Jesus Christ, so to exhibit the beauty of the Savior, so to attract the heart and the will and the feelings of a man, that he can look up into the face of the Lord Jesus as the sweetest and all-absorbing thing, so that the man has no room for naughty appetite or desire.

H.W. Webb-Peploe, “Grace,” in Keswick’s Authentic Voice, ed., Herbert Stevenson (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1959), 146.

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What We Lack

 

Now all glory to God, who is able, through his mighty power at work within us, to accomplish infinitely more than we might ask or think.

Eph. 3:20 NLT

The problem with my walk with the Lord is not a lack of the person Christ, a lack of the power of the Holy Spirit, or a lack of personal promises from God, but the lack of my desire, will, and determination to walk apart from sin. Just how badly do I want to be holy? That is the question. Often what we lack in our battle with the flesh is a passionate hunger for a holy life.

Why is it that we, in the very kingdom of grace, surrounded by angels, . . . nevertheless, can do so little, and, instead of mounting with wings like eagles, grovel in the dust, and do but sin, and confess sin alternately? Is it that the power of God is not within us? Is it literally that we are not able to perform God’s commandments? God forbid.

We are able. We have that given us which makes us able. We do have a power within us to do what we are commanded to do. What is it we lack? The power? No; the will. What we lack is the simple, earnest, sincere inclination and aim to use what God has given us, and what we have in us.

John Henry Newman, “The Power of the Will,” Parochial and Plain Sermons (San Francisco: Ignatius, 1997), 1175 [paragraphing mine].

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He Knows All Our Shortcomings

And they prayed and said, “You, Lord, who know the hearts of all.

Acts 1:24 ESV

The Lord Jesus Christ is gracious, all-loving, and forgiving. The marvel of Christ is that he knows everything about us, and yet, he still loves us. Our weaknesses, failures, and neediness attracts us to Jesus. He is full of mercy, grace, and forgiveness for those of us who cry out and express our need of him.

The Lord Jesus is very empathetic and full of tender mercy. “As a father pities his children, even so the Lord pities those who fear Him.” (Psalm 103:13.) He does not deal with believers according to their sins, nor reward them according to their iniquities. He sees their weakness. He is aware of their short-comings. He knows all the defects of their faith, and hope, and love, and courage. And yet He will not cast them off. He bears with them continually. He loves them even to the end. He raises them when they fall. He restores them when they err. His patience, like His love, is a patience that passes knowledge. When He sees a heart right, it is His glory to pass over many a short-coming.

J.C. Ryle, Expository Thoughts on the Gospels: Mark (Carlisle, PA: Banner of Truth, 1985), 86.

HT: J.C. Ryle Quotes

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Grace Unites Scripture (NT)

 

All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.

2 Tim. 3:16–17 ESV

In my previous post, Dane Ortlund discussed the unity of the Old Testament as found in the grace of God. Today, I post the grace theme as found in the New Testament books.

Remember, grace is pardon and power. Grace is the person, Jesus, extending himself to us in love. A love that relentlessly pursues us and never stops until he wins our hearts. His grace is a love which condescends, surrenders, and assists, a love which is gracious to the unloving, and patience with the unthankful. God’s grace is unmerited favor, but also power to overcome for the weak and needy. Grace lifts us out of the pit of our sin: grace renews, grace empowers, and grace elevates us into God’s presence.

Matthew shows God’s grace in fulfilling the Old Testament promises of a coming king. (5:17)

Mark shows God’s grace as this coming king suffers the fate of a common criminal to buy back sinners. (10:45)

Luke shows that God’s grace extends to all the people one would not expect: hookers, the poor, tax collectors, sinners, Gentiles (‘younger sons’). (19:10)

John shows God’s grace in becoming one of us, flesh and blood (1:14), and dying and rising again so that by believing we might have life in his name. (20:31)

Acts shows God’s grace flooding out to all the world–starting in Jerusalem, ending in Rome; starting with Peter, apostle to the Jews, ending with Paul, apostle to the Gentiles. (1:8)

Romans shows God’s grace in Christ to the ungodly (4:5) while they were still sinners (5:8) that washes over both Jew and Gentile.

