Timothy George has a great section in his book Amazing Grace: God's Pursuit, Our Response where he speaks of the varied ways we experience grace. May his reflections lead your heart to gratitude and worship as you celebrate Thanksgiving today!
Grace is not an impersonal force or a divine quality to be studied only in the abstract. There is no hell on earth so deep but that God’s grace can go deeper still. Thus, the New Testament states that Jesus “is able to save to the uttermost those who draw near to God through him” (Heb. 7:25). We experience grace on many different levels in our lives:
- We experience grace as pardon. God’s forgiveness and justification remove our guilty standing before him—our real guilt, not just our guilty feelings. The psalmist claims that God’s pardoning grace removes our guilt of sin “as far as the east is from the west” (Ps. 103:12).
- We experience grace as acceptance. In Christ we who were distant from God, covered with shame, have been embraced, welcomed, and accepted—not because we are acceptable, but solely because we are loved.
- We experience grace as joy. This delivers us from the frantic quest to be “happy” through stuffing our lives with fleeting pleasures and “joyrides” that only leave us sadder, more depressed. Real joy comes from knowing God and serving him.
- We experience grace as peace. God’s shalom answers the anxieties and insecurities that threaten us from every side. The standard New Testament greeting is “grace and peace.” Grace and peace are twins; they belong together, related as cause and effect.
- We experience grace as power. Most people do not so much lack the knowledge to live as they should as they do the ability to carry out what they already know is right. God’s grace acts as an antidote to our impotence. It transforms, energizes, enables.
- We experience grace as hope. This is hope not in the loose sense of a vague general wish that may not come true, as in “hopefully it won’t rain tomorrow.” In Titus 2:11–13, Paul connects the grace of God with the “blessed hope” of Jesus’ return in glory, a great motivation for confident Christian living.
- We experience grace as love. God’s grace and love are so close that, at times, we cannot distinguish them. The Bible says that “perfect love casts out fear” (1 John 4:18), and God’s gracious love counters the nagging fears and doubts all of us have.
- We experience grace as gratitude. The most basic response we can make to grace remains a life of thank-yous to God. As Lewis Smedes points out, true gratitude involves “a sense of wonder and sometimes elation at the lavish generosity of God.”