What is God’s Grace? Series Overview

Oct 05

What is God’s Grace? Series Overview

This is a question I’ve asked myself and I’ve seen asked over the past few weeks. We talk about “receiving God’s grace” and “asking for God’s grace”, but what does that really mean? It turns out it means a lot more that I thought. Explore with me over the next few weeks the definitions and explanations of God’s grace.

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I read a lot over the course of a week. Several of the books, blogs and websites I read give me ideas to use here, ideas I want to expand upon in my own limited thinking. I’m not theological, although I have an interest in deep studies of the Bible and spirituality. I’m a lay person with no ministry training. But what I love so much about God’s Word is that when we seek to understand something, the Holy Spirit is there to lead and help us.

Hebrews 11:1 says, “God is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him.” God wants us to seek him, and a portion of a blog post I read this past week started me on a path to discover the answer to a question – What is God’s grace. This question led to an even deeper question – Why isn’t the gospel being understood?

This is the section of the post from Steve Pavlina’s blog that started the search:

Owing God

In my earlier years, I was taught to believe in a God who seemed to feel I owed him something. I was supposed to worship him for my entire life. I was born a flawed human, and I would always be a flawed human. My very existence was a stain on God’s otherwise perfect world.

I learned from a young age that I was born into perpetual debt. I owed God my very existence, and thus I incurred a debt so great that I could never hope to repay it no matter what I did, but I still had to try. I was created in God’s image, but even though he was all powerful, he still wanted me to worship him and to glorify him for being so wonderful, and he’d be offended if I didn’t obey.

In my teenage years I began to slough off much of what I’d been taught growing up, mainly because it didn’t make much sense. I became an atheist. Without the burdensome notion of original sin on my back, I began thinking more objectively and open-mindedly about the idea of service to others.

After this shift the experience of helping people changed for me. I enjoyed it much more. It felt good to be able to choose to contribute as opposed to feeling that I had to do so in order to repay a debt or to glorify some petulant deity.

I had been taught that without God, I’d automatically become a deeply selfish person, but I found that I actually enjoyed giving a lot more when I felt free to choose it, not obligated to do so under threat.

The post continued on, discussing debt, but I kept coming back to this section because my answer to Mr. Pavlina and others who have felt this way or still feel this way is that we don’t have a debt. Jesus paid that debt. Salvation is a free gift of God. We live in grace.

But what does that mean? As soon as I had the thought “The debt is paid through grace,” the words were right there, bright as a vision in front of me. What does “God’s grace” mean?

And as I started to search for this answer, I remembered by own childhood in the local churches – Methodist, Baptist, Independent – it didn’t seem to matter where we went. I heard this message, the eternal message of the gospel, yet I still felt as if I had a debt to repay. I didn’t feel an obligation the way Mr. Pavlina apparently did, but I did feel as if I had to be a good person, I had to do x, y and z in order to go to heaven.

Today, right now in the twenty-first century, the gospel is being preached and shared all over the world. I have to wonder – is there a problem with the speaking or a problem with the hearing? Is there a problem with the understanding? Despite my growing up  in and out of church and recommitting my life to Christ, I didn’t truly understand the message of the gospel until my divorce in 2011. I was a saved Christian, regularly attending a local church, and I didn’t truly understand the message of the gospel for twenty years.

Why isn’t the message of the gospel truly being understood?

I’ll attempt to answer that question to the best of my ability at the end of this series. First,  for the next three weeks I want to seek God in understanding grace and what it truly means.

At first glance, God offers grace in three areas.

A gift we don’t deserve – Salvation through Jesus Christ and the gifts of the Holy Spirit granted to believers.

God’s love for mankind and his patience in allowing us to hear the message and come to him, as well as His patience in waiting for us to return to him.

Forgiveness – His forgiveness of us and our forgiveness of others.

And then I’ll close with my answer to the big question – why isn’t the gospel being understood?

I hope you join me in seeking God’s Word on this topic and share your thoughts with me in the comments or get in touch on Facebook or Twitter.

 

 

 

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