Ephesians 1:5-8 – In love he predestined us to be adopted as his sons through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will — to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves. In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God's grace that he lavished on us with all wisdom and understanding. (NIV)
"We are most truly human, most fully ourselves, most profoundly free when we live in response to God's grace." – Migliore
One day while visiting a school, I noticed an unhappy grade six boy sitting outside the French classroom. This was not the first time I had seen him there. He had obviously been kicked out — yet again. I decided to strike up a conversation with him by quoting the words on a wall plaque mounted near him. I read, "Nothing worth gaining was ever gained without effort," by Theodore Roosevelt. I asked the boy "Is it true — that nothing of any value comes free?" He mumbled, "I guess so." So I asked, "What about love?" He looked perplexed. Such an intangible, ill-defined concept was bound to confuse him. He would have been even more baffled if I had said, "What about grace?" Yet grace was exactly what he needed in order to be freed from his self-defeating habits.
To be sure, many of us are baffled by the word "grace" — even if we have learned that salvation is God's free gift of grace. What is this grace?
God's grace can be explained as favour, goodwill, and generosity towards humanity. This grace is experienced by those who have come to realize that they cannot earn God's favour, and so they accept the promise by faith. Martin Luther put this more strongly: "The word of grace comes only to those who are distressed by a sense of sin and tempted to despair." From such a self-perspective, an encounter with God's grace is bound to be truly amazing. It certainly was for John Newton, a slave trader who was converted to Christ. God's grace inspired Newton to write the popular hymn, "Amazing grace, how sweet the sound, that saved a wretch like me."
Divine grace is stronger than our willpower because it comes from God. This grace is powerful enough to free us from harmful habits. That's why Lauren Winner, in her defence of chastity outside marriage, could say, "One resists bodily urges like sexual desire, not primarily through willpower, but through grace." Her radical claim (for today!) actually resonates with Scripture:
Romans 6:14 – For sin shall no longer be your master, because you are not under the law, but under grace. (NIV)
In other words, a life of victory and joy, lived as God ordered, is made possible through the "grace that he lavished on us".
Grace is lavish because it is divine power for vibrant victorious living. But it is not cheap because it requires us to follow the risen Christ.
Prayer: Lord, teach us to trust in the risen Christ, that we may live victoriously in the power of Your lavish grace. Amen.