Thursday, July 28, 2011

The Private Side of Grace

The Father communicates his grace in ways both big and small. When you’re on the interstate, doing 85, you need a big sign: white reflective letters two feet high against a green background, shouting “Exit Here.”

Late at night, when your baby is sick, you’re looking for a much smaller sign, in print so small you reach for your glasses and turn on the light, Ages 2-4, one teaspoon every four hours, do not exceed four doses in 24 hours. You read the label twice to make sure you’ve got it right. Both sets of words communicate God’s grace.
It’s easy to see the public side of grace: it’s represented in the cross. The cross is splashed across church buildings like so many interstate signs, signaling that the love of God is available to any who will stop. The news is so good it deserves a elevated platform. But those who see grace written large on the landscape might think that’s all there is. Still, grace has a private side as well.
Consider some of the private sides of God's grace:
  • Richard Foster points out the kind of grace you cannot see from the highway: “Grace saves us from life without God--even more it empowers us for life with God." The grace we receive at the new birth is only the introduction. Students of Jesus need grace for growth as well. Grace opens up the startling possibility that we do not have to yo-yo between sin and forgiveness, sin and forgiveness. It becomes possible to yield every choice, every thought to God, because his grace can teach us to say “no” to ungodliness (Titus 2:11-12).
  • Three times the scripture reminds us, “God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble.” Humility is part of the private side of grace. When the Father sees one of his children willing to take the low place in the family he pours out a special portion of grace to strengthen us in service to one another. Humility draws the blessing and favor of God. The same one who stripped to the waist and washed our feet rejoices when we learn to prefer one another.
  • Dallas Willard’s famous phrase, “grace is not opposed to effort, it is opposed to earning” reminds us of the proper response to God’s saving work. The Apostle Paul understood the private side of grace as well: “By the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace to me was not without effect. No, I worked harder than all of them—yet not I, but the grace of God that was with me.” (I Corinthians 15: 9-10)  The “famous” apostle is the same one who described his task as one of “great endurance; in troubles, hardships and distresses; in beatings, imprisonments and riots; in hard work, sleepless nights and hunger,” all in order to share what he himself had been given. Paul had no trouble seeing the connection between grace and effort.
  • Paul was so convinced of our ongoing need for grace that he opened every letter he wrote (every one!) with the greeting, “grace to you, and peace.” Perhaps--just perhaps--the Holy Spirit and Paul considered grace and peace indispensable to everyday Christian life.
What is the private side of grace? The private side of grace is the discovery that the new birth should be followed by growth into the image of Jesus. The private side of grace is when we begin to take on the family likeness. It begins when his children are old enough to understand that the Father sees what is done in secret--not in order to catch us in transgression--but to reward those hearts who joyfully follow his example.

On January 1st 2012, Students of Jesus moved to a new address.


  1. I always enjoy your posts, Ray. Your two sides of grace reminded me of one of my favorite preachers of the "Gospel of Grace", Joseph Prince. He said it this way: Grace has two sides: the first is being delivered from the law. The second is being married to Christ.

    Keep 'em coming!

  2. Thanks Bill. Truth be told, grace has a million sides (or more!).

  3. Yes sir. Spot on! This is something I struggle to grasp and believe each day. Our Father's grace, expressed ultimately in Jesus death and resurrection, isn't just for the day we "get saved," but for every day (every moment!) thereafter. The Lord is so very good.

  4. He is definitely *is* so very good. The truth is we need grace with every breath--not just for forgiveness, but in order to mature in him!