The following are excerpts from the book – Grace: More Than We Deserve, Greater Than We Imagine by Max Lucado, a prolific and widely popular Christian author of our times…
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The meaning of life. The wasted years of life. The poor choices of life. God answers the mess of life with one word: grace. We talk as though we understand the term. The bank gives us a grace period. The seedy politician falls from grace. Musicians speak of a grace note. We describe an actress as gracious, a dancer as graceful. We use the word for hospitals, baby girls, kings, and premeal prayers. We talk as though we know what grace means. Especially at church. Grace graces the songs we sing and the Bible verses we read. Grace shares the church parsonage with its cousins: forgiveness, faith, and fellowship. Preachers explain it. Hymns proclaim it. Seminaries teach it. But do we really understand it?
Here’s my hunch: we’ve settled for wimpy grace. It politely occupies a phrase in a hymn, fits nicely on a church sign. Never causes trouble or demands a response. When asked, “Do you believe in grace?” who could say no? This book asks a deeper question: Have you been changed by grace? Shaped by grace? Strengthened by grace? Emboldened by grace? Softened by grace? Snatched by the nape of your neck and shaken to your senses by grace? God’s grace has a drenching about it. A wildness about it. A white-water, riptide, turn-you-upside-downness about it. Grace comes after you. It rewires you. From insecure to God secure. From regret-riddled to better-because-of-it. From afraid-to-die to ready-to-fly. Grace is the voice that calls us to change and then gives us the power to pull it off.1 When grace happens, we receive not a nice compliment from God but a new heart. Give your heart to Christ, and he returns the favor. “I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you” (Ezek. 36:26).2 You might call it a spiritual heart transplant.
As Paul said, “It is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me” (Gal. 2:20). The apostle sensed within himself not just the philosophy, ideals, or influence of Christ but the person of Jesus. Christ moved in. He still does. When grace happens, Christ enters. “Christ in you, the hope of glory” (Col. 1:27).
Grace is God as heart surgeon, cracking open your chest, removing your heart—poisoned as it is with pride and pain—and replacing it with his own. Rather than tell you to change, he creates the change. Do you clean up so he can accept you? No, he accepts you and begins cleaning you up. His dream isn’t just to get you into heaven but to get heaven into you. What a difference this makes! Can’t forgive your enemy? Can’t face tomorrow? Can’t forgive your past? Christ can, and he is on the move, aggressively budging you from graceless to grace-shaped living. The gift-given giving gifts. Forgiven people forgiving people. Deep sighs of relief. Stumbles aplenty but despair seldom. Grace is everything Jesus. Grace lives because he does, works because he works, and matters because he matters. He placed a term limit on sin and danced a victory jig in a graveyard. To be saved by grace is to be saved by him—not by an idea, doctrine, creed, or church membership, but by Jesus himself, who will sweep into heaven anyone who so much as gives him the nod. Not in response to a finger snap, religious chant, or a secret handshake. Grace won’t be stage-managed. I have no tips on how to get grace. Truth is, we don’t get grace. But it sure can get us. Grace hugged the stink out of the prodigal and scared the hate out of Paul and pledges to do the same in us. If you fear you’ve written too many checks on God’s kindness account, drag regrets around like a broken bumper, huff and puff more than you delight and rest, and, most of all, if you wonder whether God can do something with the mess of your life, then grace is what you need. Let’s make certain it happens to you.
Jesus wasn’t finished. He stood one final time and asked the woman, “Where are your accusers?” (v. 10 NLT). My, my, my. What a question—not just for her but for us. Voices of condemnation awaken us as well. “You aren’t good enough.” “You’ll never improve.” “You failed—again.” The voices in our world. And the voices in our heads! Who is this morality patrolman who issues a citation at every stumble? Who reminds us of every mistake? Does he ever shut up? No. Because Satan never shuts up. The apostle John called him the Accuser.
