The Righter Report

What’s So Amazing About Grace

Excerpts (some paraphrasing) from Christian author Philip Yancey’s masterful work, “What’s So Amazing About Grace” (Zondervan Publishing). Page #’s follow.

“When King James translators contemplated the highest form of love they settled on the word ‘charity’ to convey it” (note: I Corinthians 13, KJV). Idea – love an emotion, but charity is the expression of love, by giving. (page 12)

Grace – “charis” in Greek, which means I rejoice, I am glad. (page 14)

Two major causes of most of the problems in the church: Failure to understand and receive God’s unconditional love and grace; and failure to give it out. (page 15)

Why most people desire to go to church: Out of hunger for grace and love (pg. 15)

Grace is not earned. It is a gift of unmerited favor. (page 26)

“O momentary grace of mortal men, which we hunt for more than the grace of God. Shakespeare, Richard III (page 28).

How rare it is to find a church competing to “out-grace” its rivals (page 30).

Grace and love are Christianity’s best gift to the world, exerting a force stronger than vengeance, stronger than racism, and stronger than hate. (page 30)

Religion (through legalism) has the ability to crush as well as liberate. The people seek grace and love but often encounter shame, the threat of punishment, and a sense of judgment. (page 31)

People long to just hear, “I love you, or I’m sorry.”

H. L. Mencken describes a Puritan (a legalist) as, “a person with a haunting fear that someone, somewhere is happy.” (page 31)

In graceless churches one wears faith with the solemnity of a mourner, the gravity of a mask of tragedy. If we can’t smile and be joyful in church, where can we go? (page 32)

“Oh God, make the bad people good and the good people nice.” (page 32)

(Joke) Mark Twain used to say he put a cat and a dog in a cage together as an experiment, to see if they could get along. They did, so he put in a bird, a pig, and a goat. They, too, got along fine after a few adjustments. Then he put in a Baptist, a Presbyterian, and a Catholic; soon there was no one left alive. (page 33)

I daily battle against pride, judgmentalism, and a feeling that I must somehow earn God’s approval. In the words of Helmut Thielicke, “…the devil lays his cuckoo eggs in a pious nest…..The sulfurous stench of hell is as nothing compared with the evil odor emitted by divine grace gone putrid.” (page 34)

Lakota warriors – Sun Dance ritual (self-punishment) – an attempt to atone for their own sins (page 34).

Islamic “Moral Police” patrolling the streets looking for moral violations (pg. 34).

Ben Franklin – “Even if I could conceive that I had completely overcome it (pride), I would probably be proud of my humility.” (page 35)

Guilt exposes a longing for grace (page 35).

Lewis Smedes (author of “Shame and Grace”) – “What I felt most was a glob of unworthiness…..What I needed more than a pardon was a sense that God accepted me, owned me, held me, affirmed me, and would never let go of me even if he was not real impressed with what he had on his hands” (page 36).

Graceless religion tells us that we must follow the letter of the law, and failure to do that brings eternal rejection and damnation. (page 36)

Examples of the lack of grace in government and industry – pages 36-37.

Japan (low crime) – harnesses the power of “ungrace.” A culture that values “saving face” has little room for those who bring disgrace. (page 37)

Story of Paco, a son forgiven by his father (pages 37-38)

Bumper sticker – “Grace Happens.”

The world starves for grace and love. (page 39)

I learned grace by “being graced.” (learned love by being loved) page 42.

God is a compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness – the Psalms (page 42).

Grace comes free of charge to people who do not deserve it. (page 42)

I yearn for the church to become a nourishing culture of that grace. (page 42)

Christianity’s unique contribution to the world: “Oh, that’s easy. It’s grace.” (C. S. Lewis) – page 45.

The Buddhist “Eight-Fold Path,” the Hindu doctrine of Karma, the Jewish and Muslim covenants of law – each of these depend on man’s efforts to win God’s approval. Only Christianity dares to make God’s love and approval unconditional. (page 45)

What blocks forgiveness is not God’s reticence, but ours. God’s arms are always extended – we are the ones who turn away. (page 52)

I realize how thickly the veil of ungrace obscures my view of God. (page 52)

The story of the Prodigal Son (and the Lost Sheep and the Lost Coin) each underscores the loser’s sense of loss (God losing one of his own). God rejoices when they are found. (page 52)

God’s grace is personal – one on one.

