If there is one subject within the broad scope of Christian theology and thought that has been more written and sung about than anything else, it is grace. Over the centuries grace has amazed many a hymn composer, perplexed talented writers and given countless preachers inspiration for sermon material. Christian music’s most acclaimed, awarded and renowned artist, Steven Curtis Chapman, penned a song as the title track for his 1999 album entitled Speechless.
Words fall like drops of rain
My lips are like clouds
I say so many things
Trying to figure You out
But as mercy opens my eyes
My words are stolen away
With this breathtaking view of your grace
And I am speechless, I’m astonished and amazed
I am silenced by Your wondrous grace
You have saved me
You have raised me from the grave
And I am speechless in Your presence now
I’m astounded as I consider how
You have shown us
A love that leaves us speechless
So what kind of love could this be that would trade Heaven’s throne for a cross
And to think You would still celebrate over finding just one who was lost
And to know You rejoice over us, the God of this whole universe
It’s a story that’s too great for words
How great is the love the Father has lavished upon us
That we should be called the sons and the daughters of God
For Christians, grace is the one attribute about God that should indeed get us all tongue-tied when we try to explain its depth. Grace supersedes human comprehension. It is beyond mercy, beyond compassion. It transcends all ages of time and breaks through every sex, racial or age barrier known to mankind. Challenge yourself to learn more about this amazing trait of our Creator and how we can better show it to the rest of the world. Memorize verses about grace, read books on grace and get your hands on all the “grace knowledge” you can. Soak it up.
The Apostle Paul may perhaps be one of Scripture’s most grace-loving writers. Paul understood well that grace was the connecting factor between us and God. In Hebrews 4:15-16, he writes, “For we do not have a High Priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are-yet He did not sin. Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.” (TNIV, emphasis added) Grace draws us, undeservingly, into the very throne room of God. Christ died to offer free grace to the world; a world that could never deserve or repay it; a world that may never even understand it or be aware of its existence. Grace draws us, broken and weak, to a loving and wonderful God. It seems to be an impersonal word, an impersonal thought or idea, until you find yourself neck-deep in it, perhaps unaware you were ever in need. Many of us as long-time Christians have come to view the cross as the bridge which fills the gap between man and God. You may have even been taught to witness by way of this metaphor: drawing a stick-person to represent mankind on the far left of a page and writing “God” on the far right. In-between mankind and God you leave enough space to pencil in a cross-bridge of sorts, erasing the chasm and sentencing to Hell if we put our faith, trust and belief in Christ. His decision to die and indescribably excruciating death at Calvary is the ultimate portrait of grace to a world so desperately in need of a Savior.
I like the way bestselling Christian author Phillip Yancey puts it: “Grace is Christianity’s best gift to the world, a spiritual nova in our midst, exerting a force stronger than vengeance, stronger than racism, stronger than hate.” (What’s So Amazing About Grace?) Too often I believe we view grace as an unattainable quality; something only a perfect, sinless, and holy God could exhibit and bestow on whomever He desires. But Yancey is right, in that grace is our “gift to the world.” To borrow the denotative phrase from pastor/author Dr. David Jeremiah, we are to be “grace givers.” The world will only see God in and through us. There once was an old phrase in church circles that said, “You may be the only Bible someone ever reads.” If this phrase still holds some weight, what are we doing to display the grace of God in our everyday lives? In our jobs, our schools, our churches, our homes? Will people become intimately acquainted with grace by way of our actions?
Not only does God’s grace reach down to comfort a hurting and broken world, but it calls and elects the broken, the undereducated, and the inexperienced to change the world. Grace relieves our fears (as the old, familiar line from Newton’s hymn goes) and takes us beyond the scope of our imagination to do things we never thought possible. Such is the story of George Campbell Morgan, often remembered as “the preacher who couldn’t preach.”
With no formal seminary training or even a college degree, he certainly seemed an unlikely candidate for ministry. But between the years of 1876, when he preached his first sermon at the tender age of twelve and 1943, when he preached his last in Westminster Chapel, London, God used him in a mighty way. From pastoring small village churches to eventually being discovered by D.L. Moody, George followed God’s will for his life and God’s grace took care of the rest. Morgan went on to shepherd several churches during World War I and II and headed the extension of the Northfield Bible Conference under urging of Moody. It was said that, “wherever he [Morgan] ministered the Word, great crowds gathered, listened, and went away with a new love for the Bible and a new desire to study it.” (Wiersbe, 50) On his own, Morgan could never have accomplished such feats. This is precisely why, “…it is by grace you [we] have been saved, through faith-and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God-not by works, so that no one can boast.” (Ephesians 2:8-9, TNIV, emphasis added)
Grace, the true grace of God, confounds the wise (1 Corinthians 1:26-27), elects the unlikely and invites the peasant to dine at the table of the King. Grace welcomes the return of the prodigal son and kills the fatted calf to prepare a feast (Luke 15:11-32). Such grace, etched across Scripture from Genesis to Revelation, should indeed leave us in awe and hopelessly speechless.
“Job answered [God], ‘I’m speechless, in awe-words fail me. I should never have opened my mouth! I’ve talked too much, way too much. I’m ready to shut up and listen.” Job 40:3-5, The Message Translation, at his confrontation with God.
“How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are!” 1 John 3:1a, New International Version.
“But the Lord is in His holy temple; let all the Earth be silent before Him.” Habakkuk 2:20, New International Version, emphasis added.
Resources and Suggested Readings:
1.Jeremiah, David. Grace Givers. Integrity Publishers, 2006.
2.Jeremiah, David. Captured By Grace. Integrity Publishers, 2006. www.capturedbygrace.com
3.Wiersbe, Warren. Victorious Christians You Should Know. Baker Book House Publishers. Grand Rapids, Michigan. 1984.
4.Yancey, Phillip. What’s So Amazing About Grace? Zondervan Publishers. Grand Rapids, Michigan. 1997.
5. Chapman, Steven Curtis and Smith, Scotty. Speechless: Living in Awe of God’s Disruptive Grace. Zondervan Publishers. 2000.
6.”Speechless” words and music by Steven Curtis Chapman. Sparrow Records, 1999. www.stevencurtischapman.com
7.Today’s New International Version/The Message Parallel Bible. Zondervan Publishers, Grand Rapids Michigan. 2001 and 2003.