Day after day, hour after hour. Relentless, tireless. The Accuser makes a career out of accusing. Unlike the conviction of the Holy Spirit, Satan’s condemnation brings no repentance or resolve, just regret. He has one aim: “to steal, and to kill, and to destroy” (John 10:10). Steal your peace, kill your dreams, and destroy your future. He has deputized a horde of silver-tongued demons to help him. He enlists people to peddle his poison. Friends dredge up your past. Preachers proclaim all guilt and no grace. And parents, oh, your parents. They own a travel agency that specializes in guilt trips. They distribute it twenty-four hours a day. Long into adulthood you still hear their voices: “Why can’t you grow up?” “When are you going to make me proud?” Condemnation—the preferred commodity of Satan. He will repeat the adulterous woman scenario as often as you permit him to do so, marching you through the city streets and dragging your name through the mud. He pushes you into the center of the crowd and megaphones your sin: This person was caught in the act of immorality . . . stupidity. .. dishonesty . . . irresponsibility. But he will not have the last word. Jesus has acted on your behalf. He stooped. Low enough to sleep in a manger, work in a carpentry shop, sleep in a fishing boat. Low enough to rub shoulders with crooks and lepers. Low enough to be spat upon, slapped, nailed, and speared. Low. Low enough to be buried. And then he stood. Up from the slab of death. Upright in Joseph’s tomb and right in Satan’s face. Tall. High. He stood up for the woman and silenced her accusers, and he does the same for you. He “is in the presence of God at this very moment sticking up for us” (Rom. 8:34 MSG). Let this sink in for a moment. In the presence of God, in defiance of Satan, Jesus Christ rises to your defense. He takes on the role of a priest. “Since we have a great priest over God’s house, let us come near to God with a sincere heart and a sure faith, because we have been made free from a guilty conscience” (Heb. 10:21–22 NCV). A clean conscience. A clean record. A clean heart. Free from accusation. Free from condemnation. Not just for our past mistakes but also for our future ones. “Since he will live forever, he will always be there to remind God that he has paid for [our] sins with his blood” (Heb. 7:25 TLB). Christ offers unending intercession on your behalf. Jesus trumps the devil’s guilt with words of grace.
Though we were spiritually dead because of the things we did against God, he gave us new life with Christ. You have been saved by God’s grace. And he raised us up with Christ and gave us a seat with him in the heavens. He did this for those in Christ Jesus so that for all future time he could show the very great riches of his grace by being kind to us in Christ Jesus. I mean that you have been saved by grace through believing. You did not save yourselves; it was a gift from God. It was not the result of your own efforts, so you cannot brag about it. God has made us what we are. In Christ Jesus, God made us to do good works, which God planned in advance for us to live our lives doing. (Eph. 2:5–10 NCV) Behold the fruit of grace: saved by God, raised by God, seated with God. Gifted, equipped, and commissioned. Farewell, earthly condemnations: Stupid. Unproductive. Slow learner. Fast talker. Quitter. Cheapskate. No longer. You are who he says you are: Spiritually alive. Heavenly positioned. Connected to God. A billboard of mercy. An honored child. This is the “aggressive forgiveness we call grace” (Rom. 5:20 MSG). Satan is left speechless and without ammunition. Who can accuse the people God has chosen? No one, because God is the One who makes them right. Who can say God’s people are guilty? No one, because Christ Jesus died, but he was also raised from the dead, and now he is on God’s right side, appealing to God for us. (Rom. 8:33–34 NCV) The accusations of Satan sputter and fall like a deflated balloon.
Then why, pray tell, do we still hear them? Why do we, as Christians, still feel guilt? Not all guilt is bad. God uses appropriate doses of guilt to awaken us to sin. We know guilt is God-given when it causes “indignation . . . alarm . . . longing . . . concern . . . readiness to see justice done” (2 Cor. 7:11 NIV). God’s guilt brings enough regret to change us. Satan’s guilt, on the other hand, brings enough regret to enslave us. Don’t let him lock his shackles on you. Remember, “your life is hidden with Christ in God” (Col. 3:3). When he looks at you, he sees Jesus first. In the Chinese language the word for righteousness is a combination of two characters, the figure of a lamb and a person. The lamb is on top, covering the person. Whenever God looks down at you, this is what he sees: the perfect Lamb of God covering you. It boils down to this choice: Do you trust your Advocate or your Accuser?