Grace is a wonderful reality that believers treasure above all things. In Greek, the word for grace is caros, which means “undeserved favor.” It is through grace we are saved by Jesus’ death on the cross. When we accept the gift of salvation, that unmerited goodness becomes the new reality of our lives. Grace is far from an idea or an ethereal concept– it is a fact of the world we live in, the truest aspect of our existence in this life.
However, grace hasn’t always been such a pervasive concept. Leading up to the Reformation, union with God was always based on good deeds, or some sort of earned favor. There was always more effort to be put forth, more to earn, more people to please. Rather than a life of freedom, many believers were living in exhaustion. Now, we know that salvation can’t be earned, but can you imagine believing that your own actions were the way to get to heaven?
“Sola Gratia” is the central Reformation teaching that salvation comes through grace alone, which was a far cry from some of the Church’s teachings at the time surrounding issues of salvation. It seems fitting that Martin Luther realized the importance and significance of grace, he just wanted to share it with the world! I believe the same is true of you and I– when we fully embrace the grace of God, we won’t be able to keep it to ourselves.
In our day-to-day lives, I think grace shows up in a thousand different ways as God’s kindness. So often, we forget that God is ultimately kind. His desire is to bless us and show us how to live an abundant life. The things we carry around with us– guilt and shame and fear and anxiety– no longer have the final say in our identity. This frees us to live our lives as Jesus tells us in Matthew 11:30: “For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”
Galatians 2:20 paints a compelling image of the power that grace has to shape us into the people we were meant to be. Paul shares: “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me.” When we accept the gift of grace, we are no longer slaves to the guilt and shame of our past mistakes and failures. Guilt and shame– which all of us carry in some form or another– no longer have the final say in our identity. We can quit our ceaseless striving for more and better things in the future, because as children of God, we inherit the Kingdom!
One of my wife, Wendy, and I’s favorite verses is Acts 20:24: “However, I consider my life worth nothing to me; my only aim is to finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me– the task of testifying to the good news of God’s grace.” Paul had a single-minded focus on what was important to him, and what was important to God– sharing this message with as many people as possible.
It becomes clear when we start sharing grace that it is a potent catalyst for transformation. I remember clearly being in Fort Lauderdale, Florida in 2003 for “BeachFest,” an evangelistic outreach that took place– you guessed it– right on the beach! At the time, Fort Lauderdale was known for being something of a spring break destination, with droves of young people traveling there during the spring and summer months. Our team dedicated ourselves over and over again to a single focus– to share the Good New with as many people as possible.
As a result, BeachFest was one of our most successful festivals– many souls were saved. We saw great unity among churches and Christians in the city. There are ongoing ministries that came out of the preparation and church mobilization leading up to the festival. The impact continues to this day! We credit the success of that festival– and any of our evangelistic efforts– to the pure power of the grace of Jesus Christ. That’s what our team exists for– to proclaim the grace of Jesus Christ to a world that is in desperate need of it.
My prayer for you today is that you would embrace the reality of grace, to let go of the past and step fully into the knowledge of God’s goodness. And as God empowers and changes and transforms your heart, share your story with the people around you– it might just lead another heart into the fullness of Christ.
This article originally appeared in the PROCLAIM! Magazine Spring 2017 issue. The original article was entitled, “Sola Gratia: Grace Alone.” Copyright 2017, Andrew Palau.
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