It is not by accident that the hymn, Amazing Grace is a favorite for so many. It captures so well the essence of what attracted us to Jesus, redeemed us and it will indeed be something that we will spend eternity trying to comprehend. "For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith, and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God, not by works, so that no one can boast (Ephesians 2:8-9)."
I am convinced that we will never fully understand the full scope of God's grace this side of eternity but that it must be something that we push into daily. The more we understand His grace in our lives, the more content we are in Jesus, the more grace we show others and the more we look like Jesus. He is the essence of grace and it was what made Him the magnet for people that He was.
Understanding grace is a life changer for us and for how we relate to others. Too often we are recipients of God's grace but are not students of what it means to extend that same grace to others. The legalism, conditional acceptance, interpersonal conflict and lack of love even in the church is evidence of the great need for God's people to grow in grace. Knowing truth is not enough for Christ followers. Living out truth with the grace of Christ is what will attract others to us and then to Jesus. Jesus came full of "grace and truth." Do we?
For instance, when I truly understand and live out grace:
-I no longer try to earn God's favor but understand that there is nothing I can do to make Him love me more and there is nothing I can do to make Him love me less. Therefore I can be joyful and content in my daily walk with Him.
-I do not feel the need to play the role of the Holy Spirit in the lives of others but rather extend to them the grace God extends to me, pray for them and be patient with their faults as God is with mine. I am slow to judge, quick to think the best and remember how patient and gracious God is with me in my personal growth as I extend that same attitude toward others.
-I am able to forgive myself for my own shortcomings, knowing that God has already done that. My motivation to grown in my obedience is no longer about earning His favor but rather wanting to please Him out of gratitude for His amazing love.
-I forgive others quickly knowing that Jesus extends that gift to me daily. I cannot withhold from others what Jesus has so graciously extended to me. I don't give people what they deserve but what they don't deserve, just as Jesus did not give us what we deserve.
-I no longer look at people the way the world does but know that every individual I encounter has eternal value in His eyes and therefore must in my eyes as well. I go out of my way to love those that others don't love and to give value to those that others forget.
-I don't display conditional love just as Jesus does not give me conditional love. Unconditional love is the love of grace and it is an act of our will based on God's unconditional love for me.
-I love to surprise people with grace when they least expect or even deserve it. Just like Jesus with tax collectors, prostitutes, adulterers, lepers, and all those that were considered undeserving and worthy only of judgement. After all, God surprised us with grace when we did not deserve or expect it.
-I am not hard or harsh even when I need to bring correction to a brother or sister. Rather, my motivation is always love that comes out of God's gracious love in my own life. I display toward other the same graciousness that God gives to me daily.
-I love to encourage those who have messed up big time that God is not finished with them yet and that He can redeem their sin and give them hope and a purpose. After all, that is what God did for us. He is the hope for the broken, the guilty, and the hopeless. There is no person and no situation that God cannot redeem so we become evangelists of His hope.
There are many other characteristics of living out a life of grace. One of the most valuable things we can do is to regularly think about all of our relationships, attitudes, words and actions from a filter of God's grace to us. Reading the gospels regularly helps us to capture the secrets of Jesus' grace to inform us of what it means to live a grace filled life.