The message of GRACE is central to Paul’s understanding of the salvation experience. Paul says it is by GRACE through faith that we are saved. But what is GRACE?
It was Webster’s dictionary that defined GRACE as “unmerited favor” that has become the most popular definition for grace. I heard a preacher define grace as God’s Riches At Christ’s Expense – G-R-A-C-E. I’ve also heard that judgment is getting what you deserve and mercy is not getting what you deserve and GRACE is getting what you don’t deserve. While these definitions describe aspects or benefits of God’s grace, for me it didn’t provide a good working definition of grace. As one pastor told me that the way you know if the definition works, use it in the Bible verse to see if it makes sense and when I did that with these definitions I personally couldn’t make sense of them.
The best definition I’ve seen for GRACE comes from a Greek to English Dictionary called Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance. Strong’s defines GRACE as, “The divine influence upon the heart, and its reflection in the life”
First, It is the divine influence upon the heart. Another way to say this is GRACE is the manifestation of God’s Power to save, heal, deliver, rescue, redeem, restore and renew. God focuses all the power of heaven on our lives and transforms us from the inside out. This transforming work is complete and all encompassing. It’s an EXTREME MAKEOVER for the soul.
Second, it is the reflection in the life or the manifestation of God’s Presence in the life of the believer that conforms us into the image of Christ. God’s GRACE produces effortless change in our lives. Think for a moment about a caterpillar becoming a butterfly. When is the last time you’ve walked by a cocoon and heard grunts and groans. You don’t. To the caterpillar the work of transformation to become a butterfly is effortless. All the caterpillar has to do is rest and allow the process to happen.
So often I see Christians striving to live for Christ. They are so focused on all the rules they have to keep. They are filled with guilt and condemnation. Always battling the sin in their life. Their life is not effortless. Transformation is hard work. Paul tells us that He who knew no sin became sin for us that we might become the righteousness of God in Christ Jesus. This means that God no longer sees you as a sinner, but as righteous. Imagine that. You are the righteousness of God in Christ Jesus.
One scholar refers to GRACE as the supernatural power of God’s love. I like to define GRACE as God’s Presence and Power through Christ in us. In Pauline terms, GRACE is God’s power to save and God’s power to live the Christian life. It is effortless.
This is what Paul means when he says… For by GRACE you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast. Ephesians 2:8–9 (NKJV)
It’s important to understand that GRACE isn’t a theological concept. It’s not a belief. It’s not a present like the gifts that we open at Christmas time. GRACE is a person and that person’s name is Jesus. This is why Paul says it is a gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast. I don’t have the power to save myself, but Jesus does. I don’t have the power to forgive my sins, but Jesus does. I don’t have the power to raise myself from the dead, but Jesus does and Jesus says I can be saved from death by GRACE through faith. If I believe, He said He would live in me and make me a new creation. It is His GRACE that is at work to release resurrection life in me which makes me alive to God.
As a new creation, I no longer identify with my sin nature but I identify with my new nature in Christ and day by day I am being conformed into His image. I no longer see myself as a sinner, I see myself as righteous. I no longer live under condemnation and guilt, I live under FREEDOM and ABUNDANT BLESSING. Now that is amazing news. That is truly good news.
Imagine what life would look like if you stopped seeing yourself as a sinner and started seeing yourself as the righteousness of God in Christ Jesus? Your thoughts or desires pull you towards sin and you say to yourself, wait a minute, that’s not who I am. I am the righteousness of God in Christ. I’m not going to put myself back under bondage. I’m going to life FREE. That’s the walk of GRACE that Paul talks about in the book of Ephesians. That’s the life that you and I were created by God to live. This week remind yourself, I am the Righteousness of God in Christ Jesus. When temptation comes, remind yourself of who you are and watch your life change effortlessly.
Pastor Holland Davis