Why Would a Christian Need Grace?

A great many Christians today think that grace only has to do with gettng saved — Grace is when God forgives our sin and makes us a child of God. True enough. But that is only the beginning!

Grace is everything God does in us and for us that we cannot do for ourselves. Like change our heart, heal our wounds, feed our soul, and grow us up spiritually. When I try to love my enemy, sooner or later I will discover that no matter how hard I try to be good toward him I still do not love him. The best I can do is override my internal disgust or hatred and act as if I love him. I need God to change my heart in ways that I cannot. That is grace at work in me. The same is true for every aspect of my life that I cannot change by an act of the will. And the more I learn about God's desire for us, the more I see how I fall short in my own efforts. As a Christian, I need more grace, not less. That is why Paul prayed so often for grace to be "multiplied" to Christians everywhere. 

But many will object: "I have tried asking God to change me and nothing happens! Either God is waiting for me to do something or He really does not care!"

This is why we usually need to be mentored in how to engage with God for life. On our own, we tend to fall into one extreme or the other. Either we try to make the changes on our own, or else we pray and wait for God to change us. Of course there is a third alternative, which is to pray and then proceed to try to change it on our own anyway. What is missing here is best captured in the word, Participation. We need to learn how to participate with God.

When Jesus walked here on earth, His disciples had to participate with Him: they walked alongside Him, watched Him work, listened to His teaching, tried a few things themselves and received encouragement and correction, and so on. We can also see parallels (however imperfect) in some of the things people learn in the everyday world. If we want to become a pianist, we need to participate with a teacher to learn how to play scales, how to read notes, how to add dynamics to our style, and so on. We do not simply ask the teacher to "make me into a piano player," nor can we simply sit down and play Mozart by direct effort. We must participate with a master in order to learn.

So for example, if we bring an anger problem to God, it is not enough to say, "Please take away my anger." We need to spend time with Him as our Mentor, let Him walk us through some of the wounds we got early in life that gave rise to our rageful style, let Him speak into our self-hate that fuels the rage, and so on. Healing and growth are neither a wand we wave over our heads nor a program of behavior modification. They are a process we walk through with our Mentor. And what we receive from Him, we call grace — that which we cannot do for ourselves.

Participating well is a learned process in itself. As we learn how to have conversations with God, and discover how He can change our life by speaking into our heart, we find a whole new way of proceding that is at once a gift and a life-long task. But grace it is, and we need a lot of it!

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