What is Grace?
Habits of Grace series
As Pastor Steve shared this past Sunday, our Habits of Grace sermon series is intended to be an immersive experience. As one church (across campuses), we will strive to grow in the means of grace—the mentalities and activities that are reflective of belief in Jesus as Savior. It is as Ephesians 4:17-22 remind us, the gospel of grace should change us from the inside out! The Holy Spirit cultivates in us a desire for something, not just more, but better!
In the weeks ahead, we will explore what grace means personally and practically in great detail. As a part of this series, we will have companion content each week. For example, our small groups will be engaging in complementary materials to our Sunday sermon! We cannot encourage you enough to engage in community and grow with others through this! There will also be resources like this: blogs, short videos of encouragement and instruction, stories from some of our own, and other tools we will corporately use to grow as one church in our understanding, enjoyment, and living out of the grace of God.
As we get started, it strikes me as wise to consider what exactly are we growing in? What is grace as God extends it, and how do we apply it?
Wayne Grudem defines grace as: “[God’s] unmerited favor…[and] goodness toward those who deserve only punishment.”[i]
More simply put, it is God showing kindness to people who have offended and wronged Him; not holding sin against humankind, and instead showing us kindness in the form of salvation being freely offered and available. Grace is God saying:
You have chosen your own way, and that way deserves my wrath and punishment (Romans 3:23; 6:23). But because I love you –I desire to show you kindness that you have not earned and do not deserve. I desire something better for you even when you did not and could not for yourself (Romans 3:24; Ephesians 2:8-9). And I love you enough to not just extend this kindness to you, but provide you the unlimited resources to enjoy, grow in, and practice it. (Romans 5:20).
Friends: God’s grace is God saying: I want you to desire a relationship with me, more than you want anything else. It is not simply a one-time kindness in the form of the gospel. Author and Bible scholar David Mathis describes grace as a tidal wave, an ocean, and an infinite sea behind us, surrounding us, and ahead of us.[ii] God desires this relationship with us so fervently that He provides us the means and the habits to respond in relationship with Him, past, present, and future.
Response to God’s grace starts with our perspective. It recognizes:
God wants us to respond in the means or habits of grace because we are humble beneficiaries of it. He wants us to respond with the perspective change above and a resulting lifestyle that is reflective of having been saved from a consequence that we otherwise deserved. Grace, received by faith, motivates us to action (Ephesians 2:8-9).
Consider Titus 2:11-14 (ESV):
For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age, waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works.
Paul unpacks the means of grace-based action for us. Christians are to train ourselves to renounce the sin that led us to require it at all; pursing a self-controlled, upright, godly life—bringing glory to the one who lavished His kind grace upon us from the start and promises to continue doing so all the days of our lives.
Pastor Steve further outlined a few of these means of grace this past Sunday: Bible reading, prayer, communion, confession, community in the local church, stewardship of time and resources, among others. To grow in these Christian life essentials, we will explore these responsive practices of grace in the weeks ahead.
To punch the point, Pastor Steve went so far as to outline that Jesus exampled leaning into the means (habits) of grace, openly practiced them Himself.
Rose early & went out to pray Mark 1:35
Fasted 40 days in the wilderness Matt. 4:1
Read and knew the Scriptures, even as a child Luke 2:41ff.
Prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane Matt. 26:36ff.
Used memorized Scripture to fight temptation Matt. 4:1
First Lord’s Supper night of his betrayal John 13
Church family: if Jesus did these things, we certainly need to! As such, our prayer in the weeks ahead is that you join us in growing in grace. Consider joining a small group, engaging in the companion curriculum, reading and sharing these blogs, watching the stories of people practicing habits of grace, and for this week, answering these questions to set the stage for your own growth:
[i] Grudem, W. (1994). Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Bible Doctrine. Zondervan, p. 729; 1243.
[ii] Mathis, D. (2016). Habits of Grace: Enjoying Jesus Through Spiritual Disciplines. Crossway, p. 21-34.