If you’ve had even casual encounters with the church, then grace is a word you know all too well.
We sing about it in our most universally beloved hymn: “Amazing grace! How sweet the sound that saved a wretch like me!”
When people bow their heads to pray before a meal to give thanks, we sometimes call this saying grace.
If we see a person moving with a sort of ease and beauty, a man or woman fully at home in his or her skin, the kind of person who lights up a room, we might say they are graceful.
If a friend unexpectedly takes you out to dinner, you would call him or her gracious. It’s a word we think we know.
Grace is the mystery at the bottom of all the others. It is the most distinguishing feature of the Gospel, what sets Christianity apart from every other world religion. Grace is the word that changes everything.
Yet I am convinced that most of us don’t know exactly what grace is, much less how it works or the difference it can make in our lives.
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After all my years of serving as senior pastor at James River Church in Springfield, Missouri, and seeing countless lives changed by God, my experience is this: Most Christians struggle to access grace for themselves, no matter how well they might speak about it.
We struggle to believe God could have really loved us in our deepest, darkest moment when we said or did the thing of which we are most ashamed.
We struggle to believe God could love us in the midst of addiction.
We struggle with the idea that grace can truly cover our past, sustain us in the present, and even extend into our future.
We can’t fathom that grace is a bottomless, limitless resource that will never run out.
I’ve seen it over and over again in the eyes of people I have loved and served — and if I’m honest, even in the eyes looking back at me in the mirror. We are all too aware of all our flaws and imperfections. Deep down, it’s hard to believe God is really that good. It’s hard to believe He could really love us that much.
I believe God’s grace is far bigger, better, and wilder than you could ever imagine. I wrote my book “Soul Set Free” for every person who has ever wondered if God’s grace is really wide enough, broad enough, deep enough, to erase the shame of one’s past.
I wrote it for every person who has ever wondered if His grace is sufficient for the moment you’re in right now and if it will be enough for your future. I wrote it for all those who struggle to extend grace to the people around them.
Everywhere I go, I meet sons and daughters of God who are exhausted from trying to do all the heavy lifting themselves. They’re trying to earn God’s approval, trying to prove they are worthy, trying to outrun their shame or their past.
But grace says everything that ever needed to be done has been done for you already. Grace says there’s nothing else you have to do to make yourself right or righteous. The only response God expects from you in response to His radical forgiveness is to come on home where you belong.
Everywhere I go, I meet sons and daughters of God who are exhausted from trying to do all the heavy lifting themselves.
Grace says you get to start over. Grace says you get to be free.
Grace says you are living in God’s abundance, in a world in which everyone seems to operate out of a sense of scarcity.
The best news is that grace is not some hazy thing out in the distance somewhere. His grace is here. His grace is for you.
His grace is now, holding you, sustaining you, filling every moment. You aren’t asked to do anything about it — except believe. Put all your weight down on grace and the God who offers it.
Accept it. Live in light of it; live as if you can really trust it.
You and I have many barriers to letting ourselves be fully convinced of it — some outside of us, but most inside of us.
Living as if grace is real, solid, and true can be easier said than done. But if you dare risk to believe it, grace changes everything — most of all, you.
This exclusive article for LifeZette is adapted from “Soul Set Free: Why Grace is More Liberating Than You Believe” (Charisma House, 2019) by Pastor John Lindell. He is devoted to seeing the local church thrive and stand boldly for the cause of Christ; he leads James River Church in Springfield, Missouri.