Grace Comes In Four Flavors

“For sin shall not have dominion over you, for you are not under law but under grace.” (Romans 6:14)

I sure love living under grace. It doesn’t mean I can sin and move on with life as if nothing happened. It means that God will accept me in spite of sin in my life. Now that’s forgiveness with a capital “F”!

We all know that grace is the unmerited favor of God. But John Piper, a Baptist pastor in Minnesota, takes grace one step farther: “Grace is not simply leniency when we have sinned. Grace is the enabling gift of God not to sin. Grace is power, not just pardon.” Indeed, we live through and by the grace of the Lord Jesus.

Lately, it appears that I am obsessed with lists. Several of my recent columns have included them. Don’t worry. It won’t last much longer, but I couldn’t resist the temptation when it comes to explaining the application of grace in the life of a believer. I like to think that grace for the Christian comes in four flavors: convicting grace, saving grace, living grace and dying grace. Bear with me while I explain.

Convicting Grace: This is the only type of grace that God will dispense in the life of an unbeliever. The truth is the journey across the great divide to salvation cannot come without convicting grace. “No one can come to me” Jesus said, “unless the Father who sent me draws him.” (John 6:44) What Jesus meant is we cannot earn salvation. It is a gift from God.

All of us distinctly remember the moment when convicting grace was present in our lives. You simply cannot mistake it for anything else. It covers you like a blanket and will not leave you alone. You can deny it and eventually it will go way. But when it comes, it brings one of two things with it – life or death. God provides it, but the decision as to what to do with it is ours.

Saving Grace: Saving grace is what Jesus did for us on the cross. Once we become convicted about how we are living our life and for whom we are living it, we must then make a decision as to whether we actually believe that Jesus really died on the cross for us. The Bible says if we believe in both his death on the cross and his resurrection from the grave, and confess to such, we are saved.

For many of us, the journey between convicting grace and saving grace is a short one. I can’t count how many times God knocked on the door of my heart before I decided to accept his invitation. The road between convicting grace and saving grace is a dangerous one, especially the longer it becomes.

Living Grace: There’s nothing like it. I marvel at how much trouble the world can bring my way and how little I let it worry me. God never gives me a lot of grace each day. It’s far too precious to waste. But he gives me enough to make it in spite of whatever may come my way.

Dying Grace: I believe every believer will receive dying grace before the Lord calls him home. I saw it in my brother’s journey before God called him home last year. Once afraid of dying, his faith in Jesus Christ helped him conquer the one last fear that seemed to haunt him. I saw it in my grandmother who told me in her late 80’s how much she looked forward to seeing all of her friends in heaven. And I’ve seen in my own life. The older I get, the less I fear death. It’s living that scares the most now.

C.S. Lewis once said that grace is what makes Christianity unique. Indeed, without it, we could never know Christ; because of it, we can understand the difference between joy and happiness; with it, we can conquer any fear that the world brings our way. We can do nothing to earn it, and we never get enough of it to take into our tomorrows. It’s both priceless and free. John Newton was right. It’s amazing.

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