Our salvation is by faith through grace. Grace is the undeserved kindness of God. Undeserved. Unmerited. Grace goes against our natural instincts. We prefer to earn – and therefore deserve – what we get in life. It can be hard for some people to reach a point of realizing that they are helpless sinners who need a Savior. Once we do reach this point – throwing ourselves upon the mercy of God and trusting Christ alone for salvation – it can be all too easy for us to revert to a works or performance based relationship with God. After our initial salvation experience, it can be hard to keep living by grace. Self-righteousness and legalistic behavior is all to common among believers.
When it comes to everyday life, we like it when grace is for us, but not-so-much when grace is extended to another. They deserve punishment. They deserve to get what is coming to them. Grrrr…how dare they be shown mercy and grace?! We want grace for ourselves, but others should get justice. If we are honest, I think we can all admit to this type of attitude. Grace, at its very nature, is unfair. It is, again, undeserved favor. We just can’t get this through our thick skulls. Can we?
I expound on this issue in a chapter of my upcoming book, where the importance of LIVING in light of the gospel is emphasized.
Because it is so hard for us to grasp grace, we need to constantly remind ourselves of the gospel and grace. Here are some books I recommend. The first presents the gospel to believers…Yes, believers. We need to hear it to!
- A Gospel Primer for Christians, by Milton Vincent, Focus Publishing. This book is permeated with Scripture, captures the essence of the gospel in a straightforward way, and reminds us of why we need the gospel every day.
- Why Sin Matters: The Surprising Relationship between God’s Grace and our Sin, by Mark McMinn, Tyndale House. This book was very impactful in my life. I lent it to a friend, who read it, and now he has an entire Sunday school class going through the book together. It is strangely out-of-print, which puzzles me because I found it so challenging and exceptional. If you would like to read a brief article that is a condensed/abridged form of the book, contact me and I’ll get it to you. Or if you are a Christianity Today subscriber you have access to it.
- What’s so Amazing about Grace, by Philip Yancey, Zondervan. Well, a book by Philip Yancey speaks for itself! I’ve read about 10 Yancey books, and they are always worthwhile. Yancey is down-to-earth and honest, and let him take you on a journey all about God’s grace. Nothing you do can make God love you more, and nothing you do can make God love you less.
- Grace Awakening, by Chuck Swindoll, Thomas Nelson. I read this a few years ago, and appreciated it. Practical insights from the Scripture. I remember Swindoll emphasizing that one way grace is demonstrated is by allowing people to be who they are, instead of expecting cookie-cutter Christians who all fit in the same mold. As someone who has never fit the mold and got tired of being forced into a box that I did not belong in, this was very encouraging to me.
- The Grace of God, by Andy Stanley, Thomas Nelson. Stanley is a skilled communicator. One particular chapter entitled “Saved by Grace” really brought the counter-intuitive nature of grace to the forefront. I re-read this chapter several times, and read it out loud to someone. This chapter is based on the parable of Jesus from Matthew 20 about how the landowner pays his workers who arrive at different times to work. The landowner’s pay scale violates our sense of fair play, and we don’t like it. Yet that is the nature of grace.
All of these books are helpful, and I recommend each one, but I purposely put The Gospel Primer book first on the list. Looking to Christ and the salvation we found in him must be the foundation for our lives.