John testified to him and cried out, “This was He of whom I said, ‘He who comes after me ranks ahead of me because He was before me.’” From His fullness we have all received, grace upon grace. – John 1:15-16
In Philip Yancey’s wonderful modern classic, “What’s So Amazing About Grace?” (a book my wife and I try to read at least once a year), he tells a story about C.S. Lewis, considered by many to be the greatest theologian of the 20th century.
“During a conference on comparative religions, experts from around the world debated what, if any, belief was unique to the Christian faith. They began eliminating possibilities. Incarnation? Other religions had different versions of gods appearing in human form. Resurrection? Again, other religions had accounts of return from death. The debate went on for some time until C.S. Lewis wandered into the room.
‘What’s the rumpus about?’ he asked, and heard in reply that his colleagues were discussing Christianity’s unique contribution among the world religions. Lewis quickly responded, ‘Oh, that’s easy. It’s Grace!’”
Grace is often described, and rightfully so, as “unmerited favor.” In other words we can’t do anything to earn it. But did you know that grace is also described as a “free gift” that only requires you to receive it by faith? ”For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast.” (Ephesians 2:8-9).
Oftentimes, however, that is our greatest problem. It’s so hard for us to believe that God would give us something that we don’t have to continually earn before we are “good enough” to receive it. But as St. Augustine said, “God gives where he finds empty hands.”
Dr. Kenneth Boa also said it well, “As a perfect, loving Father, God is easy to please but impossible to impress. We as His children bring Him pleasure and honor when we finally admit that we can offer Him nothing—we bring nothing to the table of our salvation, nor can we realize our sanctification apart from Him” (Reflections. org).
So let’s check our hands, saints. Are they empty and ready to receive more of God’s grace or are they so full of what we consider our own “good works,” that there’s no room left? It just doesn’t work that way (Ephesians 2:10).
Here’s another definition of grace that bears repeating. It’s also from Philip Yancey’s book: “Grace means there is nothing I can do to make God love me more, and nothing I can do to make God love me less.” Try that one on for the rest of your life and I believe it will change the depth of your love for Jesus forever. — Maranatha
God is good all the time. All the time God is good!