The Gospel for my messy life …

Posts tagged ‘Grace upon Grace’

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Grace Proclaims The Awesome Truth That All Is Gift

“To live by grace means to acknowledge my whole life story, the light side and the dark. In admitting my shadow side I learn who I am and what God’s grace means. As Thomas Merton put it, “A saint is not someone who is good but who experiences the goodness of God.”
The gospel of grace nullifies our adulation of televangelists, charismatic superstars, and local church heroes. It obliterates the two-class citizenship theory operative in many American churches. For grace proclaims the awesome truth that all is gift. All that is good is ours not by right but by the sheer bounty of a gracious God. While there is much we may have earned–our degree and our salary, our home and garden, a Miller Lite and a good night’s sleep–all this is possible only because we have been given so much: life itself, eyes to see and hands to touch, a mind to shape ideas, and a heart to beat with love. We have been given God in our souls and Christ in our flesh. We have the power to believe where others deny, to hope where others despair, to love where others hurt. This and so much more is sheer gift; it is not reward for our faithfulness, our generous disposition, or our heroic life of prayer. Even our fidelity is a gift, “If we but turn to God,” said St. Augustine, “that itself is a gift of God.”
My deepest awareness of myself is that I am deeply loved by Jesus Christ and I have done nothing to earn it or deserve it.”
Brennan Manning, The Ragamuffin Gospel: Good News for the Bedraggled, Beat-Up, and Burnt Out

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What is Grace?

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Quote From a Blog Post: What is grace? By Tullian Tchividjian (7/16/13)

Source: http://thegospelcoalition.org/blogs/tullian/2013/07/16/what-is-grace-2/

What is grace?

The definition I give for grace in my forthcoming book, One-Way Love: Inexhaustible Grace for an Exhausted World, comes from Paul Zahl:

Grace is love that seeks you out when you have nothing to give in return. Grace is love coming at you that has nothing to do with you. Grace is being loved when you are unlovable…. The cliché definition of grace is “unconditional love.” It is a true cliché, for it is a good description of the thing. Let’s go a little further, though. Grace is a love that has nothing to do with you, the beloved. It has everything and only to do with the lover. Grace is irrational in the sense that it has nothing to do with weights and measures. It has nothing to do with my intrinsic qualities or so-called “gifts” (whatever they may be). It reflects a decision on the part of the giver, the one who loves, in relation to the receiver, the one who is loved, that negates any qualifications the receiver may personally hold…. Grace is one-way love.

Grace doesn’t make demands. It just gives. And from our vantage point, it always gives to the wrong person. We see this over and over again in the Gospels: Jesus is always giving to the wrong people—prostitutes, tax collectors, half-breeds. The most extravagant sinners of Jesus’s day receive his most compassionate welcome. Grace is a divine vulgarity that stands caution on its head. It refuses to play it safe and lay it up. Grace is recklessly generous, uncomfortably promiscuous. It doesn’t use sticks, carrots, or time cards. It doesn’t keep score. As Robert Capon puts it, “Grace works without requiring anything on our part. It’s not expensive. It’s not even cheap. It’s free.” It refuses to be controlled by our innate sense of fairness, reciprocity, and evenhandedness. It defies logic. It has nothing to do with earning, merit, or deservedness. It is opposed to what is owed. It doesn’t expect a return on investments. It is a liberating contradiction between what we deserve and what we get. Grace is unconditional acceptance given to an undeserving person by an unobligated giver.

It is one-way love.

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Grace is the celebration of life – By Robert Farrar Capon

Grace is the celebration of life, relentlessly hounding all the non-celebrants in the world. It is a floating, cosmic bash shouting its way through the streets of the universe, flinging the sweetness of its cassations to every window, pounding at every door in a hilarity beyond all liking and happening, until the prodigals come out at last and dance, and the elder brothers finally take their fingers out of their ears.” – Robert Farrar Capon, Between Noon and Three: Romance, Law and the Outrage of Grace

Grace Without Buts And Brakes …

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Defiant Grace: The Suprising Message and Mission of Jesus By Dane Ortlund> http://astore.amazon.com/stressfreel07-20/detail/0852347510

Quote From A Blog Post By Tullian Tchividjian (10/11/11):(Source: http://thegospelcoalition.org/blogs/tullian/ )

“When people talk about grace, listen carefully. I’ve listened long enough to listen for certain things. I listen for “buts and brakes.” We often speak about grace with a thousand qualifications which reveal a paralyzing fear that grace will be taken too far. Our greatest concern, it seems, is that people will take advantage of grace and use it as a justification to live licentiously. And since bad behavior is apparently the thing that scares us the most as preachers and parents, we end up saying more about what grace isn’t than we do about what grace is.

