Grace is often seen, wrongly, as playing a role much like that of romance in a Jane Austen plot. Grace gets us to the altar with God. It’s a mysterious, powerful force that draws us out of our sinful isolation and deposits us into sweet relationship with God through Christ. But once grace saves, the story’s over.
You come across this sometimes in salvation testimonies. Great detail is presented about sins committed as an unbeliever. This is followed by God’s miraculous intervention, deep joy in the new birth, and then—well, role the credits. Grace accomplishes the amazing, impossible task of delivering me safely to the altar of conversion, but then it rides off to save someone else, leaving me to fend for myself. Is that really the way it is? (137)
No! In fact, that perspective elicits some exclamation points of warning from the Apostle Paul.
See Galatians 3:1-6.
Grace is the daily power by which we change and grow and live. Grace is the fuel for our souls. Consider how the Apostle Paul describes the effect of grace on his life, recounted in 1 Corinthians 15:10.
But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace toward me was not in vain (or "without effect"). On the contrary, I worked harder than any of them, though it was not I, but the grace of God that is with me. (emphasis mine)
The Christian life is BY GRACE, through faith -- not just at the beginning, but from beginning to end.
Key Idea: Sanctifying grace is good news. It’s the news that God gives persistent grace to run the race.
Key Text: Titus 2:11-14
These verses carry good news! There is a glorious sequel to saving, justifying grace. The grace that justifies (declaring us holy in God’s sight) becomes the grace that sanctifies (making us ever more holy in daily life). It is a prevailing, unstoppable grace that doesn’t close up shop the day after the sinner’s prayer. It’s the power of God to help us overcome sin, and a potent weapon in the fierce struggles that accompany life after the honeymoon of conversion. Conversion, like a wedding, is hardly the end of the story—it’s just the beginning! (138)
This IS good news…
Think about the areas where you know you need to grow—the hair-trigger critical response, the self-pity party, the fermenting anger or discontent. God promises persistent grace to help you run away from the sin and finish well. “Human sin is stubborn,” says Cornelius Plantinga, “but not as stubborn as the grace of God and not half so persistent, not half so ready to suffer to win its way.” Stubborn, persistent, unrelenting grace that changes us. Now that’s good news indeed. (139)
Finally, when we receive and seek this grace, we begin to export this grace (e.g. Eph. 4:29)! And exporting this precious commodity into the lives of others (like, say, your spouse) tends to have quite an effect.