…but grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
2 Peter 3.18a
You therefore, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus.
2 Timothy 2.1
In more than three decades of ministry, I have marveled at many truths of Christianity: The wonder of prayer, the mystery of faith, the power of Scripture, the great love of Jesus coming to die, the death-defeating miracle of the resurrection, the subtle inner working of the Holy Spirit, the energy within the body of Christ. But one aspect of our spiritual life is, I confess, utterly beyond me: Grace.
To some, that word conveys weakness today. We are told that we need to show more grace – which means we must be more open-minded, less ‘judgmental.’ If we were more gracious, we’re told, we’d see things from others’ perspectives. After all, not everyone thinks the same way, so we should be tolerant of their views.
This thinking has overtaken much of the church today. Sadly, many Christians think it’s wrong for us to confront people of other religions with our gospel. They aren’t bad people – perhaps they had a tough upbringing, or life hasn’t treated them fairly. We should be more broadminded.
Oprah Winfrey has been called ‘the most influential theologian in America’ today. Her ‘gospel’ is a mixture of pop psychology, self-help platitudes, and an occasional ‘sprinkling’ of Scripture. For Oprah and her followers, our biggest mistake is believing there is only one way; there are many diverse paths leading to God. That idea may sound gracious, but is it?
The power of grace is its connection to truth. When we lose touch with truth – when every person can have their own truth, and no ‘truth’ is really ‘the Truth’ – grace is unnecessary. But when truth confronts our lives and exposes our sin, grace becomes imperative. And in 2020, the battle for truth – and therefore grace – is raging.
Instead of capitulating to sin, instead of excusing violence, instead of appeasing hatred, grace meets them head-on without compromise. And in the glaring light of truth, grace offers forgiveness, redemption, restoration, and hope. It’s the most beautiful transfer in the world.
Randy Alcorn’s father wanted nothing to do with God. At the age of 84, diagnosed with cancer, he called his son and said, “I’ve called…to say good-bye. I’ve got a gun to my head. I’m sorry to leave you with a mess.” Randy begged him to hold on, raced to his home, and drove him to the hospital. They scheduled him for surgery the next morning. Randy arrived an hour before, praying his dad would come to Christ.
Standing next to his bed, he started reading in Romans 3: “There is none righteous, no, not one… All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” His father had always taken offense at being called a sinner. Randy said he wanted to stop, to ‘gloss over’ the bad news and move on to grace. But he kept reading about sin, then about grace: The wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Jesus Christ our Lord (6.23).
He looked his dad in the eyes, and asked: “Have you ever confessed your sins and asked Jesus Christ to forgive you?” His dad replied, “No, but I think it’s about time I did.” The truth of sin made the message of grace powerful. Alcorn writes, “The impossible took place right before my eyes: My father prayed aloud, confessed his sins, and placed his faith in Christ.”
Some will say today that grace means going soft on sin. They’re wrong. We don’t show grace by downplaying or excusing sin; instead, we weaken grace. The power of grace is seen in the light of truth, over against the ugliness of sin. Without the bad news, there is no good news. In a world that is shrugging at open sin, justifying rampant violence, and marketing in lies, stand for truth, and let powerful grace shine.