1 Corinthians shows God’s grace in favoring what is lowly and foolish in the world. (1:27)

2 Corinthians shows God’s grace in channeling his power through weakness rather than strength. (12:9)

Galatians shows God’s grace in justifying both Jew and Gentile by Christ-directed faith rather than self-directed performance. (2:16)

Ephesians shows God’s grace in the divine resolution to unite us to his Son before time began. (1:4)

Philippians shows God’s grace in Christ’s humiliating death on an instrument of torture—for us. (2:8)

Colossians shows God’s grace in nailing to the cross the record of debt that stood against us. (2:14)

1 Thessalonians shows God’s grace in providing the hope-igniting guarantee that Christ will return again. (4:13)

2 Thessalonians shows God’s grace in choosing us before time, that we might withstand Christ’s greatest enemy. (2:13)

1 Timothy shows God’s grace in the radical mercy shown to ‘the chief of sinners.’ (1:15)

2 Timothy shows God’s grace to be that which began (1:9) and that which fuels (2:1) the Christian life.

Titus shows God’s grace in saving us by his own cleansing mercy when we were most mired in sinful passions. (3:5)

Philemon shows God’s grace in transcending socially hierarchical structures with the deeper bond of Christ-won Christian brotherhood. (v. 16)

Hebrews shows God’s grace in giving his Son to be both our sacrifice to atone for us once and for all as well as our high priest to intercede for us forever. (9:12)

James shows us God’s grace by giving to those who have been born again ‘of his own will’ (1:18) ‘wisdom from above’ for meaningful godly living. (3:17)

1 Peter shows God’s grace in securing for us an unfading, imperishable inheritance no matter what we suffer in this life. (1:4)

2 Peter shows God’s grace in guaranteeing the inevitability that one day all will be put right as the evil that has masqueraded as good will be unmasked at the coming Day of the Lord. (3:10)

1 John shows God’s grace in adopting us as his children. (3:1)

2 and 3 John show God’s grace in reminding specific individuals of ‘the truth that abides in us and will be with us forever.’ (2 Jn 2)

Jude shows God’s grace in the Christ who presents us blameless before God in a world rife with moral chaos. (v. 24)

Revelation shows God’s grace in preserving his people through cataclysmic suffering, a preservation founded on the shed blood of the lamb. (12:11)

by Dane Ortlund

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Grace Unites Scripture (OT)

You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness about me.

John 5:39 ESV

While the Bible is not uniform, it is unified. The many books of the one Bible are not like the many pennies in the one jar. The pennies in the jar look the same, yet are disconnected; the books of the Bible (like the organs of a body) look different, yet are interconnected. As the past two generations’ recovery of biblical theology has shown time and again, certain motifs course through the Scripture from start to end, tying the whole thing together into a coherent tapestry–kingdom, temple, people of God, creation/new creation, and so on.

Yet underneath and undergirding all of these, it seems to me, is the motif of God’s grace, his favor and love to the undeserving. Don’t we see the grace of God in every book of the Bible?

Here is his OT list:

Genesis shows God’s grace to a universally wicked world as he enters into relationship with a sinful family line (Abraham) and promises to bless the world through him.

Exodus shows God’s grace to his enslaved people in bringing them out of Egyptian bondage.

Leviticus shows God’s grace in providing his people with a sacrificial system to atone for their sins.

Numbers shows God’s grace in patiently sustaining his grumbling people in the wilderness and bringing them to the border of the promised land not because of them but in spite of them.

Deuteronomy shows God’s grace in giving the people the new land ‘not because of your righteousness’ (ch. 9).

Joshua shows God’s grace in giving Israel victory after victory in their conquest of the land with neither superior numbers nor superior obedience on Israel’s part.

Judges shows God’s grace in taking sinful, weak Israelites as leaders and using them to purge the land, time and again, of foreign incursion and idolatry.

Ruth shows God’s grace in incorporating a poverty-stricken, desolate, foreign woman into the line of Christ.

1 and 2 Samuel show God’s grace in establishing the throne (forever—2 Sam 7) of an adulterous murderer.

1 and 2 Kings show God’s grace in repeatedly prolonging the exacting of justice and judgment for kingly sin ‘for the sake of’ David. (And remember: by the ancient hermeneutical presupposition of corporate solidarity, by which the one stands for the many and the many for the one, the king represented the people; the people were in their king; as the king went, so went they.)

1 and 2 Chronicles show God’s grace by continually reassuring the returning exiles of God’s self-initiated promises to David and his sons.

Ezra shows God’s grace to Israel in working through the most powerful pagan ruler of the time (Cyrus) to bring his people back home to a rebuilt temple.

Nehemiah shows God’s grace in providing for the rebuilding of the walls of the city that represented the heart of God’s promises to his people.

Esther shows God’s grace in protecting his people from a Persian plot to eradicate them through a string of ‘fortuitous’ events.

Job shows God’s grace in vindicating the sufferer’s cry that his redeemer lives (19:25), who will put all things right in this world or the next.

Psalms shows God’s grace by reminding us of, and leading us in expressing, the hesed (relentless covenant love) God has for his people and the refuge that he is for them.

