"God's grace has a drenching about it. A wildness about it. A white-water, riptide, turn-you-upside-downness about it. Grace comes after you." -Max LucadoJust what is grace? I sat down in a bookstore on Saturday night and picked up the book Grace by Max Lucado and realized that I always think I know what it is, and I learn about it time and time again, and yet somehow the definition always seems to escape me, and just when I need it most I realize I need to relearn yet again what grace is. What it does. Why it's so important.
The Greek word for grace charis literally means "free gift"; Strong defines it as "the divine influence upon the heart, and its reflection in the life." The Bible goes even further and says in Ephesians 2:8-9 that "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."
Another creative way of looking at GRACE:
Grace is separate from salvation and faith in that when we have faith in Jesus's sacrifice on the cross, we receive salvation because of God's grace. Grace is not works, and cannot be achieved by works. What are works? Anything someone does to try to be a "good person" or to try to be righteous. When we try to work for grace, we end up "frustrating" grace, as Paul says in Galatians 2:21. True salvation through faith places the Holy Spirit in us, and it is His grace that changes us from the inside out. He doesn't need our help.
However, don't think that we can continue living our same lives, that we can say "yes" to Jesus but not let His grace affect us. That, too, is "frustrating" grace. Our desire to know God, our pursuit of a relationship with God, our profound recognition of who God is and what He has done for humanity...when all of this is internalized, when the extent of His love for us begins to sink into our very core, it doesn't leave us unchanged unless we then choose to run the exact opposite direction. "Never mind, God, I don't want your free gift."
Max Lucado in his book Grace uses water imagery to say that "God's grace has a drenching about it. A wildness about it. A white-water, riptide, turn-you-upside-downness about it. Grace comes after you." Todd Agnew in his song "Grace Like Rain" sings, "Hallelujah, grace like rain/Falls down on me/Hallelujah, all my stains/Are washed away, they'rewashed away." John Mark McMillan's lyrics in "How He Loves" say that God "loves like a hurricane, I am a tree/Bending beneath the weight of His wind and mercy...Drawn to redemption by the grace in His eyes/If grace is an ocean we're all sinking."
Have you ever been hit in the face with an ocean wave before, been drawn under by it? I have. And then trying to get air, I was thrown back under the surface of the water by yet another wave, and so came up coughing and sputtering and trying to clear my lungs of the warm, salty sea water so that I could actually get a mouthful of air.
I think when we are truly wrecked by grace, when it truly hits us, it's kind of like that. We are smacked with it, drawn under by it, overwhelmed by it, and it just comes back for us again and again in different ways at different moments. And it's one of the most powerful and beautiful things I've ever experienced. And when I find myself most unworthy of it, even more than usual, that's when it hits me the hardest, and I let it draw me under and take over me and work in my heart, let it wash over my soul.
Further study: Romans 5, story of "How He Loves", examination of grace like a check