The most significant moment in my life came when I first truly felt the forgiveness and grace of Jesus in my heart and in my life. I got strong armed into going to an all-night prayer meeting led by some pastors from South Korea. I remember turning up to the prayer meeting and trying to pray all my best prayers. I started at about midnight, and I prayed prayers of adoration, confession, intercession. I prayed biblical prayers, I prayed for people, places, nations, and leaders. Then I looked at my watch and realized it was 12:03am! “Now what,” I thought. I ended up simply watching some of these Korean men praying, and I was really impacted by their earnestness and joy. Then, at some point, they seemed to stop praying and I knew they were going to walk straight past me, and the thought flashed through my head “what if they figure out I’m not praying.” Immediately, I did what any good Pharisee would do, I struck the holiest looking posture I could, closed my eyes, and waited for them to leave. Unfortunately for my plan, one of the pastors came over to me, put his hands on my shoulders, and started praying for me in Korean. Now, I don’t speak Korean, and I’ve never been to Korea, but in that moment, in the middle of the night, as a Korean man prayed for me, I felt the forgiveness, grace, and goodness of Jesus hit me like a thunderbolt! I really felt the truth that God had saved me.
Reformed theology, or Calvinism, is an understanding of the Scriptures which underlines humanities underlying sin and our inability to save ourselves through our own work, effort, and striving.[i] Because of this, a key aspect of Reformed thinking is a right focus on the grace of God. A good example of this might be the words of Charles Spurgeon who, when talking of his own conversion, said:
“Then, in a moment, I saw that God was at the bottom of it all, and that He was the Author of my faith, and so the whole doctrine of grace opened up to me, and from that doctrine I have not departed to this day, and I desire to make this my constant confession, “I ascribe my change wholly to God.””[ii]
For me, that moment when I encountered Jesus through the prayers of my friend from Korea, I knew something of what Spurgeon was talking about. Just like Spurgeon’s words, I realised for myself that it was indeed God that was “at the bottom of it all”, he was the one who had found me, it was entirely by God’s grace that I have been saved. This focus on grace is why Calvinism is sometimes referred to as the “doctrines of grace.”[iii] Here is a helpful summary of how God’s grace works in us for salvation:
“There is only one explanation for God’s sacrifice for us. It is not us. It is “the riches of his grace” (Ephesians 1:7). It is all free. It is not a response to our worth. It is the overflow of his infinite worth. In fact, that is what divine love is in the end: a passion to enthral undeserving sinners, at great cost, with what will make us supremely happy forever, namely, his infinite beauty.”[iv]
In that way, some have suggested the view that the grace of God is so overwhelming and powerful that it overcomes any struggle within the heart and life of a person, or as some prefer to say, the grace of God is irresistible or even “invincible” in a person’s life right the way through until the day they meet Jesus face to face.[v] In essence, we might note how the Bible teaches that we are saved by grace and kept by that same grace. There is an intrinsic connection between our holiness and the grace of Jesus poured out through his death and resurrection in our place.
In that sense, something that I have been struck by recently is the importance of grace. Yes in salvation! How amazing is that. But also in every step along the way! I have been spending some significant time thinking and praying on Paul’s words to Titus recently, and I may post tomorrow a few thougts on them. But here are some words that I think really show the impact of grace on our daily lives. Bless you!!
“For the grace of God has appeared that offers salvation to all people. It teaches us to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age.”Titus 2:11-12
[i] R. C. Sproul, The Gospel of God: An Exposition of Romans (Great Britain: Christian Focus Publications, 1994), 10.
[ii] John Piper, The Pleasures of God (Colorado: Multnomah Books, 2012), 107-108
[iii] Piper, Five Points, 8.
[iv] John Piper, Fifty Reasons Why Jesus Came To Die (Wheaton: Crossway, 2006), 29.
[v] Arthur Walkington Pink, “That God’s Elect Might be Saved” in: The Life of Faith (Bellingham: Logos Bible Software, 2005).