The Wonder of God’s Grace
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You have received the glorious gift of grace—unearned, undeserved favor. No one and no set of circumstances can strip you of this lavish gift. You belong to Me forever! Nothing in all creation will be able to separate you from My Love.—Jesus1
You are free
Confession is a radical reliance on grace. A proclamation of our trust in God’s goodness. “What I did was bad,” we acknowledge, “but your grace is greater than my sin, so I confess it.” If our understanding of grace is small, our confession will be small: reluctant, hesitant, hedged with excuses and qualifications, full of fear of punishment. But great grace creates an honest confession…
All ships that land at the shore of grace weigh anchor from the port of sin. We must start where God starts. We won’t appreciate what grace does until we understand who we are. We are rebels. We are Barabbas. Like him, we deserve to die. Four prison walls, thickened with fear, hurt, and hate, surround us. We are incarcerated by our past, our low-road choices, and our high-minded pride. We have been found guilty. We sit on the floor of the dusty cell, awaiting the final moment.
Our executioner’s footsteps echo against stone walls. Head between knees, we don’t look up as he opens the door; we don’t lift our eyes as he begins to speak. We know what he is going to say. “Time to pay for your sins.” But we hear something else. “You’re free to go. They took Jesus instead of you.” The door swings open, the guard barks, “Get out,” and we find ourselves in the light of the morning sun, shackles gone, crimes pardoned, wondering, “What just happened?” Grace happened.—Max Lucado2
What is the ragamuffin gospel?
The ragamuffin gospel is a concept made popular by the best-selling and influential book of the same name, originally published in 1990. Author Brennan Manning, a former Catholic priest, wrote the book “for the bedraggled, beat-up, and burnt-out,” not for the “super spiritual”…
Manning … emphasizes the grace of Jesus in ministering to the “ragamuffins”—the ragged, disreputable people of His day—the sick, the tax collectors and sinners, the woman caught in adultery. Jesus often served these “ragamuffins,” while the religious leaders of the day opposed Him and refused to dirty their hands with society’s problems…
Manning says, “We can’t earn God’s acceptance, any more than we can earn our salvation. Yet [He] gives it to us, willingly—no matter who we are or what we’ve done. We are all ragamuffins. Each of us come beat up, burnt out, ragged and dirty to sit at our Father’s feet. And there He smiles upon us—the chosen objects of His ‘furious love.’” In other words, Jesus accepts the broken. He accepts those people who know they will never be perfect. The ragamuffin gospel says that we can come to God in our sin and ask for forgiveness. In Isaiah 1:18, God offers the invitation to come, though our sins are as scarlet, and He will make them white as snow. God desires sinners to come to Him as they are, so that He can cleanse them.
Jesus came to save sinners.3 “Jesus comes not for the super-spiritual but for the wobbly and the weak-kneed who know they don’t have it all together, and who are not too proud to accept the handout of amazing grace.”4 As with many themes in the Bible, it is important to understand the delicate balance that God presents—His grace to take us “as we are” and our willing response to not stay “as we are.”
To fully understand grace and the balance God’s Word presents, we need to consider who we were without Christ and who we become with Christ. We were born in sin,5 and we were guilty of breaking God’s law.6 We were enemies of God,7 deserving of death.8 We had no way to save ourselves.9 Spiritually, we were destitute, blind, unclean, and dead. Our souls deserve eternal punishment. To say that we are all ragamuffins is an understatement.
But then came grace. God extended His favor to us. Grace is what saves us.10 Grace is the essence of the gospel.11 Grace gives us victory over sin.12 Grace gives us “eternal encouragement and good hope.”13
The Bible repeatedly calls grace a “gift.”14 Grace is the ongoing, benevolent act of God working in us, without which we can do nothing.15 Grace is greater than our sin,16 more abundant than we expect,17 and too wonderful for words.18
So how do we keep that grace from becoming “cheap grace”—a “grace” that promises all the benefits of Christianity without repentance or obedience. Cheap grace seeks to hide the cost of discipleship, to nullify our willing response to God’s gift of grace. While we believe that God’s grace covers all our sins, we can also accept that faith manifests itself in repentance, obedience, and a transformed heart. Believers are new creations.
We come to God as ragamuffins and accept His grace, and God calls us to renewal. As we accept God’s grace throughout our lives, we do not stay in sin. We seek to be transformed to the image of Christ. He receives us just as we are and then begins to change us as we submit to Him in obedience. Yes, the gospel is for ragamuffins. No, God does not leave people as ragamuffins.—From gotquestions.org19
What gives me the most hope every day is God’s grace; knowing that his grace is going to give me the strength for whatever I face, knowing that nothing is a surprise to God.—Rick Warren
Saved by grace
The Mosaic law makes every one of us a sinner, because not one of us can keep it. “For by the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified in God’s sight: for by the law is the knowledge of sin.”20 In fact, it is impossible for anyone to be free of sin according to the laws of Moses.
The law was our teacher, our instructor or “schoolmaster” to show us that we’re sinners, to bring us to God for mercy, and to show us His absolute perfection and perfect righteousness, which was impossible for us to attain. “Wherefore the law was our schoolmaster to bring us unto Christ, that we might be justified by faith.”21
Then along came Jesus with His grace, mercy, forgiveness, love, and truth—our salvation. “For the law was given by Moses, but grace and truth came by Jesus Christ.”22 He came and showed us that salvation and true righteousness were not by works, but by grace.
We have to receive Jesus first, then His Spirit in us will cause us to do the humanly impossible: love God and man. We have a truly graceful salvation and a graceful life of love for the Lord—full of grace. It has nothing to do with our own sinlessness or any kind of perfection or self-works or law-keeping of our own. We all make mistakes, we all sin, and any righteousness we have is only the grace of God. It’s only His love, mercy, and grace.—David Brandt Berg
Published on Anchor November 2019. Read by Jerry Paladino.
Music by John Listen.
1 Sarah Young, Jesus Always (Thomas Nelson, 2017).
2 Max Lucado, Grace: More Than We Deserve, Greater Than We Imagine (Thomas Nelson, 2012).
3 1 Timothy 1:15.
4 Brennan Manning, The Ragamuffin Gospel.
5 Psalm 51:5.
6 Romans 3:9–20, 23; 1 John 1:8–10.
7 Romans 5:6, 10; 8:7; Colossians 1:21.
8 Romans 6:23a.
9 Romans 3:20.
10 Ephesians 2:8.
11 Acts 20:24.
12 James 4:6.
13 2 Thessalonians 2:16.
14 For example, Ephesians 4:7.
15 John 15:5.
16 Romans 5:20.
17 1 Timothy 1:14.
18 2 Corinthians 9:15.
20 Romans 3:20.
21 Galatians 3:24.
22 John 1:17.