Life can be hard and challenging. Living can wear away our hope. Cynicism can settle into our hearts and find a home because of hurtful people, difficult circumstances, relational wounds, and unfortunate events. Religion can imprison us in a world of guilt and shame over our past sins, mistakes, and failures.
Where do we turn to find hope, joy, and peace, in a world that seems hell-bent on destruction? How do we look forward toward our future when we live in a world of people who choose selfishness and violence over compassion and love?
When we open the Bible, we find such a world in the first few chapters of Genesis. The goodness of creation and the intimacy of God’s loving care are wrecked by human selfishness and violence. How do we understand God in such a world? What hope is there for us and those who come after us?
These are all important questions that James addresses in today’s video:
The heart of today’s message finds its focus in one word: GRACE. Grace is often defined as “unmerited favor.” But, what does that mean?
We can define “unmerited favor” this way:
That might be a good definition, but how does this “unmerited favor” — God’s grace — actually work in our lives?
In today’s video, James describes grace this way:
God demonstrates his grace in many ways. We can categorize these touches of grace into two different categories.
We find God’s common grace in the beauty and care of creation, the love and laughter of friends and family, as well as the everyday blessings of food, clothing, and shelter. We see touches of this common grace in the changing of the seasons as well as the predictability of sunrises and sunsets painted in their ever-changing beauty. They are evidence of ongoing God’s love in our lives and his care for his creation. They remind us that God created the universe to be a blessing to us. Even though our world may be broken, our heavenly Father is at work through his creation to bring us his blessings, his common grace shared with all humanity.
We find God’s sacrificial grace in the gift of Jesus who came to show us how to live and demonstrated God’s love to us (John 1:1-18). God’s sacrificial grace didn’t require us to be good enough to deserve his love (Romans 5:6-11). God loved us first (1 John 4:9-10) and extended an invitation to accept this love by believing in who Jesus is and what he has done for us (John 3:16-17). As we receive God’s love, we then have the blessing of passing that love along to others (1 John 3:16-18).
We not only find ourselves in the place of grace — the universe where God shares his “common grace” — but we also have received a purpose for our lives — God’s “sacrificial grace” has saved us and empowered us to share grace with others.
The Bible talks about God’s grace this way:
God saved you by his grace when you believed. And you can’t take credit for this; it is a gift from God. Salvation is not a reward for the good things we have done, so none of us can boast about it. For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago (Ephesians 2:8-10 NLT — Underline added for emphasis.).
We can’t take credit for grace because it is God’s gift to us. It is not a reward for our work but is based in God’s creative work to make us anew, fresh and forgiven. This grace is not just to heal our hearts and bring us back into relationship with God; grace is also the gift of purpose. We are empowered to step back into our world as God’s masterpiece, each of us re-created as a person who can share God’s grace by doing good things to those around us. Grace means we are saved from sin and its consequences and saved for life as God created it to be.
So, what do you think about this grace?
Where have you seen God’s grace in your life?
How has God been gracious to you despite your mistakes, despite your flaws?
And, who can you show grace to in your life today, tomorrow, and going forward as you live a life of thanks for the grace you have received from God?
Download the questions and discussion guide to today’s video for your own personal reflection or to share with others in a group. This material is produced for you to share with friends through social media, personal time together, or in discussion groups.