How Has Grace Changed Your Life?

This is article #15 of Observations Gleaned from the Scriptures by JaneEllen.

            Recently I was asked this question and I thought it would be easy to answer.  It is and it isn’t. The answer may be easy but the framework for it isn’t.  I apologize upfront for this being such a long blog, but just couldn’t justify my answer any other way. I want you to know I prayed often before and during formulating my answer. I want God’s help with this article to be obvious. The answer is just too important.

            Before we get to my answer, we need to review what I think grace is so you know what I mean when I answer the question. Most of the time, when we are asked to define grace someone rattles off “unmerited favor.” This is the correct answer, but to my way of thinking it is way too lifeless and dull for this beautiful word.  Grace is an upbeat and joyous word and should have an upbeat and joyous definition. So what is “unmerited favor?” It is a blessing we don’t deserve. This definition is better, but I came up with an acronym that I think gives the word an upbeat and joyous definition: God’s Reward And Comfort for Everyone. Maybe I like it because I thought of it. But it actually is right in line with Titus 2:11 which says “the grace of God has appeared bringing salvation for all people.” Like many of God’s blessings, we have to do something to get this grace.  Romans 5:1-2 says that we have access to God’s grace through our faith. Grace and faith are inextricably linked together. Like the song goes “you can’t have one without the other.”

            So far we have learned:

  1. God has made grace available for everyone.
  2. It is grace that saves us.
  3. We have to have faith to do something to have access to this grace.

What do we have to do to enter God’s grace? We have to comply with the terms God has set. On the day of Pentecost in Acts 2, Peter was asked a similar question; “What must we do to be saved?” He told them to repent and be baptized. This set of terms has confused a great many people. Some have even asked “What does getting dunked into water have to do with being saved?”  In and of itself, nothing. Water has no magical qualities to save a person. This is where faith comes into play. God says, “This is what I want you to do.” If we have the faith to comply with the terms He set, we won’t even have to think about it. We will just do it and receive God’s grace of salvation.

            How do we get a faith so strong that we will do what God asks us to do? Romans 10:17 tells us that to have faith we have to hear (or in our case read) God’s word. It would seem to follow that if we want more faith we need to do more reading. (More on this later.)

Let’s look at a few examples from the Old Testament that show how people’s faith caused them to comply with the terms God had set and got what He promised:

  1. God saved Noah from the flood, but God gave Noah something to do. He told him to build an ark because it was going to rain and flood the earth. There is every indication that it had never rained up to this point. So if Noah had not had the faith to build the ark would he have been saved? No, he would not.
  2. God saved the Israelites from the snakes, but God gave them something to do. They had to build a bronze serpent and look on it when they were bitten. This is not your normal snake bite remedy, but it is what God said to do. If they had not had the faith to build the bronze serpent and look on it, would they have been healed? No, they would not.
  3. God gave Joshua the city of Jericho, but God gave Joshua something to do. They were to walk around the city and not utter a sound until the last time around the city. This is certainly not tactical warfare. If Joshua had put up ramps and besieged Jericho, would he have taken the city? No he would not.  He had to have the faith to do exactly what God said in order to take the city.
  4. God healed Naaman of leprosy, but God gave Naaman something to do. Dipping in a muddy river has never been a medical cure for anything that I know of, and Naaman almost lost his chance to be healed. If he had not dipped in the Jordan River, would he have been healed? No, he would not.

What is the common denominator in each of these stories? It is the faith to comply with the terms God set whether they were understood or not. All of these people did what God said to do and received what God promised.

            This is the same principle as our having the faith to comply with the terms God set in the New Testament for our salvation (immersion in water) and receiving the reward and comfort of grace (salvation and living with God in eternity).

            Earlier I said grace and faith are inextricably linked together. And if we want more faith, we need to read the Bible more.  What does this have to do with the answer to how grace has changed my life? EVERYTHING!!!

