Do you desire to obey God, but feel that you continually fall short? Have you felt the angst that Paul once sensed, not being able to do what he wished, that is, God's will? Are you aware of a longing to be obedient to God, but cannot seem to attain to it?
The answer is God's grace.
We see the word "grace" more and more recently. But what, exactly, is grace? How are we to understand it?
Many have said that grace is the unmerited favor of God. But then, what is the difference between grace and mercy, the latter being truly unmerited compassion?
Grace (Greek: charis) is defined by Strong as "graciousness (literally, pleasingness) of manner or act". So it has to do with what we actually do, whereas mercy is independent of what we do. Mercy says that although we deserved judgment for what we have done, instead we receive God's forgiveness. Conversely, grace gives us the ability to please God in what we do, that is, to do His will. It is not our own natural ability, which we know is as filthy rags, but rather is a gift from God, received by faith. Grace enables us, grace empowers us, it is the "motor" that propels our life in Christ.
What a difference! Grace gives us ability to do as Jesus commands.
Jesus likened a person doing His word to a man who builds his house upon a rock, rather than upon sand. He said that those who do God's will are His true family, that such are even more blessed than His own natural mother. Jesus said that only those who do the will of God enter His kingdom.
Paul boasted that his hard work in the ministry was actually not his own, but rather the grace of God working through him. He said that it is God who is working in us, both to will and to do His good pleasure. Paul even claimed that his old self had died, and his new life was Christ living though him. That is grace.
It is vital that Christians both receive God's grace by faith and understand who they are, what God has done in their conversion (Ephesians 1:15-23). Grace is central to that understanding. Those who receive and know this truth are truly made free, empowered to do the will of God.
Tim Reardon is an elder at Valley Church in Walla Walla. Pastors in the U-B circulation area who want to write a column should contact Catherine Hicks at 509-526-8312, or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.