Transformed by Grace
Dear Church Family,
The word ‘Grace’ has become so common in Christian circles it is important for us to consider what it means. This presents no small challenge, not because grace is vague or ethereal, but because it is so vast.
The Apostle Peter referred to it as
‘the manifold grace of God’ (1 Peter 4:10 NKJV). Other translations expand on this thought: It’s described as
‘God’s grace in its various forms’ (NIV),
‘God's varied grace’ (ESV), and
‘God’s many-sided grace’ (The Amplified Bible).
The grace of God is multi-faceted, like a diamond: Hold it one direction and the light will reveal a unique beauty. Turn the diamond slightly and the light will reveal a different yet equally beautiful appearance.
In many ways it is easier to describe grace than to define it since it can affect our lives in different ways: Grace can cause a timid and shy person to speak up and an obnoxiously loud person to be quiet. It can empower us to stop bad behaviour and equip us for godly behaviour. Grace can bring joy and deliver contrition. At times it can still us and at other times stimulate zeal within us.
Grace is freely given by God, is the answer to the human condition and so is hugely significant for us, not only to understand, but to experience and to dispense to others. Hence the reason for an upcoming series of sermons, entitled ‘Transformed by Grace’.
I will use the following as a working definition for this series: Grace is ‘the unconditional love of God toward us, through which he has embraced us and brought us into his life’. The love of God is the very basis of all his actions towards us. Living a life of grace is having the confidence that God is for us and not against us, and to live out the plan he has for us through the power of the indwelling Spirit of Christ. Grace comes alongside us to encourage us when we are down, to empower us when we are weak, enlighten us when we are uncertain, and to equip us when we are inadequate.
If grace sounds like a person, that’s because grace is a person: Jesus Christ! It is grace himself who comes and lives within us and in whom we live. As Paul said,
it is no longer I that lives but Christ who lives in me. (c.f. Galatians 2:20)
Grace changes everything for us. The word ‘grace’ comes from the Greek word ‘charis’ meaning ‘favour’, ‘blessing’ or ‘kindness’. It finds its source in the loving-kindness of our Father’s heart who pours out his love to us because that is who he is; God is love, says the Apostle John (1 John 4:8) and our good and kind God has determined to love us no matter what we do or don’t do. Agape is love without condition (not one), and grace is the expression of that love outpoured on humanity, whether we know it, believe it or receive it. But when we do know, believe and receive it our lives will be transformed. Paul puts it this way,
‘Don’t you realize that it is God’s kindness that is trying to lead you to him and change the way you think and act?’ (Romans 2:4 God’s Word translation) In the Message paraphrase it says,
‘In kindness he takes us firmly by the hand and leads us into a radical life-change’. Our lives are changed as God’s kindness, his grace, changes us from the inside out.
What does it look like when we are living a lifestyle transformed by grace? It looks like Jesus. We are transformed by the renewing of our mind (Romans 12:1) so that we can have the same mind as Christ Jesus (Philippians 2:5). Then as our lives are changed we are to be dispensers of God’s grace to other people. As the J.B. Phillips translation of 1 Peter 4:10 reads, ‘Serve one another with the particular gifts God has given each of you, as faithful dispensers of the magnificently varied grace of God’.
What we believe about God and his grace will inevitably shape the way we see ourselves and relate to others. The more we see that God is a God of love and grace, and that he has dispensed that love and grace to us in his Son, the more we will transformed and the more we will be able to share God’s love and grace with others.
The aim of this sermon series on grace is to:
- transform our view of God, so we understand that He is for, not against us;
- transform how we look at ourselves, so we understand that we are accepted not on the basis of how good we are but on how good God is; and
- transform how we relate to other people, who are also included.
As we embark on this journey together let’s embrace God’s great and varied grace and let’s move forward in his transforming love.
With love in Jesus’ name,