The parables of Jesus helps us to correct our notions about who God is and who or how he loves. (page 53)

Throughout the Bible, God shows a marked preference for real (and down and out people) over “religious-minded” people. (54)

Grace does not depend on what we have done for God, but rather what God has done for us. (page 55)

“He (God) was the shepherd who left the safety of the fold for the dark and dangerous night outside. To his banquets he welcomed tax collectors, whores, and reprobates. He came for the sick and not the well, for the unrighteous and not the righteous. (page 55)

Theologian Karl Barth’s simple definition of God: “the One who loves.” (55)

From Mozart’s Requiem – “Remember, merciful Jesus, that I am the cause of your journey.” (page 56)

Grace is not about finishing first or last; it is about not counting (parable of the workers). God dispenses gifts, not wages. pages 61-62.

If the world could have been saved by good bookkeeping (keeping the law), it would have been saved by Moses, not by Jesus. (page 62)

In the realm of grace the word deserves does not even apply. (62)

Beyond the darkness of their blindness (of grace) there is a great light (note John chapter 1). Page 62

The rabbis suggested three as the number of times a person should be forgiven. Jesus said, “Seventy times seven.” God doesn’t keep score. Forgiveness is not the kind of thing you keep track of on an abacus (page 63)

C. S. Lewis – “To be a Christian means to forgive the inexcusable, because God has forgiven the inexcusable in us.” (64)

I did not get what I deserved. I deserved punishment and got forgiveness. I deserved wrath but got love. (page 64)

The prophet Micah – “You (God) do not stay angry forever, but delight to show mercy. (page 65)

(Story of Hosea and his unfaithful wife Gomer) – “Go show your love to your wife again.” The irresistible power of love and forgiveness won out. Hosea, the joke of the community, welcomed his wife back home. Gomer did not get fairness or even justice, she got grace. (page 66)

“But where sin increased, grace increased all the more.” (66)

God loves people because of who he is, and not because of who we are. (67)

Grace baffles us because it goes against the intuition everyone has that, in the face of injustice, some price must be paid (for the transgression)…..God himself paid the price. (page 67)

Last Emperor analogy – Jesus reversed the ancient pattern: when the servants erred, the King (Jesus) was punished. (page 67)

“Jesus loves me. Why, then, do I so often act as if I am trying to earn that love? Why do I have such trouble accepting it? (theologian Karl Barth – page 67)

We pull ourselves into a shell that makes us almost impervious to grace. (68)

Am I liked? Am I loved? I await the answers from my friends, my neighbors, my family – like a starving man, I await the answers. (Go tell someone you love them).

What is your primary identity in life? Should it not be, “I am the one Jesus loves?” (69)

Sociologists have a theory of the looking-glass self: you become what the most important person in your life (wife, father, boss, etc.) thinks you are. (We need to remember God loves us). Page 69

God tears up the mathematical tables of keeping score of our trespasses, and introduces the new math of grace. (70) Love and forgiveness transcends the ledger-sheet mentality of keeping score of the wrongs suffered at the hands of another (Frangipane).

Grace means there is nothing we can do to make God love us more; And grace means there is nothing we can do to make him love us less. (70)

There is a simple cure for people who doubt God’s love and grace – Turn to the Bible and examine the kind of people God loves (David, Paul, Peter, the adulteress, sinners and publicans, etc.) Page 70

The world operates on a system that lacks grace. Everything depends on what I do. Jesus calls us to another way – one that depends not on our performance but upon his own, and who we are in him.

Like a spiritual defect encoded in the family DNA, ungrace gets passed down from one generation to the next in an unbroken chain. (page 79)

Grace is not about fairness (81).

He who cannot forgive another destroys the bridge over which he himself must pass. (George Herbert, 82)

Forgiveness is an unnatural act. (84)

What is that wail (in Genesis 42-45 when Joseph agonizes in forgiving his brothers)? Is the king’s minister sick? No, Joseph’s health was fine. It was the sound of a man forgiving. (85)

Behind every act of forgiveness lies a wound of betrayal, and the pain does not easily fade away. We do not always forgive easily. (85)

Jealousy, unforgiveness, and bitterness blind people, and destroy their love for one another.