Matt Richard describes well how naturally we take it upon ourselves to reign grace in when we fear too much of it will result in lawlessness:

I have found that as Christians we many times attribute ‘lawlessness’ to the preaching of the Gospel. Somewhere in our thinking we rationalize that if the Gospel is presented as “too free, too unconditional or that Jesus fulfills the law for us” that the result will be lax morality, loose living and lawlessness. It is as if we believe that the freeing message of the Gospel actually produces, encourages and grants people a license to sin. Because of this rationalization we find ourselves strapping, holding and attaching restrictions to the Gospel so that we might prevent or limit lawlessness. In other words, the Gospel is placed into bondage due to our rationalization and reaction to lawlessness.

The truth, whether we admit it or not, is that grace scares us to death. It scares us primarily because it wrestles control and manageability out of our hands–introducing chaos and freedom. And so we find creative ways to qualify it. We speak and live with a “yes grace, but” tone. We’re afraid to simply let it be as drastically unsafe, unconditional, uncontrollable, unpredictable, and undomesticated as it truly is.

That’s one reason why I am rejoicing over my friend Dane Ortlund’s new book Defiant Grace. Dane has written a book on grace with no “buts and brakes.” He’s a fearless writer and scholar who rightly acknowledges the unsettling, messy, counter-intuitive nature of amazing grace–”beyond price and yet totally free.” In the introduction he writes:

For the grace that comes to us in Jesus Christ is not measured. This grace refuses to allow itself to be tethered to our innate sense of fairness, reciprocity, and balancing of the scales. It is defiant…However much we may laud grace with our lips, our hearts are so thoroughly law-marinated that the Christian life must be, at core, one of continually bathing our hearts and minds in gospel grace. We are addicted to law. Conforming our lives to a moral framework, playing by the rules, meeting a minimum standard—this feels normal. And it is how we naturally medicate that deep sense of inadequacy within. The real question is not how to avoid becoming a Pharisee; the question is how to recover from being the Pharisee we already, from the womb, are.

Law feels safe. Grace feels risky. Rule-keeping breeds a sense of manageability; grace feels like moral vertigo. After all, if all that we are is by grace, there is no limit to what God can ask of us. But if some corner of our virtue is due to personal contribution, there is a ceiling on what God can ask of us. He can bring us only so far. He can only ask so much.

Such is not the call of Christ. The Jesus of the Gospels defies our domesticated, play-by-the-rules morality. It was the most extravagant sinners of Jesus’ day who received his most compassionate welcome; it was the most scrupulous law-abiders who received his most searing denunciation. The point is not that we should therefore take up sin. The point is that we should lay down the silly insistence on leveraging our sense of self-worth with an ongoing moral record. Better a life of sin with penitence than a life of obedience without it.

It is time to enjoy grace anew. Not the decaffeinated grace that pats us on the hand, ignores our deepest rebellions, and doesn’t change us, but the high-octane grace that takes our conscience by the scruff of the neck and breathes new life into us with a pardon so scandalous that we cannot help but be changed. It’s time to blow aside the hazy cloud of condemnation that hangs over us throughout the day with the strong wind of gospel grace. “You are not under law but under grace” (Rom 6:14). Jesus is real, grace is defiant, life is short, risk is good. For many of us the time has come to abandon once and for all our play-it-safe, toe-dabbling Christianity and dive in. It is time, as Robert Farrar Capon put it, to get drunk on grace. Two hundred-proof, defiant grace.

Pure gold, huh? I think so.

So, as you listen to people talk about grace, here’s a helpful practice: listen for the “but.” You won’t hear it in Dane’s book. You won’t feel the tapping of the brakes and you won’t see a list of qualifications. What you’ll encounter is “grace unmeasured, vast and free.” It’ll frighten you and free you at the same time. After all, that’s what grace does.

As I’ve said before: whether it’s a sermon, a book, a blog post, or a tweet-if the lasting impression you get causes you to focus more on what you must do than on what Christ has done, the gospel of grace has not been communicated and the communicator (albeit, unwittingly) is no better than the Pharisees who were charged by Jesus with “tying up heavy burdens, hard to bear, and laying them on people’s shoulders” (Matthew 23:4). Beware of preaching that, in the words of Herman Bavinck, “acknowledges that we are justified by the righteousness of Christ but then seems to think that we are then sanctified by a holiness we ourselves have acquired.”

It is through the preaching of grace that Jesus summons sinners (both Christians and non-Christians) and says, “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls” (Matthew 11:28-29). The difference between “religion” and the gospel of grace is that religion gives burdens by announcing that Jesus plus something equals everything while the gospel of grace absorbs burdens announcing that Jesus plus nothing equals everything.

Thanks, Dane, for reminding us of this without flinching!”

 

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