The power of grace

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There is something about not having any pressure or any threat of punishment hanging over you that empowers you and frees you to live the Christian life. If you know that you are accepted no matter what and that you can try and fail and you will still be OK, then you’ll try.

But there is more to grace than God’s acceptance. The traditional definition of grace as “God’s unmerited favour” simply does not fit into many verses about grace. In 1 Corinthians 15:10, Paul says that he worked harder than all of the other apostles – but it was not really him who was doing the work, but the grace of God that was with him. It does not make sense to say that it was the “unmerited favour of God” that was doing the work.

As well as being a gift that you cannot earn or deserve, grace is to do with the power of God. It is his power at work in us, overcoming sin and changing and transforming us to be more like Jesus, and it is his power working through us to do what he has called us to do and to be all that we were created to be.

Another way of looking at this is to think of everything to do with salvation as being God’s work, rather than our work. He saved you and delivered you and took away the punishment for your sins – which is entirely and completely a gift of his grace. He also goes on saving you and changing you and working powerfully in and through you – which is also totally and completely by grace. Salvation is God’s work from beginning to end.

We wrecked our lives when we were in charge of them. Even if you were brought up in a Christian home, you were born wrecked because of the fall. If we were left in charge of our lives, they would be doomed to failure – we would be guaranteed to make a mess of them again. We are just not capable of saving ourselves.

So God has taken over and has taken full and final responsibility for our lives now. Changing and transforming us to be like Jesus is his responsibility, not ours. “He who began a good work in you will bring it to completion until the day of Christ Jesus” (Philippians 1:6). Whether you are doing well or badly, you can know that God is powerfully at work in your life and is working out his purposes for you, because he is not depending on you to change yourself.

For reflection:

Grace not only gives you the security of knowing that you’re OK when you fail, it also gives you firm and unshakable hope that you are not going to stay the way you are – God is at work changing and transforming you to be all that you were created to be. This is the answer to the Accuser’s words when he says, “This is the way you are, you may as well give up because you will never change.” No matter how badly you stumble, he is still at work and he is going to do what he planned:

“May God himself, the God of peace, sanctify you through and through ... The one who calls you is faithful and he will do it” (1 Thessalonians 5:23-24)

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