[easyazon_image align=”left” height=”250″ identifier=”152342902X” locale=”US” src=”https://englewoodreview.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/03/41VCYYfgwzL.jpg” tag=”douloschristo-20″ width=”166″]Ray Hollenbach
introduces his new book:
Paperback: CreateSpace, 2015
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The Surprising Depth of Grace
Set aside the question of Heaven or Hell when we reach the afterlife: what about Heaven or Hell while we live? It’s only by God’s grace that we reach Heaven, but the good news is better than we know: by God’s grace Heaven can reach us. The scripture teaches we are saved by grace. Grace begins the work of salvation in here-and-now and completes whatever is left undone in the there-and-then. Both flow from the indispensible grace of God. The world needs grace. We need grace. I need grace. Not for my last breath but for every breath.
The fabric of everyday life is alive with the grace of God. Grace forgives, but it also guides. Consider these amazing words from Titus 2:11-12: “For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all men, instructing us to deny ungodliness and worldly desires and to live sensibly, righteously and godly in the present age . . .” In these words we can hear the full symphony of God’s grace in three movements:
Grace for Salvation: This is the gospel we know. God’s grace reaches everyone, because no one can reach God by his or her own efforts. The melody of God’s grace sings in every language, for all peoples, at all times. God loves the world. He always has and always will. By his grace we are saved because in Jesus God paid every debt: past, present, and future. But grace goes beyond the song we first learned.
Grace to Deny Ungodliness: By grace we are not defenseless against sin’s call. The same grace that saves can also teach, instructing us how to say “no” to worldly desires. True, there will be times when we stumble and fall into sin, but we are more than sinners in need of grace, we are saints lifted out of sin’s power. If we wait until we’ve sinned to call upon the grace of God, we’ve squandered the greater part of grace. Grace restores, but it also leads us on.
Grace to Live Godly: Not only does God’s grace instruct us to deny ungodly ways: it teaches us the how-to of life: how to life sensible, upright, and godly lives in this present age. God’s grace is about more than repair; it is also about preparation. The scripture describes the Christian life as a journey from glory to glory. We are called to be conformed to the image of the Son. We need grace not because our sin is so great but also because our destiny is so grand. We are called children of God—and that is what we are!
How will the watching world see a demonstration of the grace of God? This is how the Kingdom of God comes to earth: through the lives of grace-filled believers. The Kingdom glides in on wings of grace. The Kingdom brings righteousness, peace, and joy—and best of all the gracious Holy Spirit leads us to experience (and share) these three in everyday life. The Kingdom is never attained; it is received. How will we receive the grace of the Kingdom today?
Time and again the apostle Paul urged his friends to lift their vision higher and closer. There’s grace for salvation; there’s also grace for transformation. Grace helps us discover the source of all growth in Jesus, and the foundations of life with Christ. God’s grace is the wellspring of spiritual formation, but too often we have shortened “Grace” to mean only forgiveness. Grace can bring more than forgiveness; it can bring change. Disciples use grace as the fuel for transformation.
We need a greater grace. Grace reminds us again of the wealth of Heaven available to every student of Jesus.
C. Christopher Smith is the founding editor of The Englewood Review of Books. He is also author of a number of books, including most recently How the Body of Christ Talks: Recovering the Practice of Conversation in the Church (Brazos Press, 2019). Connect with him online at: C-Christopher-Smith.com