Jesus commanded us to “Forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us.” If you do not forgive others their sins, God shall not forgive you your sins. Charles Williams has said of the Lord’s prayer, “No word in the English language carries a greater possibility of terror than the little word, “as” in that clause.” In some mysterious way, divine forgiveness depends on us first. (pages 87-88)

Forgive contains the word, “give.” God forgives because that is who he is.

Grace (along with love and forgiveness) is the only force in the universe powerful enough to break the chains that enslave generations. (90)

Breaking the cycle of ungrace means taking the initiative. It defies the natural law of retribution and “fairness.” God takes that initiative with us. (91)

Jesus broke forever the chain of ungrace (God took the initiative first). (92)

Forgiveness comes from a heart that does not demand anything for itself, a heart that is completely empty of self-seeking. (Note I Corinthians 13) Page 92.

With grace and forgiveness, the burden of being another man’s judge melts away (“It is mine to avenge, declares the Lord”). (93)

Forgiveness alone can stop the vicious cycle of blame and pain. In the New Testament the most common Greek word for forgiveness literally means, “to release, to hurl away, to free yourself.” (96)

6,800,000 incarnations – How many incarnations Hindu scholars have calculated it takes for punishment to balance out all the wrongs a person commits in this and future lives. (97)

The word “resentment” expresses what happens if the cycle of grace and unforgiveness goes uninterrupted. (97)

It is a person’s pride that often prevents him from forgiving another individual.

Forgiveness allows a relationship to start over again, to begin anew. (98)

If we do not forgive, we remain bound and chained in bitterness and resentment to the people we cannot forgive. The innocent party bears the wound until he or she can find a way to release it, either through retribution or some other means (free yourself from negative and destructive tendencies and from becoming an emotional prisoner to someone else). (98)

Imagine a world in which there is no forgiveness. I get depressed when I imagine such a scene because it seems so close to history and the world we now live in. (99)

Not to forgive imprisons me in the past and locks out my potential for constructive change. I thus yield control of my life and my emotions to the person who did me wrong. (99)

When we forgive we set a prisoner free – ourselves. (100)

The only thing harder than forgiveness is the alternative (anger, bitterness, etc.). (page 100)

Another great power of forgiveness is that it can loosen the stranglehold of guilt in the perpetrator. (100)

They showed me such love that I couldn’t help but to love them back. (101)

A naked encounter with forgiveness melts the granite defenses of the soul forgiven. It sets the other person free and allows the possibility of transformation in the “offending” party. (102)

Forgiveness releases its healing power both in you and in the person who wronged you. (103)

Rebecca had the increasing sense that unless she forgave her former husband, a hard lump of revenge would be passed on to her children. (105)

God removes the barrier created by sin, surrenders the right to “get even,” choosing instead to bear the cost in his own body (Jesus). God restores us, justifies us as righteous, and adopts us as his own children. God bridged the gap; he took our side all the way. (106-107)

The strongest argument in favor of forgiveness is the alternative, a world of unforgiveness. (114)

Where unforgiveness reigns, as essayist Lance Morrow has pointed out, a Newtonian law comes into play. For every atrocity there must be an equal and opposite atrocity. (114)

There is one major flaw in the law of revenge – it never settles the score. It sets off a chain reaction of vengeance that always takes its unhindered course. As long as the “escalator” of vengeance continues, no one can ever get off. (115)

Forgiveness may not always be easy or fair, but at least it provides a way to halt the juggernaut of retribution. (115)

If everyone followed the “eye for an eye” principle of justice, eventually the whole world would go blind (Gandhi). (116)

Politics deals with externals: borders, wealth, crime, etc. Authentic forgiveness deals with the evil in a person’s heart, something for which politics has no cure. (117)

Love is the bottom line. (118)

“To bless the people who have oppressed our spirits, emotionally deprived us, or in other ways handicapped us, is the most extraordinary work (of God) any of us will ever do.” (Elizabeth O’Connor) (118)

There will be no escape from wars, from hunger, from misery, from racial discrimination, from denial of human rights, and not even from war, if our hearts are not changed. (119)

When people are redeemed through forgiveness, grace, and love, they are ascendant toward the light (Jesus the Light). (119)

