The Radical, Revolutionary Concept of Grace CS Lewis Institute Fellows Retreat Joel S. Woodruff
That was easy!• “What makes Christianity different from all the other religions of the world?”• C. S. Lewis, a strong defender of Christianity and namesake of our Institute, came in late, sat down, and asked, “What’s the rumpus about?” When he learned that it was a debate about the uniqueness of Christianity, he immediately commented, “Oh, that’s easy. It’s __________.”
So, what is “grace”?• Grace is Not a Blue-Eyed Blond.• ‘the last best word’ because every English usage retains some of the glory of the original meaning.” - Phillip Yancey• Grateful, gratified, gracious, gratuity, etc..• Persons non grata, ingrate
Hebrew - Grace• Grace in the Old Testament, it usually comes from a word that means “to bend down or stoop.” It was used to denote “the stronger coming to the help of the weaker who stands in need of help either by reason of his circumstances or natural weakness.” (Dictionary of NT Theology)
NT Greek – “Charis”• “the Greek word, “charis” translated grace is related to the word joy; grace causes joy. In the Christian understanding, nothing brings joy like the good news of what God has done in Christ to bring us salvation by his grace.” - Walter Elwell
Working Definition of Grace• “Love that goes upward is worship; love that goes outward is affection; love that stoops is grace.” - Donald Barnhouse• GRACE IS EVERYTHING FOR NOTHING TO THOSE WHO DON’T DESERVE ANYTHING
Ephesians 2:8-9 The Message• “Now God has us where he wants us, with all the time in the world and the next to shower grace and kindness upon us in Christ Jesus. Saving is all his idea, and all his work. All we do is trust him enough to let him do it. It’s God’s gift from start to finish! We don’t play the major role. If we did, we’d probably go around bragging that we’d done the whole thing! No, we neither make nor save ourselves. God does both the making and the saving.”
Why “works” doesn’t work• “He is not obligated to pity and pardon; if he does so it is an act done, as we say, “of his own free will,” and nobody forces his hand. “It depends not upon man’s will or exertion, but upon God’s mercy” (Rom. 9:16). Grace is free because it is self-originated and proceeds from the One who was free not to be gracious.” - J. I. Packer
Jesus – the definition of grace• Jesus’ actions – the story of the woman caught in adultery• Jesus’ parables – the prodigal son and others• Jesus’ last words and acts on the cross
Les Miserables• Victor Hugo’s story of amazing grace• Jean Valjean – the prisoner, released by grace, who goes from bitterness to living a grace-filled life
What does a man or woman full of grace actually look like?• has been given “graces” or gifts by God. Ephesians 4:7• has been given encouragement and hope.• 2 Thessalonians 2:16• is given help in times of need• Hebrews 4:16• is able to bear up under suffering• 2 Corinthians 12:9
Surrounded & Infused by graceThe man or woman of grace is• “under grace”,• “stands in grace,”• “abounds in grace,”• “shares in grace.”(See Romans 6:14; 5:2; 2 Corinthians 9:8;Philippians 1:7)
Stephen – full of grace• Acts 7:54-8:1How Stephen’s last acts of grace lead to theconversion of Saul – the renamed apostle Paulwho becomes the great communicator of gracein his time.
TV shows and movies• ABC TV Show entitled, “Revenge” in contrast to:Movie, “An Amish Grace,”based on the real story of the tragic killing of 5Amish girls.
Gordon MacDonald quote• “The world can do almost anything as or better than the church. You need not be a Christian to build houses, feed the hungry or heal the sick. There is only one thing the world cannot do. It cannot offer grace.”
The Grace Question• How do I respond to God’s grace on a daily basis and am I offering that grace to others as well?
David Seamands’ quote “Many years ago I was driven to the conclusionthat the two major causes of most emotionalproblems among evangelical Christians are these:the failure to understand, receive, and live outGod’s unconditional grace and forgiveness; and thefailure to give out that unconditionallove, forgiveness, and grace to other people. . . . Weread, we hear, we believe a good theology of grace.But that’s not the way we live. The good news ofthe Gospel of grace has not penetrated the level ofour emotions.”
3 Responses to God’s Grace1) Lack of Grace - Return to Legalism2) Abuse of Grace – License or licentiousness3) Freedom in Grace – Graciousness and Joy
The trap of legalismGalatians 5:1, 4, “It is for freedom that Christhas set us free. Stand firm then, and do not letyourselves be burdened again by a yoke ofslavery…You who are trying to be justified by lawhave been alienated from Christ; you have fallenaway from grace.”
Augustinian in theory/ Pelagian in practice• Eugene Peterson draws a contrast between Augustine and Pelagius, two fourth-century theological opponents. Augustine started from God’s grace and got it right, whereas Pelagius started from human effort and got it wrong. Augustine passionately pursued God; Pelagius methodically worked to please God.• Peterson goes on to say that Christians tend to be Augustinian in theory but Pelagian in practice. They work obsessively to please other people and even God.
God’s grace – its relationship to His love“Grace means there is nothing we can do tomake God love us more;And grace means there is nothing we can do tomake him love us less.”
John Newton quote“When we get to heaven, there will be threewonders:(1) who is there(2) who is not there, and(3) the fact that I’m there!”
The Abuse of GraceRomans 5:20-6:7“Cheap Grace,” Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s term
The Risk of Preaching GraceD. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, “There is no better testas to whether a man is really preaching the NewTestament gospel of salvation than this, thatsome people might misunderstand it andmisinterpret it to mean that it really amounts tothis, that because you are saved by grace aloneit does not matter at all what you do; you can goon sinning as much as you like because it willredound all the more to the glory of grace.”
C. S. Lewis on condoning vs. forgiveness Lewis explains that what I have termed “graceabuse” stems from a confusion of condoning andforgiving: Lewis continues, “To condone an evil issimply to ignore it, to treat it as if it were good. Butforgiveness needs to be accepted as well as offeredif it is to be complete: and a man who admits noguilt can accept no forgiveness.”…God took a greatrisk by announcing forgiveness in advance, and thescandal of grace involves a transfer of that risk tous. (- from Phillip Yancey)
The Christian as Trapeze artistIn Christ, we live on the trapeze. The wholeworld should be able to watch and say, “Lookhow they live, how they love one another. Lookhow well the husbands treat their wives. Andaren’t they the best workers in the factories andoffices, the best neighbors, the best students?”That is to live on the trapeze, being a show tothe world.
Trapeze artist continued• What happens when we slip? The net is surely there. The blood of our Lord, Jesus Christ, has provided forgiveness for ALL our trespasses. Both the net and the ability to stay on the trapeze are both works of God’s grace. Of course, we cannot be continually sleeping on the net. If that is the case, I doubt whether that person is a trapezist.” Juan Carlos Ortiz
“The world thirsts for grace. When grace descends, the world falls silent before it.” (Yancey)1) 2 Preachers – Spurgeon and Parker““You know, Parker, you have practiced grace onme,” he said. “You have given me not what Ideserved; you have given me what I needed.”2) Jessye Norman sings “Amazing Grace” atWembley stadium