By Kyle Idleman
I don’t know the name of the lady. She was standing outside our church’s decision area after a service. She wanted to go in, but just wasn’t sure if she should. I asked if she wanted to be baptized. She said, “I can’t keep living like this. I have got to make a change.”
Her eyes filled with tears as she told me her story of addiction and regret. Then she asked, “Do you think I’m good enough to be baptized?” She just couldn’t imagine God would still want her.
She went in to talk to a decision counselor. About 20 minutes later she emerged from the changing room, ready to be baptized. I asked if she was ready. She expressed her concern that she wouldn’t be able to leave her past. She basically said, “I don’t think I can change.”
What would you say to her? What’s the answer to her concerns?
Every year new words are added to the dictionary. Some new words that have recently found their way into the dictionary: adorkable, photobomb, selfie, twerking and meme. I can’t believe those words are in the dictionary! I hear about it and think, “That’s amaze-beans!” (I expect amaze-beans to be in the dictionary next year.)
New words capture our attention because they’re new, yet they define something familiar. That’s the problem with words we know. They don’t seem interesting.
These new words always draw interest. New is interesting. You wonder what the word means, how it might be used. People tend to assume the meaning of commonplace words. I recently wrote a book about, and want us to take a few blog posts to explore, grace. I realize this is a challenge. Grace is so familiar it can easily be missed, even ignored. The word grace is so common it doesn’t feel very amazing (Or amazebeans).
Grace has been defined as God’s unmerited favor, as God giving the opposite of what a person deserves. That is grace, but grace is more. Grace can completely rewrite your story. Grace is great enough to remove your sins. Grace is powerful enough to erase your guilt. Grace is big enough to cover your shame. Grace is real enough to heal your relationships. Grace is strong enough to hold you up when you’re weak. Grace is sweet enough to cure your bitterness. Grace is sufficient enough to deal with your disappointment. Grace is beautiful enough to redeem your brokenness.
We’re going to think about grace, but, ultimately, grace is something to be experienced. In fact, I fear that an explanation runs the risk of robbing grace of its wonder. One author said, “Grace can be dissected like a frog, but the thing dies in the process.” The truth is that grace can really only be known when it collides with your life. So, while I will try to explain grace, my prayer is that you will experience it.
Three Sides Of Grace
Paul writes, in Titus 2:11-14,
Paul describes three sides of grace.
1.) A Welcoming Grace
Paul writes that the grace of God “has appeared.” Like light coming on in a pitch dark room, the grace of God has been illuminated. It’s been announced, to everyone. Grace is God’s welcome mat. It calls our name and invites us in.
2.) A Saving Grace
In verse 11, grace is described as “the grace of God that brings salvation.” This is usually how we talk about grace. God’s grace pardons, justifies, it makes us right with Him. If “welcoming grace” is the welcome mat inviting us in, we could think of “saving grace” as the front door. It opens and gets us in.
3.) A Transforming Grace
This might be an unexpected facet of grace. Paul describes grace in a way we may not often think about. Verse 12, “It teaches us to say ‘No’ to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age.”
The word translated “teach” is a word that would commonly be used to describe a parents responsibility to their child. A parent teaches and corrects and disciplines and encourages as the child grows to maturity. God’s grace does that, it helps us transform towards Christ-like maturity. It’s what happens once you’ve gotten past the welcome mat and through the front door. “Transforming grace” helps you live in the house. We are saved all at once, but sanctification is a process, and grace is with us, helping us on that life-long journey of becoming more like Jesus.
What That Lady Needs (And All The Rest Of Us Too)
Remember the lady who was hesitant to talk to a decision counselor and then nervous to get baptized. She had some real concerns. What would you say to her? What answers did she need? Grace.
She said, “I can’t keep living like this. I’ve got to make a change.” She was right. She was stuck in the darkness of a life that had gone down too many wrong roads. But … the grace of God has appeared. It’s a light shining in the darkness, and it’s what that lady needed. (And it’s what I need.) (And you.) (And everyone you know.)
She also said, “Do you think I am good enough to be baptized?” Her concern was valid. She wasn’t good enough to be baptized. That’s the beauty of grace. It’s God offering us the opposite of what we deserve, and it’s a saving grace. When she asked me if she was good enough, I said, “No, you’re not. And the truth is, none of us are good enough, but Jesus is.” Jesus made a way in when there was no way. We’ll never be good enough – none of our keys will get us in. “His grace is the key that opens the door.
She also said, “I don’t think I can change.” Again, she was correct. In fact, I bet she had tried to change countless times but with no lasting success. I bet we’ve all tried to change but with no lasting success. That’s why we have to take the responsibility for transformation out of our hands and put it into God’s. His intention is not just to save us, but to sanctify us. His preferred method of transformation is grace. It’s an appreciation for His grace, not apprehension of His wrath that leads us to say “no” to “ungodliness and worldly passions."
It’s Got To Be Experienced
That Sunday I did my best to answer the lady’s questions by explaining grace. I think I calmed her fears. But no explanation could suffice for what she really needed.
She needed to experience grace. I hope she did.
And I pray we do as well.
To learn more about experiencing grace, check out Kyle’s new book, Grace Is Greater.