I don’t know the name of the lady. She was standing outside our church’s decision area after 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 that 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 was afraid that she wouldn’t be able to leave her past behind. She basically said, “I don’t think I can change.”
What would you say to her?
Every year new words are added to the dictionary. Some new words that have recently found their way into the dictionary are:
(I can’t believe those words are in the dictionary!)
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 anymore.
New words always draw an interest because new is interesting. You wonder what the word means or how it might be used. People tend to assume the meaning of commonplace words. I recently wrote a book about grace. Grace is so familiar that it can easily be missed, even ignored. The word grace is so common it doesn’t feel very amazing.
Grace has been defined as God’s unmerited favor or God giving the opposite of a person deserves. That is indeed grace, but grace is much more.
- able to completely rewrite your story.
- great enough to remove your sins.
- powerful enough to erase your guilt.
- big enough to cover your shame.
- real enough to heal your relationships.
- strong enough to hold you up when you’re weak.
- sweet enough to cure your bitterness.
- sufficient enough to deal with your disappointment.
- beautiful enough to redeem your brokenness.
We can talk more about it 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, grace can really only be known when it collides with your life.
Three Sides Of Grace
Paul writes in Titus 2:11-14:
For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men. It teaches us to say ‘No’ to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age, while we wait for the blessed hope—the glorious appearing of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for himself a people that are his very own, eager to do what is good.
This is how Paul describes the 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 teaches us to say ‘no’ to ungodliness and worldly passions and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age.
A parent teaches, corrects, and disciplines, and encourages as the child grows to maturity. God’s grace does that; it helps us transform towards Christ-like maturity.
The word translated “teach” is a word that would commonly be used to describe a parent’s responsibility to their child. A parent teaches, 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 nervous to be baptized. She had some real concerns. 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 need)
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.”
It’s an appreciation for his grace, not apprehension of his wrath that leads us to say “no” to ungodliness and worldly passions.
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 at times without 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.
Grace Has 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 truly needed.
She needed to experience grace. I hope she did.
And I pray we do as well.
Pastor Kyle Idleman wants to remind us that God’s grace is greater. Greater than anything we will ever face. Even when it doesn’t make sense. Even when it doesn’t feel fair. God’s grace covers everything we’ve done. And the best way (perhaps the only real way) to understand it, is to experience it.
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