Grace to Daily Life
Dr. Richard Dobbins
Paul said, "For by grace are you saved through faith.
And that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works lest any man should
boast" (Ephesians 2:8,9).
On the other hand, James said, "Faith without
works is dead" (James 2:17). Paul was telling us that grace is unmerited favor
of God. It is based on what Jesus did at Calvary. James says the way we announce
to other people that we are saved is through the good works that they see us doing.
Our natural state is spiritual blindness and rebellion. Any relationship
between God and us must be initiated by God. There are two major theological explanations
for this divine initiative. One is defined by John Calvin and the other by Jacobus
Calvinists believe that God arbitrarily elected some to be saved
and some to be lost before He created the world. Those He chose to be saved, He
predestined to be saved. Armenians believe that because God foreknew those who
would respond to the gospel, He could predestinate them to be saved. They explain
God's initiative as prevenient grace--that is, grace that goes before salvation.
It comes from the morphemes "pre," meaning before, and "venial," meaning to come.
The Word of God tells us that the believer is more secure than the extreme
Armenian believes that he is, and he is less secure than the extreme Calvinist
says that he is. God wants you to feel secure in grace, but not so secure that
you are careless in what you say and do. He wants you to be conscientious, but
not so conscientious that you feel guilty and on the brink of condemnation all
Prevenient grace is that grace of God that brought salvation
into the world; it is the grace that enabled us to come to Christ (see Titus 2:11
and Ephesians 1:4). You can trace the initiative of God's grace preparing the
way for you to accept Jesus Christ years before you did.
not only refers to what you do, but who you are. Every human being is a sinner.
The world consists of sinners who do not believe in Jesus Christ and sinners
who do believe in Jesus Christ. Those of us who do believe in Jesus have had the
power of sin broken in our lives so that we are no longer servants or slaves of
sin. If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not
in us (see 1 John 1:10).
Thank God that the Bible gives us hope that something
can intervene against this destructive power; that someone out there loves us
enough to redeem us as a human race, as a nation, and as individuals.
kinds of people tend to put themselves outside the grace of God--the one thinks
he is too good for the grace of God; the other thinks he is too evil. But the
grace of God that brings salvation appears to all of us.
There is no one
who does not need God's grace, and there is no one beyond the reach of God's grace.
Open your heart to Jesus Christ and embrace saving grace as God's love gift.
When we opened our hearts to God's saving grace, we began a relationship
with God that He wants to continue throughout our lives.
God's saving grace
should be followed by His sanctifying grace. The word sanctify means to set apart,
to make holy or healthy. Sanctification is the provision that God has made to
set us apart from the world and make us into healthy and holy people. Sanctification
is an act, a process, and a state of being.
When you accept Jesus Christ
as your personal Savior, you are sanctified. Then the process of sanctification
begins. The process continues until we see the Lord. In the Old Testament, God
admonishes His people, "Be ye holy, even as I also am holy" (Leviticus 11:44).
I got the idea as a child that we are to be austere. We are to frown, not
be happy. We are to be rather odd or strange or weird. However, when you read
that context, that is not what it means at all. For while "to sanctify" does mean
"to set apart," "to become holy" means "to become unified" or to become one. God
wants us to be as healthy as He is. He wants us to be united within ourselves.
Once we have come to Jesus and begun walking with Him, the same Cross that
made salvation possible helps us to clean up our lives and heal hurts from the
past. Being healthy and whole in Jesus is what sanctification is all about.
God not only sees who we are, but He sees who we can become through
His growing grace.
God did not bring you into His kingdom to remain as
you are, but to grow (see 2 Peter 3:18). Sometimes we do not come into God's kingdom
until we are young adults. Once we do come into the Kingdom, then it is possible
for us to realize our Kingdom potential. From that point on, God wants His children
to stay on the "cutting edge" of growth. He never wants us to stop growing, and
the future can always be different and better than the past.
about this growth potential and the Christian's perspective: "Not as though I
had already attained or ... [am] already perfect, but this on thing I do: forgetting
those things that are behind and reaching forth to those things that are before,
I press toward the mark of the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus"
(Philippians 3:12-14). Letting go of the past and stretching toward the future
is the posture of growth that God wants His children to have.
for us is to continue growing. Sometimes family responsibilities dominate our
time and energy. However, when the children are grown, why not pursue whatever
unfulfilled dreams may remain from earlier years? Keep growing. Acquire computer
skills, garden, take music lessons, or get into politics. You can volunteer at
church, take painting lessons, read, do hospital work, or even go back to school.
Develop a prayer ministry. Develop your writing skills. Communicate with shut-ins.
There are so many ways to keep growing.
the ages, God has given His children the grace to endure unbelievable hardships.
We see this throughout Scripture. Grace may be defined not only as God's unmerited
favor, but as the power of God that He gives us to sustain and help us in every
time of need.
Here are some steps to applying God's sustaining grace to
the painful moments of your life:
1. Develop the habit of comparing your
pain with those who hurt more than you do, rather than with those who hurt less
than you do. Sometimes, I get tired of watching certain people drown in a sea
of self-pity. Such people need to look around and see all of the people who are
much worse off.
2. Remind yourself of the transient nature of your trial.
One of the worst things that you can do when going through a painful trial is
to freeze that moment in time. Do not focus on it as if there were never good
things that preceded it or as if it will never end.
3. Utilize your mind's
ability to think in three dimensions. Each of us can choose to focus on the past,
the present, or the future. Reflect right now on something from your past. Notice
that when you are focusing on the past, you are not as aware of the present. When
you are going through a stressful time, do not focus on the present. Focus on
the past and remind yourself that God has been faithful to see you through many
painful moments. Then, focus on the future and remind yourself that you will get
beyond what threatens to overwhelm you in the present.
D. Dobbins is the leader of EMERGE Ministries of Akron, Ohio. He serves on the
faculty of Ashland Theological Seminary and initiated the coordination of their
master’s program in Pastoral Counseling. An acclaimed author, Dr. Dobbins
has created numerous film/video presentations on topics of interest to believers
and has written many books, booklets, articles and audiotapes on Christian mental
Copyright 2002 Media Ministries of the Assemblies of God.
The highlights of the daily and weekly radio program, "From This Day
Forward," are a joint production of EMERGE Ministries, Akron,
Ohio, and the Media Ministries of the
Assemblies of God, Springfield, Mo.
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