We have been through nine chapters in John Bevere’s book and he has written about the state of Christianity today; his opinion is that Christians are content to pursue goodness and not holiness. He has stated that good is not good enough; we should want more.
He titles Chapter 10 “The Fuel” which makes me think that he is going to say something profound in this chapter and in my humble opinion he does.
It all begins with the idea of grace. If you are Christian, that is a term that means something. But if you are like me, it means that we try and try to live a sinless life and we fail over and over again. But Bevere writes “But then came grace. We couldn’t earn it by good behavior and still can’t. We didn’t deserve it and still don’t. God’s gift completely forgives us and will continue when we fall short” [Bevere, 138].
God asked the Israelites to live a sinless life and the Old Testament is a record of their failure. Jesus and the gift of grace was the New Testament and it solved our problem with sin, or so it seems. I don’t know about you but at times in my life, I felt that grace was a “get out of jail free-card”, you know that wonderful card that comes in handy in the Monopoly game. We don’t have to worry about sin because it is there to save us. God knows we are human.
But isn’t there more to life than the live life, sin, ask forgiveness, repent, grace cycle? Isn’t there more?
Bevere keeps talking about the idea that holiness is the pathway to the presence of Jesus. C.S. Lewis writes “Be ye perfect is not…a command to do the impossible. [God] is going to make us into creatures that can obey that command.”
And it is through that common Christian idea of grace.
Bevere cites a 2009 study of Christians where thousands were asked what grace meant to them. Ninety-eight percent of them said “salvation”, “unmerited gift” or “forgiveness of sins.” It is good that such a high percentage know what grace means but Bevere points out that only two percent know that grace can mean empowerment. We are talking the kind of grace in 2nd Corinthians 12:9 “My grace is all you need, for my power works best in your weakness.” We think of weakness as inability. But think about it; if ninety-eight percent of Christians don’t realize that grace means empowerment, they are attempting to live a holy life on their own efforts. Believe me that the live life, sin, ask forgiveness, repent, grace cycle can be very discouraging. For many it leads to frustration and defeat. Who wants to repeat the same bad behavior?
Let’s drill down on what Paul is saying with “my power works best in your weakness.” Writing about the churches of Macedonia, Paul says the grace of God was bestowed on those churches “that according to their ability, yes and beyond their ability.” That is what this concept of grace means. With this, we can do more than we ever dreamed we could. God can work through us, through our weakness.
It is not often that I quote a lot of words from an author but Bevere’s ideas about grace bear repeating and they lead so well into my next post: “With what we’ve just learned, let’s expand this understanding further. Salvation is a gift of grace. Forgiveness is a gift of grace. Healing is a gift of grace. Provision is a gift of grace. Receiving God’s nature is a gift of grace. Empowerment is a gift of grace. All of these are manifestations of His favor upon our lives, each underserved and unmerited. In regard to empowerment, grace gives us the ability to go beyond our natural ability. We didn’t have the ability to deliver ourselves from hell, grace did. We shouldn’t live in freedom, but grace enables us. We can’t change our nature; grace did. We don’t have the ability to live holy, but grace enables us.”
What an unexpected place to find fuel for our Christian growth toward holiness…grace.