Monday, October 03, 2011
Andy Stanley has done it again. I just finished reading his newest book, "The Grace of God," and came away amazed all over again. In his easy-to-read style, this great communicator walks through the Bible, demonstrating that the grace of God is the theme of Scripture, from Genesis to Revelation.
This is a message that we all need to hear, particularly the church. As Andy states in his introduction, "The gravitational pull is always toward graceless religion." For this reason, church has become a place that is designed by church people for church people. Yet the heart of God has always been drawn to those outside of the circle: the lost, the hurting, the disenfranchised.
Stanley begins by breaking down the myth that the God of the Old Testament is fundamentally different from the God of the New Testament. He does this by showing that "God's law is never given to establish a relationship; God's law is given to confirm an existing relationship." The law exposes our sin and reveals to us our need for a Saviour, our fundamental need for grace.
Interestingly, Andy delves into numerous Old Testament stories which are not often given much thought, mining them for evidence of grace. Chapter 3, "Surprised By Grace" is a good example, as Andy looks at the Joseph story through the eyes of Judah, Joseph's brother. God's grace is clearly seen in Judah's life as he is blessed beyond anything he deserves. "Grace is not reserved for good people; grace underscores the goodness of God."
What I appreciated more than anything else were the last few chapters dealing with the church. I, too, have seen the need for church that is grace-filled, designed for people who are not churched. Our communities are full of churches that cater to the needs of people who look, dress and act the part. Yet Jesus modelled for us a lifestyle that engaged and fellowshipped with hurting people, one that was not about rules, but relationship.
The most profound lesson is a simple one, coming from the Jerusalem Council in Acts 15:19 - "...we should not make it difficult for the Gentiles who are turning to God." We are not drawn to relationship with God by rules, but by grace, God's unmerited, undeserved love for us. The main takeaway for me is this: don't allow my preconceptions or biases to ever cause me to forget the truth that we are saved by grace alone.
Book Review: "It Came From Within!"
Book Review: "What Good Is God?"
Book Review: "Has Christianity Failed You?"