This week we began a new series called Words to Live By, in which we are looking at five different big words in the Christian faith that if we believe them and live by them, they have the power to entirely transform our lives. They are also words that sometimes we have a hard time wrapping our minds around, so we hope this series gains understanding around key words of our faith. This week we talked all about grace.
Grace has a tendency to show up in ways we do not expect and often does things to shock. Grace has a tendency to love the wrong people. Grace showed up at the creation of the world with the care and love God had to mold creation into being. Grace showed up in the sin of Adam and Eve in the clothes God gave them to keep them warm. Grace showed up with Cain, in a mark left on him to ensure that no one would kill him. Grace shows up in the ten commandments, in how through them, God shows up as a God of love and liberation. Sometimes we think grace originated in the New Testament, but grace has been there all along, since the beginning of creation. Grace shows up throughout our whole lives too. Grace was there, smiling when we were baptized, and grace held you with your parents. Grace gave you the capacity to learn and had the strength to say no sometimes. Do you remember when you met grace, when you first felt the total acceptance and unconditional love of God? This grace is not about trying or pushing, grace is about receiving. It is not anything we have done, it can only be the gift of God.
In his book The Ragamuffin Gospel, Brennan Manning states “The American church today accepts grace in theory but denies it in practice.” In theory, grace means that our failures and our sins do not have the last word, for God is rich in mercy. Grace is the love God gives us because God wants to, not because of anything we have done to earn or deserve it. Grace is God’s love for us as we are, not for what we do or don’t do. In Jerry Haas and Trevor Hudson’s book called The Cycle of Grace, they talk about want it means to live in grace. So often we live in the cycle of works. The cycle of works begins with achievement and fruitfulness, where we reward those who achieve a lot. From that achievement, we feel significant. We believe what we do makes us matter. To keep feeling significant, we sustain that achievement by working longer and harder. Once we have completed the achievement, significance, and sustenance parts of the cycle, we feel accepted and secure. The cycle of works is a familiar way of living for many of us, but it ultimately ends up with exhausted, burned out individuals. It is not good news. However, Haas and Hudson share another way. This way begins with grace. This cycle starts with acceptance. It starts with the believe that God loves us as we are and that God is well-pleased with us. We sustain that belief by spending intentional time with God, being reminded daily of God’s grace for us. We find our significance in the realization that our lives are a testament of God’s grace. From that, we bear fruit, fruit that will last. May we not only accept grace in theory in our heads, but may we accept it in practice, believing it in our hearts.
Questions to Consider and Discuss:
How has God’s grace shown up in your life? How have you seen grace this week?
What are your thoughts on the quote: “The American church today accepts grace in theory but denies it in practice”? Do you agree or not? Why?
Monday- Ephesians 2:1-10
Tuesday- Romans 3:21-31
Wednesday- John 1:1-18
Thursday- Genesis 3:1-24
Friday- Genesis 4:1-18