It was an unexpected response from this gifted software developer. And it was said with the wry smile of someone who knew “stuff”…inside info about which I had no clue.
I had commented on the leading edge characteristics of some new features just added to our company’s stock analysis software. He looked at me as if regarding an uninitiated neophyte.
Now understand, I am the lead national instructor for this software. I have taught tens of thousands of customers the intricacies and techniques of using it successfully. I pride myself in knowing everything this thing does and what difference it makes. In this arena, I am considered an expert
But I was speaking to one of its creators…the one most familiar with its “guts” and “secrets”. He understood not only how it was to be applied, but how it was made. And when he started showing me some of the hidden treasures I was stunned speechless (which if you knew me you would understand is hard to do!)
He was right. I didn’t know the half of it.
I have the same experience when I approach the word “grace”.
As a follower of Jesus and serious student of the Word for over 40 years, I think I have a grasp on the meaning of grace. It is the unlimited, unmerited, unearned favor of God that rescues me from my sin and grafts me into His family.
Without this aspect of grace, I would be hopeless.
It is broadly accepted by Christ-followers of every stripe that we are saved–rescued from the limitations and liabilities of life outside God’s love–by grace. Not by our works and not from our effort. In this way, grace is the proper and present standing of every person. Those of us who embrace the finished work of Jesus by faith enjoy the full awareness of that standing with God.
But that’s not the half of it!
There is more to grace than a historic act of rescue or personal gift of redemption.
Grace is also the active, individual, incarnational action of the Spirit of God that inseminates our hearts and minds, birthing in us the capacity to do and be all the Father desires. In other words, grace works!
Yes it works eternally as a solution to our sin-problem. But it also works moment-by-moment to create and shape the life of God in the reality of every day. By grace, God actively weaves our gifts, our desires and our passions into His bigger design and purpose.
Grace makes us far more than what we are without it.
It shapes our in-born talents, aptitudes and interests according to the pattern and design of the One who knit them into us in the womb. God had a reason to shape each of us exactly as He did. Grace is released daily, in each situation, to maximize the development and effectiveness of that original intention.
Without this aspect of grace, I would be helpless.
Grace is God practically working in us to fulfill His the vision for our lives. Paul told the Ephesians that “we are God’s workmanship”. Each of us is the the product of His activated and actualized imagination. His masterpiece; His magnum opus. (Ephesians 2:8-10)
Our real lives are the apex and actualization of the core vision He had in His heart when in the intimate passion of the Trinity He said, “Let us make man…” And this masterpiece is “created in Christ Jesus”…formed by the direct intention and intervention of God in the person of the Son.
We live from grace to make God’s dream come true in the rub and reality of life as it is. This outcome–“unto good works”–is not just moral behavior. It is our essentially good, utterly real, thoroughly artistic expressions of the deep desire of the Father’s heart.
We each become the manifestation on earth of that which was imagined in Heaven.
This epic truth haunts me as I crawl out of my bed each day. How can my life in all its mundane dailyness actually be a portrait painted by the Artist behind the breathtaking beauty of Creation? What about the days where just “getting by” is my highest aim? Or those moments when I would rather pursue my pleasure than be His?
In those times, Paul reminds us that we “work” in grace–“working our salvation” into our real world “with fear and trembling”. We take the dream of God seriously, recognizing that when we do not fulfill His dream in our story, we lessen the potential of His story. (Phil 2:12-13)
Yet at the same time, grace works in us. God is constantly working to help us align our will (what we design, desire and delight in) with His good pleasure (what He designs, desires and delights in).
God had a dream of man before the creation of the world. Not just a dream of humanity, but a dream of and for each human. Jesus was the fullest expression of that dream. But your dreams and desires lived well from the deepest parts of your true identity are the ongoing realization of that dream.
So are “ours”. There is a plural nature to all of this active grace.
The collective outworking (us) of that individual inworking (me) is the Kingdom. The construct of the relationships designed to mature and express the dream of God is the Church. When by the active flow of grace continuously released by His Spirit we live individually and corporately according to the original intention, we are God’s dream come true.
When we do not, we are simply a nightmare.
The reality is we each live individually by grace or by grit. Too often we see ourselves saved by His grace but shaped by our grit.
If we grasp only the part of grace that saves us and miss the part that shapes us, we don’t know the half of it.