What is Grace?

My first hospital visit in my first full-time ministry was to a man in his 70s who had been a Christian literally twice as long as I had been alive. He had been transferred to a hospital in our city from a small town clinic 100 miles away with a heart condition that required open-heart surgery. When I introduced myself before his surgery we talked briefly and then I asked if I could pray with him. Out of nowhere, he broke into tears, weeping and sobbing. He grabbed my hand and said “Please ask God to forgive me. I think I have been good enough, but I’m scared. Please ask him to forgive me!” He was terrified God would reject him.

I made another visit to a woman who was dying. Like the first man, she knew she might be facing judgment in the very near future. But when I asked if we could talk about Jesus she said, “I don’t need to. I think I have lived a good enough life, I’m sure I’ll be fine!” She died the next day.

These scenarios are not unique—or even rare. In fact, most Americans, including people in churches, believe that their eternal life will be decided by whether or not they are good enough. Some think they are, others know better, and are scared to death. But both groups have missed one of the most important concepts of the gospel.

They seem to know nothing about grace.

The gospel is the good news that, though none of us deserve forgiveness, Jesus lived, died, and rose again to offer forgiveness to us. And that forgiveness is offered by grace and received through faith (Ephesians 2:8). It is a gift (the actual meaning of the word “grace”), not anything we can earn.

This is important to us today regardless of our health or perceived proximity to our death! It affects how we see God, how we worship, how we pray, and whether we are able to live as disciples who love the Lord and serve Him willingly or people who are somehow trying to manipulate Him to force him to accept them. This is good news—great news!

But to grasp this great news we first have to understand the bad news. The bad news is simply this. None of us is good enough. If we think we are, we deceive ourselves dangerously.

But knowing that we do not deserve the love and forgiveness of the King, we can also rest easily with the fact that He has offered us that love and forgiveness as a gift (grace)! In fact, the whole reason God became flesh in Jesus was to give us this grace. Not because we are good enough, but because we are not!

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