Understanding Grace

BY DOMINICK SANTORE

I came across a "deep commentary" in the form of a Facebook meme, extolling the frustrations of the natural man's inability to understand the things of God. It starts by quoting (or mocking) someone saying, "I've tried to read the bible, but I just can't understand it."  They related the problem as to someone being born spiritually, like a person being born to a specific culture. They are then raised in that culture, so that they can understand the language of that culture. They say once you're born again with God's Spirit in you, then the Bible makes sense!

I lived in these circles long enough to know that these kinds of messages usually involve special revelation or knowledge of some kind. Something that is pulled from the text that doesn’t exist or belong there. I've heard enough of it to last a lifetime and while I was engaged in it myself, I missed the true revelation of God. I missed the main sense of the Bible. I was caught up in being empowered supernaturally to serve in stupendous ways and do might works so I might truly know that I'm of God. But, I missed the main thing.

For all that special revelation to do mighty things, I missed Jesus… 

Say whaaaat? Jesus is in the Bible? How could you miss that?  It's not very difficult when you take a new believer's enthusiasm to serve and pile on.  We make people so busy, so laser-focused on serving and growing and doing, that we neglect to point them back to why they’re here.

Rest.

Rest from a world that is beating them up. Rest from church pyramid schemes to determine your worth before God. Rest from your ongoing sinful struggle, that despite what anyone says, is still there. We know it is, and so do they. It seems to be the biggest secret that everyone knows and no one talks about. We just gloss over those things with, you got it…. works, and striving, and looking better, even if there are some dead bones inside this shiny new temple we help them erect.   

They are many people, including atheists and other religious groups that know exactly what the Bible is about. They just flat out reject it. So, what is it that the natural person cannot accept? What is it that is folly to them?  

Grace.

Sweet, undeserving, 200% proof, undiluted grace…

When God says to a murderer, I love you and forgive you and then calls on the church to accept him with no reservations? That's what people don't understand, including many Christians. It's grace. We live in a world powered by reciprocity. We want karma to reign. We want an eye for an eye. We want to know if someone does something, there is a likely outcome for that something, good or bad. Christians engage in this all time. They declare, God will respond how we want, if we move a certain way. 

If God loved only those who did things right, even most of the time, which we don’t, how gracious would He be? Most people hate God because He shows love and kindness to the worst of people, the same people even Christians can sometimes get caught up thinking they are better than. I'm just as guilty here. Then we get angry. Yeah, even Christians. We get angry at those people, at God, at church. How could those people be accepted and forgiven? Christians can be just as guilty of this, especially when we’ve attributed any of our "lifestyle changes" to our effort being tied to God’s ability to change us. We see those people who get grace and get mad because they haven't changed yet!

This is why even Christians, myself included, after years of being in church, have to be shown over and over again, that grace is what we don't understand the most about the Bible, about God. Not special prophecy or words. Not, “Are you really serving God?” or “Check your Fruit!” It’s Grace. Grace that is the thread of the New and Old Testaments. Grace that is constantly revealing Jesus in every story and page.

Mercy and Grace are always given to people who don't deserve it and it’s given by the work of God's own Son, Jesus.

The people who don't understand the Bible-including some Christians who want to make it just a legalistic rule book for living-THAT'S what they don't understand. It's not merely a cognitive thing that needs a veil removed. It's a systematic thing that God uses to bring us on board. He gives us grace. He keeps giving it to us on our best and worst days. He may let us reject it, but He never stops giving it to us. God’s system of grace takes the worst and declare them clean, free, sinless, loved and FORGIVEN! How can God run things this way? It's ridiculous! It's unfair! It's undeserving!

Yes... Yes it is…

"The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned." - 1 Corinthians 2:14

A theological misfit landing in the area of Lutheranism, Dominick has come to deeply appreciate the truth of scripture as defined by the distinction between Law and Gospel. He has found freedom in knowing that Christ is his substitute on even his worst days. He has been for the course of his church life everything from chair-stacker to men's ministry leader. He is blessed with a wonderful wife and two great young men, which he can say without a doubt, he doesn't deserve. He counts among his favorite things: Star Trek, classic superhero comics, movies, Yankees and yes, he admits to it, the Knicks. He enjoys a good conversation and good food. Finally, he is grateful for the opportunity to share the message of God's Grace among all these great teachers, pastors and theologians and hopes he doesn't mess up big time. But then again, that's what grace is for, right?

Twitter: @adefeatedvictor