One of the most profound books I’ve read on the topic of transformation is “The Renovation of the Heart” by Dallas Willard. One of the concepts that Dr. Willard shared was particularly insightful: that the primary resource for transformation of heart, soul and body is “grace.”
The more I thought about this, the more I realized how this is so true – and the more I realized how little I proactively rely upon God’s grace in living out whole life worship. It seems that I (like most Christians) try to live the “Christian” life relying solely upon my ‘human’ resources: passion, strength, determination, discipline and will power. No wonder we feel so tired, defeated and “heavy laden” – we are trying to live the supernatural God-life with purely natural means! The fuel needed to live the Kingdom, Christ-centered life must go beyond will power and human passion: we need God’s grace.
Before we can appropriate this grace, we need to understand what “grace” means. For the longest time I thought that “grace” was that prayer we say before meals! Later on, I learned that grace also meant the unmerited favor that God shows me by forgiving my sins through Jesus Christ (Ephesians 2:8-9). But grace is so much more than even that!
Grace literally means “gift” (Greek word charis, where we get the word “charity”). In light of our relationship with God, grace is everything God gives us in order to live “right” and fulfill His purposes. Sure, grace includes our salvation and forgiveness, but it also includes divine empowerment, wisdom, vision, protection, provision, presence, transformation and anything else we need to glorify Him. Paul tells us to live by grace and faith. Peter tells us to grow in grace (2 Peter 3:18). John says that we are to become like Jesus (1 John 3:2) who was “full of grace” (John 1:14). Without grace, we cannot live the God-life.
Grace is a mysterious thing. In some ways God’s grace operates independently of what we do (and thankfully so! How many times has God saved and protected me without my asking Him to intervene?) And yet, God desires for us to be proactive in asking and utilizing His grace to accomplish His mission in and through our lives. This symbiotic interdependence with His grace is one of the virtues of the mature life in Christ.
An illustration from the old movie, “Back to the Future” might be helpful. Dr. Emmett Brown takes a DeLorean sports car and turns it into a time machine. The flux-capacitor, combined with a thousand jigawatts of electricity, enabled this DeLorean to the realm of time travel. However, the DeLorean needed to accelerate to 86 mph in its own power in order for this phenomenon to take place. By itself, the DeLorean was just a car (albeit a very nice car). But without the DeLorean, the flux capacitor was useless.
The Christian life operates in the same way. By ourselves, we can try to live a good, clean life. But with God’s grace we can live exceptional, supernatural and powerful lives. God’s grace is the flux-capacitor and God’s Spirit provides the thousand jigawatts of power. Yet it requires our choice and decision to tap into this way of life. Although God’s grace works around us regardless of what we choose, His work within and through us requires us to direct our efforts in His direction. And that sometimes takes some work!
I experimented with this the other day. My alarm woke me up for a very early appointment. I didn’t want to get out of bed. So I asked the Lord to empower me with His grace for the day. And He said to me, “Fine. First, get your body out of bed.” I moaned and complained because I thought God was going to give me power to get out of bed! But I did manage to get up, and what happened from that point on was truly exceptional. Every one of my appointments that day were “God-moments”. I had unusually more energy than normal. I accomplished 5 times more work than usual. And through it all, I felt light and happy. God’s grace is truly high octane!
I encourage you to learn to proactively ask and rely upon God’s grace. You may be surprised how it can fuel you to truly live a life of worship!
T’was grace that taught my heart to fear and grace my fears relieved. How precious did that grace appear the hour I first believed. (“Amazing Grace” by John Newton, verse 3)
1. What circumstances in your life prompt you to ask God for grace?
2. What are some usual and unusual ways God has given you grace in life?