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How do you define grace?
I’ll give you a second to come up with your definition. Don’t read any further until you’ve formulated a response in your mind.
Ok, got your answer ready?
Let me see how well I can read your mind across time, space, and the internet. My guess is you defined grace as “unmerited favor”. Am I right? And if you googled it real quick to see if you were right (I totally would have if I were you!), then I bet you found 5 or 6 webpages off the bat that defined it similarly.
Well, I’m not going to tell you that you’re wrong, since “unmerited favor” is the widely accepted theological definition of grace, but I am going to tell you that this definition merely scratches the surface of what grace really is. And in order to have victory in the Christian life, you’re going to need grace, and lots of it, so it behooves you to know exactly what it is, where to find it, and how to get it.
What Grace Is
Yes, grace is unmerited favor, but it goes way beyond that. Most of us equate grace with forgiveness of wrongdoing and kindness toward someone who doesn’t deserve it, and that’s true. But it’s a lot more than that.
Nancy Leigh DeMoss in the Bible study “Seeking Him” (an excellent study which I highly recommend, by the way) illustrates grace with a story that drives it home so clearly, I have to share it with you here:
“If a young man is killed through some random act of violence, and his father tracks down the guilty person and kills him, we would call that vengeance. If, however, the father calls the police and the murderer is arrested, tried, convicted, and executed, we’d call that justice. If, at the trial, the father pleads for the guilty man’s life to be spared and the judge and jury consent, we’d call that mercy.
“Now imagine this: in addition to pleading for the guilty one to be spared, the father actually appeals to the judge to release the offender into his custody and care. Miraculously gaining approval, the father takes the young man into his heart and home, adopts him, and raises him and loves him as his own son… that would be grace!”
Nancy Leigh DeMoss, in Seeking Him
Most people’s concept of grace stops at mercy. We know that God forgave us from our sin when we deserved punishment, and we recognize that God calls us to offer that same grace to others. (That’s what you could call saving grace.) But most of us don’t get past the forgiveness and mercy to the active working of God’s grace in our daily lives, the active grace that changes us and empowers us to do what is right on a daily basis. (That’s sanctifying grace.)
My dad always defined grace this way (He’s a pastor, so he’s credentialed): the desire and the ability to do the will of God. His definition came from Philippians 2:13, which states that it is God who works within you both to will and to do of his good pleasure. The attribute of God that accomplishes this work is grace. According to my dad, you can apply this definition to any Scripture passage on the topic of grace, and it fits.
For me, this knowledge is life-changing. Literally. Not only does God forgive me of my sin when I do not deserve it, but He gives me the desire to do what is right instead, AND He gives me the ability to do it. What a relief to know that none of this depends on me!
Where to Find It
When I first began to really ponder this concept of grace and how it fit into my life, I began to wonder where it had been all my life. I’ve been saved for a really long time, and I felt like most days passed by in a blur of failed human attempts to do right and be righteous. But if grace is freely given to all who believe…. where was my portion?
I learned that sanctifying grace is found in the same place as saving grace: at the cross. Grace flows through the blood of Jesus to both save and sanctify us. Just as we cannot save ourselves, so we cannot sanctify ourselves. We will not find grace within ourselves or any other person; we find it only in the person of Jesus Christ.
How to Get It
So stick with me here: Victory is possible through the grace of God, and grace is found in the sanctifying blood of Jesus Christ. So how then do I get this sanctifying grace? How can I access the power I need to do what is right? How can I live victoriously? For much of my life, I felt that grace was very elusive, seemingly available to everybody else but me. I wanted to find the key that unlocked the door of grace, but I felt like I was groping around with a blindfold around my eyes.
I found the answer hidden in plain sight in a verse of Scripture that many Christians have memorized:
God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble.
God gives grace to whom? The humble. What, then, is required in order to access the grace of God? Humility.
The prerequisite of grace is humility. No humility, no grace. It seems harsh, but when you consider it, you realize that this is how God has always worked. Why was Lucifer kicked out of Heaven? Because he was full of pride, thinking himself like God and wanting to be God.
Prior to this comment about humility and grace, James, the author, was pointing out some sin that had become evident in the lives of his readers: strife, lust, murder, covetousness, self-indulgence. He boiled all that sin down to a single root cause: pride. He also gave them a single cure: grace, prompted by humility.
He continued, drawing a picture of what humility looks like as it is played out in the Christian life:
- Submission to God (surrender)
- Resisting the devil (turning from temptation)
- Drawing near to God (seeking Him in Scripture and prayer)
- Cleansing your hands (forgiveness and restoration from sinful actions)
- Purifying your hearts (confessing sinful attitudes and desires)
- Mourning and weeping over sin
Any sin in your life, any wrong attitude in your heart, any temptation that draws you away from God, any area of your life that you have not surrendered to His will, will block your access to the grace that God is longing to give you. On the other hand, coming to God with tearful confession and repentance combined with surrender, will open wide the door of grace.
So what is grace? The desire and power to do the will of God; in other words, the power to be victorious in the Christian life.
Where can we find it? In the blood of Jesus Christ.
How do we get it? By humbling ourselves before our Maker, repenting of any sin, and/or surrendering to Him any area we have withheld.
More About Grace
Grace is a favorite topic of mine! Here are a few more posts I’ve written on the subject:
You Are a Failure (my personal favorite)
Read more in the Warrior Woman series by clicking on the image below.