Jesus forgave those who had not repented (those who crucified him). The cross of Christ put an end to eternal consequences. (118-119)

Without forgiveness we cannot free ourselves from the grip of the past. (119)

Apart from forgiveness, the monstrous past may awake at any time from hibernation to devour our present, and our future. (119)

I can no longer call myself a Christian, or say the Lord’s prayer, if I refuse to forgive. (123)

Paul Tillich once defined forgiveness as, “remembering the past in order that it might be forgotten.” (126)

In the study of scientific atheism, there was the idea that religion divides people. Now we see the opposite: Love for God and one another can only unite us. (127)

Abraham Lincoln on forgiveness and reconciliation: “Do I not destroy my enemies when I make them my friends?” (130)

Christianity has always insisted that the cross we bear precedes the crown we wear. (Martin Luther King) (132)

On King: He opposed policies but not personalities; he countered violence with nonviolence, and hatred with love. “Let us not seek to satisfy our thirst for freedom by drinking from the cup of bitterness and hatred.” (133)

Forgiveness is not just an occasional act: it is a permanent attitude. (King) (137)

The free offer of God’s grace extends not just to the undeserving, but to those who in fact deserve just the opposite. (144)

While we were yet sinners Christ died for us. I came face-to-face with God’s love when I was at my worst, not my best. (145)

Jesus version of the great banquet has the host sending messengers into the streets to invite “the poor, the crippled, the lame, and the blind.” (153)

Those judged undesirable by everyone else are infinitely desirable to God. We’re all oddballs, but God loves us anyway. (154)

We have confidence to enter into the Most Holy Place of God through the blood of Christ. (156)

We have been called to administer God’s grace and love to each other. (158)

Somehow, Jesus gained a reputation as a friend and lover of sinners, a reputation that his followers (the church) are in danger of losing today. (158)

We really only love God as much as the person we love the least. (158)

You may hate the sin, but you are called to love the sinner (that includes ourselves) (170)

“…. a rare moment of grace in a century that has known so little.” (173)

God’s eyes see the divine original which is hidden in each one of us. (175)

Jesus did not identify the person with his sin, but rather saw this sin as something alien in his creations – something that he alone is able to resolve.

To love a person means to see him as God intended him to be. (175)

Two giants of the Old Testament – Moses and David, committed murder and still God loved them. The apostle Paul was also an accomplice to murder (Stephen) (178)

Repentance is the doorway to grace – C. S. Lewis. (182)

In terms of the parable of the Prodigal Son, repentance is the flight home that leads to joyful celebration. It opens the way to a future, to a relationship restored. (183)

God awakens guilt for our own benefit. He seeks not to crush us but to set us free. Unless a flaw comes into the light, it cannot be healed. (183)

Christ accepts us the way we are when we come to him, but when we he accepts us, we never remain as we were.” Sometimes we rebel – like farm pigs we enjoy a good wallow in the mud. But God still restores us anyway. (184-186)

Why be good? Really, that is the wrong question. It should be: Why love? (189)

If we comprehend what Christ has done for us, then surely out of gratitude we will strive to live “worthy” of his love. We will strive for holiness not to make God love us, but because he already does. (190)

In other words, the proof of spiritual maturity is not how “pure” you are, but awareness of your impurity. (198)

When Jesus healed a person on the Sabbath, his critics seemed far more concerned about protocol and “keeping the letter of the law” than about the sick person. (200)

I know of only two alternatives to hypocrisy: perfection or honesty. Since I have never met a person who ever achieved sinless perfection, I do not perceive perfection as a realistic alternative. Our only option, then, is honesty that leads to repentance. (204)

Grace must then be received. Hypocrisy disguises our need to receive it. Hypocrisy is only an elaborate ruse people use to avoid receiving God’s grace. (204)

Everything legalist’s do is for man to see. It fosters feelings of pride and competition. Isaiah put it in earthly language: all our righteous acts are like ‘filthy rags’ in the sight of God. (204-205)

With legalism, the feelings of failure may well cause long-lasting scars of shame. God’s grace liberates us from that. (207)

The law of Moses did not encourage obedience to God, rather it magnified disobedience. Law merely indicated the sickness; grace brought about the cure. (207)

God’s law of righteousness is so absolute and so perfect that no one can possible achieve it. Yet God’s grace is so great that we do not have to. (210)