            In 2014, the Daily Bible Reading Schedule at church was to read Luke and Acts that year.  We were to read the same chapter each day for a week. There are 52 chapters in Luke and Acts combined. So by reading the same chapter every day for a week, we would finish both books in a year. After reading Luke, I realized I was learning and retaining more information by reading each chapter for a week. I decided to take notes on what I was reading when we started reading Acts. After reading Acts, I decided to read the rest of the New Testament one chapter a week. There are 260 chapters in the New Testament and reading one a week would take five (5) years.  A friend of mine said she wanted to do it with me. We decided to not only read the chapter, but also copy it.

            In January 2020, we finished copying the New Testament one chapter a week. During that time I found my attitude changing. Things that were commands that I had skipped over or hadn’t placed much emphasis on became much more important. “Little” things tucked away in Scripture became recognizable as commands I had overlooked. The words in the Bible actually became commands that I wanted to obey because I was learning to love God more through reading about Him more. Grace is a journey not a point in time.

            I actually did something in January 2020 that I have never done before.  My New Year’s Resolution was to memorize Ephesians 4:32-5:2 and to say it every morning before my feet hit the floor and to pray to God to help me fulfill the five (5) commands in these verses.

            What has happened to me in 2020 since saying and praying about these verses? Physically I have become more incapacitated and it is harder to get around and do my daily chores. Socially, because of Covid-19, I am primarily isolated in my apartment with very little contact with the outside world. What has this done to my faith? What has this done to my grace? It has given me a chance to read and study the Bible more and to discover the nuances in Scripture that I had not seen before.  I am not mentioning these Scriptures or my understandings because quite frankly what each of us needs from the Scriptures is different depending on the spiritual level we are on. And that level goes up and down for each of us all the time. So you will have to read and study on your own to receive the impact of grace on your own life.

            There are, however, a few verses that I would like to share to get you started on your journey:

John 3:16 – “For God so loved the world that He gave His only Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life.” God’s love is so great that He gave us His Son. But we have to do something so we don’t perish, and receive the grace of eternal life. This verse says we have to believe. This belief is the faith to comply with the terms God has set. How can we know what the terms are? We have to read the Bible.

John 14:15 – “If you love me, you will keep My commandments.” Sounds simple, right? The only way God knows if we love Him is by our complying with the terms He has set. How can we know what the terms are? We have to read the Bible.

Hebrews 11:6 – “But without faith it is impossible to please Him: for he that cometh to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of them that diligently seek Him.” I usually use the ESV Bible, but prefer the KJV for this verse. It says it is IMPOSSIBLE to please God without faith. So if I want to please God more I will need more faith. How do we get this faith? Romans 10:17 says we get faith by reading the Bible. The verse in Hebrews 11 goes on to say we MUST believe that He exists and believe He rewards those who DILIGENTLY seek Him. Our belief is our faith that He is and that He rewards us when WE PUT FORTH A GREAT DEAL OF EFFORT TO KNOW HIM. How do we do this? We read the Bible.

            I don’t usually tell personal things in this blog, but to answer a personal question you have to give a personal answer. I do not want anyone to think I believe that I have it made because I read and study the Bible quite a bit. I don’t have it made. A verse to help with this is Luke 17:10- “So you also, when you have done all that you were commanded, say, “we are unworthy servants; we have only done what was our duty.” Even knowing the things I know to do, I am still an unworthy servant in need of God’s grace.

            Remember grace is a journey. The more we read the Bible the more we learn about God. The more we learn about God the more we love Him. The more we love Him the more we obey Him.

               I finally understand Romans 6:1 – “What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound?” In verse 2, Paul says “By no means!” He goes on to say “How can we who died to sin still live in it?” For grace to abound, our faith and obedience have to abound not sin. We have to have the faith to comply with the terms God has set. The terms are always easy to do. Even if we don’t understand them, we will gladly do them because we love God.

            That is how grace has changed my life. I have learned and truly believe God loves me. Now that I know that, it has the effect of causing me to love God more now than I ever have. Because I love Him more than ever, I want to find out all the things He wants me to do so I can do them. When I know His commands and do them, I am rewarded with His grace. This is quite a journey and it is not over yet. Come join me!

            Until next time, I remain with a song in my heart. JaneEllen