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A Case for Grace

by | Oct 1, 2022

I baked bread yesterday. I milled my grain, used a digital scale my brother bought me for my birthday, and converted everything from ounces to grams. It was a disaster. I’m not sure where I erred but one loaf looks like it’s trying to throw up and the other like a sagging hotdog. On the upside, both still taste delicious and are unbeatably fresh. Even in the worst scenarios you can’t outshine bread out of the oven.

This freshness is what I’m hoping for in these monthly Cultivate devotionals. Some monthly offerings might be better than others, but at least each one will be newly milled grains of thoughts I’m pondering, questions I’m chewing on, truths I’m thinking about. This month, I’ve been considering grace. I’m a dyed-in-the wool do-gooder whose core fear is being morally corrupt (according to Enneagram #1 wisdom). This doesn’t mean I am good, or even that I do good when I’m supposed to, it just means that checking religious boxes tends to feel good to me. I rather like earning things.

This has risen to the forefront of my awareness in recent weeks. I’m in a peaceful season without major business upheavals due to pandemics. My home is calm in the absence of a 14-month renovation that was supposed to be 6, but who’s keeping track. I’ve had a lot more time to be still with the Lord. And I’ve been feeling a tinge of guilt. Or maybe a sense of not pushing myself hard enough. It seems the more time I have in God’s presence, unharried and unhurried, the more I realize how easy it is to substitute busyness for godliness. Being busy for God makes me feel like a better Christian. In this quieter season, this distorted thinking has become more obvious to me.

This is where grace comes in.

I don’t know how you grew up but I was raised in a Christian environment where the term grace was deeply associated with salvation. To paraphrase the Apostle Paul, a person is saved by grace through faith, not from any works we add to the mix, it’s a free gift from God that none of us can take any credit for (Eph. 2:8-9). My whole life is founded upon this truth. The problem for me—and maybe for you—is that we tend to confine grace to that single aspect of our future lives. Grace is for salvation when you die but it’s kind of up to us to figure it out until then, or so the thinking goes. But when we follow the concept of grace throughout the New Testament we also see that another major function of grace is to compel us toward good works now, it’s to change our hearts now, it’s to fuel us to Christlikeness now. Being busy doesn’t accomplish this for us, being dependent on God’s grace does.

Take in these words from Dallas Willard: “We consume the most grace by leading a holy life, in which we must be constantly upheld by grace, not by continuing to sin and being repeatedly forgiven. The interpretation of grace as having only to do with guilt is utterly false to biblical teaching and renders spiritual life in Christ unintelligible.” In other words, we tend to think that the people who need the most grace are the ones who keep messing up, who keep draining God’s forgiveness. But in some ways it’s the polar opposite of this. As Dallas points out, those who look the most like Jesus on the inside and outside are actually the ones consuming the most grace because holiness runs on grace. Earlier I referenced Ephesians 2:8-9. Now consider verse 10, “For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared ahead of time for us to do.” Notice the good works God has for us to do are based on the grace Paul begins talking about in verses 5-9.

If I can sum up my thoughts for you it’s this: Busyness doesn’t equal godliness. Yes, we as Christ-followers should be passionate about good, concrete actions of love for others—Paul says we were created for this. But as you work steadily for the Lord (at work, in your home, running carpool and errands) be sure you’re being fueled by grace simply because we can’t fuel our own holiness. And if you find yourself in a quieter season like myself, don’t believe the lie that being busy will make you a better Christian. It will only make you a busier Christian. So let His grace fill you and fuel you in times of quiet. Because we know how this goes. The crazy seasons are usually just around the corner. And we’ll need all the grace we can get.

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