How the Idea of Grace Limits Your Transformation

Keith KettenringBible Insights, Christian Living, The Uncommon Journey

Do you struggle to understand grace? Is grace active in your life? Is grace transforming your life? Surfing Facebook a couple days ago, I noticed a quote by Tim Keller, a popular pastor and author. He is quoted as saying: “As long as we think we are not that bad, the idea of grace will never change us.” My response on Facebook: “As long as we think that grace is an idea, we will never change.” In other words, the idea of grace does not change anyone. Ironic, isn’t it. Those that talk most about grace are the ones who struggle most with transformation. Their “idea of grace” may be the reason.

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Tim Keller’s emphasis is that grace will have little affect on people if they think they don’t need it. I agree with him. Whatever your view of grace, it cannot affect a life unless a person realizes their need and receives it. He’s Reformed in his theology. Yet he believes that a human can actually determine whether God’s grace can make a difference or not. Interesting. But that’s not my point.

The Idea of Grace?? 

My disagreement is not with the idea of the quote but with Keller’s “idea of grace.” He is simply stating what most protestant-evangelicals understand grace to be – an idea. Or put it another way, grace is a concept. It is studied. It is thought about. It is discussed. It is preached. Yet it is always a “thing.” It’s examined and researched as if a specimen on a glass slide.

Grace is often defined as God’s unmerited favor. Because the sinner now trusts Jesus, God sees him differently – with favor. God now acknowledges and treats the believer differently. This sounds good but it is not life-giving. Nor does it transform.

Or, grace is sometimes defined as “God’s Riches At Christ’s Expense” as if grace is only displayed at the cross.

In each of these definitions, grace is perceived as a thing…a concept…an idea. But, grace is so much more.

Grace is God “Actioning” 

God is the Source of Grace. Grace comes from His being. The Trinity – three in one – relate to each other in perfect grace. The Trinity is living grace. Jesus is described as grace (John 1.14-17). Simply put, grace is the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of grace. Grace is alive! Grace is living activity! Grace is living movement! Grace is living motion! It is not an object.

Three “Stages” of Grace’s Activity in You

  1. God “graces” you, everyone and everything, everywhere. To some degree, grace is working in you (and all humans) or you would not be alive.
  2. Grace is activated in you by faith. Trust in Jesus Christ (grace in person) kick starts your actual participation in God’s grace. (Romans 5.2, Ephesians 2.8)
  3. Grace can be participated in by your faithful effort. Grace becomes a greater dominator and guide of your being over time as you learn to participate in God’s grace activity. (2 Peter 3.18)

This may be a new way for you to understand grace. Grace is God’s life in you. Participate in His grace as you grow in relationship with Him.

Comment below on your understanding of grace. How would the reality of God’s activity of grace flowing in you make a difference in your life? How does grace make a difference now? Please share below.

Dr. K