The following is an article I recently wrote for the men’s newsletter at my church. I hope you enjoy it as much as I enjoyed writing it.
Grace. It’s the name of our church, yes, but why? Have you ever stopped and thought what Grace actually is, what it means in your life, or why our church is named after this single word? Grace is mentioned 170 times in the Bible, the Apostle Paul ends every one of his letters offering a blessing of Grace, and above all, we are told that “it is by Grace that you have been saved…” (Ephesians 2:8). Obviously this is a hugely important word. But what is Grace?
Grace is a hard word to define because it encompasses so much meaning into one single word. My favorite definition of Grace is one I heard from a pastor in Portland a few years back:
[Grace is] the lavish, opulent, raw, untamed, scandalous blessing of God—unearned, undeserved, illogical, disproportionate—poured out through Christ, over every facet of your life, and the living presence of the Creator God deep inside you, poured out through the Spirit, in a flood of euphoric joy, transcendent peace, and limitless power, to be…and do…and live up to God’s calling on your life.
Wrapped up in this single word is so much life-giving truth: The fact that God loves us no matter how undeserving we all are…His desire to bless us beyond our wildest dreams…His presence and power within us, at all times, empowering us to live out the life He has called us to…His never ending, never stopping, always, and forever love.
When you start to understand God’s Grace not just in your head, but in your heart, everything in your life changes. There is an unbelievable amount of peace and joy that comes from knowing God has chosen to adopt you as His son, to love you regardless of how well you are measuring up (because none of us ever will measure up), and to enable you to walk in the path He has laid out for you through His power and not your own. When you realize you don’t need to strive to get your stuff together before you can walk with God, but start to see how He loves you right where you are (even at your lowest point), and is patiently waiting for you to invite Him to walk through your stuff with you—that is when freedom begins. Suddenly, all the self-effort you have been trying to muster up to manage your issues and control your life is freed up, giving you new energy to love others with the same love you are experiencing daily from your Father in Heaven.
My favorite aspect of God’s Grace—the part that has made the biggest impact in my daily life—is realizing that it’s okay to not be okay. I think deep down, every man is afraid that He’s not good enough or that he doesn’t have what it takes to live up to a certain standard. Often times, men will strive hard to meet this imaginary standard, frequently trying to hide the less-than-desirable parts about their lives from others so they can at least “appear” to have it all together. It’s exhausting, and they know it isn’t working. It usually results in one of two tragic outcomes: a life of shame that comes from feeling like a failure, or simply walking away from the church and from God because it doesn’t seem to be working. But if you realize God loves you just as you are…right now…no matter how “good” you are being today, and there is nothing you can do (or not do) to ever make Him love you any more or any less—it frees you from your fear of not measuring up. You start to realize that God knew all along you would be right where you are at this point in time, and He still chose to send Jesus to take care of your sins on the cross. God never expected perfection from us—He knew we would always be human and would desperately need a Savior. The only thing required of you is to trust that your sinful nature has in fact been crucified with Christ and you are now free to live life out of your new nature. And because none of us have it all together, it’s okay to be honest with one another about our struggles and come out of hiding and striving in isolation. Grace allows us come alongside our brothers, share our lives with them on a soul-level, and experiencing the love of Christ in our lives together.
So, if our actions have nothing to do with how much God loves us, I can just go ahead and sin all I want and still get into heaven because nothing can stop God’s love for me, right? Well, let me ask you this: If your wife told you she loved you so much she would be willing to forgive you of anything, no matter what, and it would never cause her to reject you or to stop loving you, would you respond by constantly sinning against her and taking advantage of her goodness, or would it cause you to want to love her back even more? When you start to experience God’s unconditional love for you, walking in the light becomes the natural response of your heart. “We love because He first loved us” (1 John 4:19). You no longer have to strive to manage your sin because your new heart will desire to follow God’s ways naturally. Your actions will flow from your love of God, not your attempt at controlling sin. This same love will also empower you to Love others where they’re at and help them follow Jesus. This is what it means to be “Men of Grace.”