Proverbs shows us God’s grace by opening up to us a world of wisdom in leading a life of happy godliness.

Ecclesiastes shows God’s grace in its earthy reminder that the good things of life can never be pursued as the ultimate things of life and that it is God who in his mercy satisfies sinners (note 7:20; 8:11).

Song of Songs shows God’s grace and love for his bride by giving us a faint echo of it in the pleasures of faithful human sexuality.

Isaiah shows God’s grace by reassuring us of his presence with and restoration of contrite sinners.

Jeremiah shows God’s grace in promising a new and better covenant, one in which knowledge of God will be universally internalized.

Lamentations shows God’s grace in his unfailing faithfulness in the midst of sadness.

Ezekiel shows God’s grace in the divine heart surgery that cleansingly replaces stony hearts with fleshy ones.

Daniel shows God’s grace in its repeated miraculous preservation of his servants.

Hosea shows God’s grace in a real-live depiction of God’s unstoppable love toward his whoring wife.

Joel shows God’s grace in the promise to pour out his Spirit on all flesh.

Amos shows God’s grace in the Lord’s climactic promise of restoration in spite of rampant corruption.

Obadiah shows God’s grace by promising judgment on Edom, Israel’s oppressor, and restoration of Israel to the land in spite of current Babylonian captivity.

Jonah shows God’s grace toward both immoral Nineveh and moral Jonah, irreligious pagans and a religious prophet, both of whom need and both of whom receive the grace of God.

Micah shows God’s grace in the prophecy’s repeated wonder at God’s strange insistence on ‘pardoning iniquity and passing over transgression’ (7:18).

Nahum shows God’s grace in assuring Israel of good news’ and ‘peace,’ promising that the Assyrians have tormented them for the last time.

Habakkuk shows God’s grace that requires nothing but trusting faith amid insurmountable opposition, freeing us to rejoice in God even in desolation.

Zephaniah shows God’s grace in the Lord’s exultant singing over his recalcitrant yet beloved people.

Haggai shows God’s grace in promising a wayward people that the latter glory of God’s (temple-ing) presence with them will far surpass its former glory.

Zechariah shows God’s grace in the divine pledge to open up a fountain for God’s people to ‘cleanse them from sin and uncleanness’ (13:1).

Malachi shows God’s grace by declaring the Lord’s no-strings-attached love for his people.

by Dane Ortlund

HT: Justin Taylor 

 

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Mere Grace

And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you.

1 Peter 5:11

Grace is God’s undeserved, loving commitment to rescue us from his wrath and judgment. In Christ, God delivers us from sin and transports us into his loving kingdom of forgiveness. Grace calls us to trust Jesus Christ as our Savior, the one who has taken all our sin and just judgment upon himself. When we trust Christ by faith, his work of forgiveness begins by releasing us from our debt, transforming our hearts, and freeing us to live for him. Grace flows from the Cross: Christ death, burial, and resurrection was a costly grace.

All the blessings which God hath bestowed upon man are of his mere grace, bounty, or favor; his free, undeserved favor; favor altogether undeserved; man having no claim to the least of his mercies.

It was free grace that “formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into him a living soul,” and stamped on that soul the image of God, and “put all things under his feet.”

The same free grace continues to us, at this day, life, and breath, and all things.

For there is nothing we are, or have, or do, which can deserve the least thing at God’s hand.

“All our works, Thou, O God, hast wrought in us.”

These, therefore, are so many more instances of free mercy: and whatever righteousness may be found in man, this is also the gift of God.

John Wesley, “Salvation by Faith,” Preached at St. Mary’s, Oxford, before the University, on June 18, 1738.

HT: Fred Sanders

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The Generous Heart of God

But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be the glory both now and to the day of eternity. Amen.

2 Peter 3:18 ESV

“Q. What is grace? A. Grace is God’s favor towards us, unearned and undeserved; by grace God forgives our sins, enlightens our minds, stirs our hearts, and strengthens our wills.”

1979 Book of Common Prayer, 858.

Grace means the generous heart of God who determines to treat sinful men and women as he lovingly wishes rather than as they actually deserve.

It is God the Father’s sovereign good pleasure, totally unmerited by us, which raises us from the ash-heap to a throne of glory. It is the servant-like manner of God the Son who became a man, lived, taught, died, rose again and reigns for us. It is the humble work of God the Holy Spirit who equips us to love and serve him now with his grace-gifts (charismata), and who is the down-payment for the day when we shall be changed into the likeness of Jesus Christ himself.

The gospel is grace, God’s good pleasure to delight in people who do not deserve it.

Dick Lucas and Christopher Green, The Message of 2 Peter & Jude (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity, 1995), 36.

HT: Of First Importance 

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