What is grace?

For anyone who is a follower of Jesus, this is our story:

As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, in which you used to live…But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved.

Ephesians 2:1-2, 4-5

Yet, many of us misunderstand grace. Grace is not just being washed clean of sin. That is forgiveness. Grace empowers us to do what we couldn’t otherwise do. Grace is the divine enablement of God.

If we were a car, grace would not be the windshield wiper fluid dispensed whenever some sin has made our windshield unclean and our vision obstructed. That’s forgiveness. Grace is the gasoline in the car! Mercy is God’s passion to rebuild and rehab broken-down cars instead of tossing them into the junkyard.

As Dallas Willard says, “You will consume much more grace by leading a holy life than you will by sinning, because every holy act you do will have to be upheld by the grace of God.” Using the car analogy, a car that is in the shop all the time uses less gasoline than a car that is constantly on the move accomplishing the mission for which it was intended.

A life of holiness is a life in continual dependence upon grace. When Paul writes, “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast”(Ephesians 2:8-9), he is saying, “For it is by gas that the car goes, through the turning of the ignition, and this is not your doing. You didn’t earn the gas; you didn’t put the gas in the car; you simply turned the key or pressed the button. God gave you the gas that made it go.”

Paul continues in the next verse, “For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do”(Ephesians 2:10), which is like saying, “For we are God’s restored car, rebuilt from the ground up, not in order to sit idling in a garage, but to go driving on the highways and byways transporting people back to God.”

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