If you’ve read much of my stuff, you’ve probably realized by now that I’m a word person:) I love to know the truest meaning of the words we use. I’ve been thinking so much lately about the grace of God, and a single word came to my mind to describe it:
The word radical means “affecting the fundamental nature of something; far-reaching or thorough.”
Growing up in church, I thought grace was solely defined through salvation and the forgiveness of sins. I thought grace began there and ended there. It seems silly now, but I would sing the song Amazing Grace and feel saddened because I thought I would never have as much appreciation for God’s grace as others did since I came to know Christ in my early childhood and loved Him from then on. In fact, I would pray and ask God to give me a deep, sincere gratitude for His grace. What I didn’t realize was that it was truly an understanding of grace that I needed.
Radical - “Affecting the Fundamental Nature of Something”
Grace is defined as “kindness, favor, a gift or blessing brought to man through Jesus Christ” (Strong’s).
So, in the case of grace, not only did Jesus “affect the fundamental nature of” grace, Jesus DEFINED grace! It was “brought to man through Jesus Christ:”
For from his [Jesus] fullness we have all received, grace upon grace. For ... grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. (John 1:16-17, ESV)
for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, (Romans 3:23-24, ESV)
Grace for salvation and forgiveness of sins through Jesus Christ is the catalyst for everything. It is the very reason for our existence and the single calling we all share - to extend that grace to others. Grace for anything else would be useless without the grace that saves us from our sinfulness. Grace is epitomized at salvation.
Radical - Far-Reaching
The grace of God reaches into our sinfulness, shows us glimpses of the love of God, speaks into our God-created longing and draws us to Himself...WHILE we are sinners:
But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. (Romans 5:8, NIV)
If you think you’re the worst of all sinners, that there’s no way God’s grace could be extended to you, take a look at the grace of Jesus WHILE He was on the cross:
And when they came to the place that is called The Skull, there they crucified him, and the criminals, one on his right and one on his left. And Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” (Luke 23:33-34a, ESV)
Jesus asks His Father to forgive the very people who were crucifying Him WHILE they were crucifying Him!
It’s as if Jesus said, “They don’t understand they are crucifying the One who created them.”
If Jesus extended grace to those who were crucifying Him, you can be assured His grace extends to you! Jesus said (about Himself) in Luke 10:10:
For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.
Let’s take a look at Paul for a moment. Paul, who was the first missionary tasked with spreading the Gospel to other nations and who authored several books in the New Testament, speaks repeatedly about the grace of God. This topic of God’s grace was dear to Paul’s heart, which is not surprising because he says this about himself:
For I am the least of the apostles, unworthy to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace toward me was not in vain. On the contrary, I worked harder than any of them, though it was not I, but the grace of God that is with me. (1 Corinthians 15:9-10, ESV)
The grace of God reached out to Paul when he was a persecutor of Christians, saved him, and then equipped him for what God called him to do!
Radical - Thorough
God’s grace reaches into our sinfulness, calls us to salvation through Jesus Christ, and thoroughly equips us with everything we need for each day to do the work we were created to do:
And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that having all sufficiency in all things at all times, you may abound in every good work. (2 Corinthians 9:8, ESV)
I'm wondering if this verse rings a bell for those of you who read our last study entitled Whole-Hearted. Do you remember the emphasis on the word all from Mark 12:30 (ALL our heart, ALL our soul, ALL our mind, ALL our strength)...
When we give God our ALL, He gives us ALL.
Grace is first extended at salvation, but we are in desperate need of it every day of our lives. Through the grace of God we have ALL sufficiency in ALL things at ALL times to abound in EVERY good work God created us to do.
If you read any of the #blessed studies, you’ll know we are blessed to be a blessing. The same is true for grace!
We RECEIVE God’s grace to be FILLED WITH God’s grace to EXTEND God’s grace. What we receive we are expected to give!
Even forgiveness. By God’s grace, we can forgive others just like Jesus forgave us:
And as they were stoning Stephen, he called out, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.” And falling to his knees he cried out with a loud voice, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them.” And when he had said this, he fell asleep. [died] (Acts 7:59-60, ESV)
Does that prayer look familiar?!
Just as Jesus pleaded with God to forgive those who were crucifying Him WHILE they were crucifying Him, Stephen pleaded with God to forgive those who were stoning him WHILE they were stoning him. How could a man extend this type of grace?
Through God’s grace.
Radical, God-given grace.
Acts 6:8 describes Stephen as a man “full of grace and power,” and we see it lived out through his death. We should be so full of God’s grace that it pours out of us and extends to others!
Let’s look at Paul (whose previous name was Saul) one more time. Notice the verses directly before and after Stephen’s stoning:
Then they cast him out of the city and stoned him. And the witnesses laid down their garments at the feet of a young man named Saul [Paul]. (Acts 7:58, ESV)
And Saul [Paul] approved of his execution. (Acts 8:1a, ESV)
Paul was not only grateful for the grace of God, he lived the rest of his life determined that God’s grace to him “was not in vain.” Remember, in 1 Corinthians 15 quoted above, Paul said, For I am the least of the apostles, unworthy to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace toward me was not in vain.
I don’t believe anyone would want God’s grace to them to be in vain - no way. I believe so many of us don’t live God’s fullest plan for our lives, not because we don’t want to, but because we just don’t perceive that we’re supposed to! We’re too distracted by the things that are right in front of us that we simply don’t recognize that the grace extended to us is for us to grab ahold of and use to accomplish awesome things for the Kingdom of God!
Grace is most definitely a gift from God, defined through Jesus Christ, and epitomized by the forgiveness of our sins. But grace is not to end there - it is to begin there!
And with great power the apostles were giving their testimony to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and great grace was upon them all. (Acts 4:33, ESV)
But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. (2 Corinthians 12:9, ESV)
In the years of my adulthood, I’ve come to realize it was by the grace of God that I loved Him since my childhood. Also with maturity has come a healthy realization of the depravity of my flesh - that I need and am grateful for God’s grace to forgive my sin every single day of my life. Every. Single. Day.
God’s grace is the beginning, the middle, and the end. Thorough and far-reaching. It reached for us when we were sinners and saved us through the blood of Jesus Christ. It thoroughly forgives, thoroughly redeems, and thoroughly equips us for the life God created us to live and the work He calls us to do. It is, indeed, Amazing, Radical Grace!
Oh God, thank You for pouring out Your grace upon my life. Thank You for forgiving my sins and offering me the gift of grace for salvation. Thank You for the grace You daily extend to me in my weaknesses, and help me to be so full of Your grace that it naturally pours out of me. Amen!