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Grace. It’s a simple word with profound meaning. These five modest letters strung together cut to the core of what separates the Christian faith from all other religions. It’s the heart of the Gospel. Follow its Greek roots, and grace means “I rejoice, I am glad.” But, perhaps like some of you, rejoicing and gladness haven’t always marked my response to God’s grace in my life.
That’s the bitter truth that God began to reveal to me a few years ago. Even though I had known the Lord and loved Him from a young age, and despite being able to recite forwards and backwards that I had been saved by grace through faith (Ephesians 2:8-9), I was not walking in grace’s freedom. I resonated with a quote from former pastor and counselor David Seamands: “We read, we hear, we believe a good theology of grace. But that’s not the way we live. The good news of the Gospel of grace has not penetrated the level of our emotions.”
And I remember the day I finally verbalized this struggle. I was sitting face-to-face with a Christian therapist processing my battles with anxiety and shame—two strongholds that had been an unwelcome companion off and on—when I muttered, “I don’t think I understand grace.”
It was around that time that I picked up Philip Yancey’s book What’s So Amazing About Grace. Yancey unpacks the magnitude of God’s grace—not by scientifically dissecting it, but by sharing stories, thoughtful reflections and relating scripture. Yancey tackles worldly ungrace and how it manifests itself, the power of forgiveness, the scandalousness of grace, repentance, and more.
Grace does not depend on what we have done for God but rather what God has done for us.
Some of my favorite impressions from this book were its reminders of God’s relentless pursuit of us. The book recounts the Parable of the Prodigal Son. It’s a story you may very well know, but what stirs me most—and what Yancey points out so well—is the lovesick father’s response. We see the father run to welcome home the son who had squandered half the family’s wealth. The father shouldn’t have run … not in a first century Middle Eastern context. This was a humiliating and shameful posture for the father to take. And yet he did, and with utter excitement he announced, “This my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found” (Luke 15:24).
And then there’s the depiction of the thief hanging on the cross who asked Jesus to remember him, to which Jesus responded, “Today you will be with me in paradise.” This man was helpless. He could do nothing to save himself, nothing but reach out to Christ. And there was more joy in heaven over this one sinner who repented than over 99 righteous persons who needed no repentance (Luke 15:7). “Grace does not depend on what we have done for God but rather what God has done for us,” Yancey says. Oh to taste the love of our Lord like this!
Many of the stories Yancey uses weave in historical events and individuals (the Balkan crisis, Hitler, KKK, Mother Teresa, etc.). A number of these examples are so stirring, I’ve found myself repeating them to others and rereading excerpts time and again.
Along with spending time with God and in His word, reading What’s So Amazing About Grace played a role in my journey back to a right understanding of God’s extravagant grace—no strings attached. Unmerited. Unearned. It gave me a thirst to walk forward in this grace that I had known in part but had not embraced. And this book helped me learn more about taking the focus off myself—what I have done or haven’t done—and redirected my gaze back to the character of our loving Lord. And that has brought joy and freedom like none other.
God’s grace is amazing, indeed.
Interested in reading What’s So Amazing About Grace? Check it out here!
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