The solution to sin is not to impose an ever-stricter code of behavior. It is to know God and accept his unmerited grace. (210)

Strict moralism apart from grace solves little. (230)

We must not allow our fanaticism for morality to drown out God’s message of love, grace, and forgiveness for society. (231)

It was the strict moralists (pharisees, etc.) who called for Jesus’ death. (232)

Be careful, lest in fighting the dragon you become the dragon. (Nietzsche – 232)

Politics, which always operates by the rules of ungrace, allures us to trade away the message of grace for the message of power. (233)

When theocracies have occasion to set the rules for society, they often veer toward the extremism Jesus warned against (only Christ can operate a true theocracy). (234)

Without God, the prospect of bringing heaven down to earth always results in bringing hell up from below. (234)

“The church….is not the master or servant of the state, but rather its conscience. It must be the guide and the critic of the state, and never its tool.” (Martin Luther King, page 238)

The New Testament church: an embattled minority living in a pluralistic, pagan society.

Jesus declared that we should have one distinguishing characteristic: not political correctness or moral superiority, but love. (242)

Attack the false idea, not the person who holds that idea. (244)

Mother Teresa managed to reduce the controversy over abortion to its simplest moral terms: life versus death; love versus rejection. (245)

Sacrificial love is the most powerful weapon in the Christian’s arsenal of grace. (245)

The church works best as a force of resistance, a counterbalance to the consuming power of the state. The cozier it gets with government, the more watered-down its message becomes. (250)

A government can arrest and punish KKK murderers but cannot cure their hatred, much less teach them love. It can pass laws making divorce more difficult but cannot show husbands and wives how to love each other. It can give subsidies to the poor but cannot teach the rich and apathetic how to shower them with grace and compassion. It can ban adultery but not lust, theft but not covetousness. And it can encourage virtue but cannot bestow holiness. Only God can do that. (251)

Gallup polls say that 83 percent of Americans believe the nation is in moral decline. (255)

The problem we see with America is that it has lost its moral compass, of knowing the difference between right and wrong, and of being governed by those principles. (255)

Alexander Solzhenitsyn on the great disasters that have befallen Russia: “Men have forgotten God; that’s why all this has happened.” (Note Deuteronomy 28 – the curses of disobedience) (255-256)

Jesus’ images portray the kingdom of God as a secret force. Sheep among wolves, treasure hidden in a field, the tiniest seed in the garden, wheat growing among weeds, a pinch of yeast worked into bread dough – all these hint at a movement that works within society, changing it from the inside out. (261)

If the world despises a notorious sinner, the church will love her. If the world cuts off aid to the poor and the suffering, the church will offer food and healing. If the world oppresses, the church will raise them up. The world seeks after profit and self-fulfillment, the church seeks sacrifice and service. The world demands retribution, the church dispenses grace….. (262)

Unless our personal ethics rise above the level around us, we can hardly hope to act as a moral preservative for society. (263)

(In this world) Power rarely coexists with love. (263)

Jesus reduced the mark of a Christian to one variable: “By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” (263)

Our best efforts to change society will fall short unless the church can teach the world how to love. And it begins with us. (264)

A little wholesome modeling and costly servanthood are worth millions of true words harshly spoken. (Ron Sider, page 265)

Power without love is reckless and abusive. Power at its best is love implementing the demands of justice. (Martin Luther King, page 265)

The greatest is the one who serves – Jesus Christ.

Man is born broken. He lives by mending. God’s grace is the glue. (Eugene O’Neill)

The desire to “be as gods,” led Adam and Eve to rebel. (271)

Most of us remain trapped in the gravitational field of self-love. We become more important in our hearts than others do. (271)

What does a grace and love-filled Christian look like? (272)

Imperfection is the prerequisite for grace. (273)

True saints never lose sight of their sinfulness. You see, God holds each person by a string. When we sin, we cut the string. But God ties it up again, making a knot, and thereby brings us a little closer to him each time we fall. (273)

The world – an entire community of people thirsty for love and grace. (273)

The world thirsts for grace. And when it descends, the world falls silent before it. (282)

God bless.

– The Righter Report

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December 2, 2012 - Posted by | Evangelical, God, Human Interest, Theology, Theology Articles

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