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Grace Is Pardon — and Power!
Devotional by John Piper
By the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace toward me was not in vain. On the contrary, I worked harder than any of them, though it was not I, but the grace of God that is with me. (1 Corinthians 15:10)
Grace is not simply leniency when we have sinned. Grace is the enabling gift and power of God not to sin. Grace is power, not just pardon.
This is plain, for example, in 1 Corinthians 15:10. Paul describes grace as the enabling power of his work. It is not simply the pardon of his sins; it is the power to press on in obedience. “I worked harder than any of them, though it was not I, but the grace of God that is with me.”
Therefore, the effort we make to obey God is not an effort done in our own strength, but “by the strength that God supplies — in order that in everything God may be glorified” (1 Peter 4:11). It is the obedience of faith. Faith in God’s ever-arriving gracious power to enable us to do what we should.
Paul confirms this in 2 Thessalonians 1:11–12 by calling each of our acts of goodness a “work of faith,” and by saying that the glory this brings to Jesus is “according to the grace of our God” because it happens “by his power.” Listen for all those phrases:
To this end we always pray for you, that our God may make you worthy of his calling and may fulfill every resolve for good and every work of faith by his power, so that the name of our Lord Jesus may be glorified in you, and you in him, according to the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ.
The obedience that gives God pleasure is produced by the power of God’s grace through faith. The same dynamic is at work at every stage of the Christian life. The power of God’s grace that saves through faith (Ephesians 2:8) is the same power of God’s grace that sanctifies through faith.
Illustrations of Bible Truth by H. A. Ironside, Moody Press, 1945, pp. 34-35
One of the first gospel illustrations that ever made a real impression upon my young heart was a simple story which I heard a preacher tell when I was less than nine years old.
It was of pioneers who were making their way across one of the central states to a distant place that had been opened up for homesteading. They traveled in covered wagons drawn by oxen, and progress was necessarily slow. One day they were horrified to note a long line of smoke in the west, stretching for miles across the prairie, and soon it was evident that the dried grass was burning fiercely and coming toward them rapidly. They had crossed a river the day before but it would be impossible to go back to that before the flames would be upon them. One man only seemed to have understanding as to what could be done. He gave the command to set fire to the grass behind them. Then when a space was burned over, the whole company moved back upon it.
As the flames roared on toward them from the west, a little girl cried out in terror, "Are you sure we shall not all be burned up?" The leader replied, "My child, the flames cannot reach us here, for we are standing where the fire has been!"
What a picture of the believer, who is safe in Christ!
On Him Almighty vengeance fell,Which would have sunk a world to hell.He bore it for a chosen race,And thus becomes our Hiding Place.
The fires of God's judgment burned themselves out on Him, and all who are in Christ are safe forever, for they are now standing where the fire has been.
The problem of reconciling human suffering with the existence of a God who loves, is only insoluble so long as we attach a trivial meaning to the word ‘love’, and look on things as if man were the centre of them. Man is not the centre. God does not exist for the sake of man. Man does not exist for his own sake. ‘Thou hast created all things, and for thy pleasure they are and were created’ [Revelation 4:11]. We were made not primarily that we may love God (though we were made for that too) but that God may love us, that we may become objects in which the Divine love may rest ‘well pleased’. To ask that God’s love should be content with us as we are is to ask that God should cease to be God: because He is what He is, His love must, in the nature of things, be impeded and repelled, by certain stains in our present character, and because He already loves us He must labour to make us lovable. We cannot even wish, in our better moments, that He could reconcile Himself to our present impurities—no more than the beggar maid could wish that King Cophetua should be content with her rags and dirt, or a dog, once having learned to love man, could wish that man were such as to tolerate in his house the snapping, verminous, polluting creature of the wild pack. What we would here and now call our ‘happiness’ is not the end God chiefly has in view: but when we are such as He can love without impediment, we shall in fact be happy.
From The Problem of Pain
Compiled in A Year with C.S. Lewis
The Problem of Pain. Copyright © 1940, C. S. Lewis Pte. Ltd. Copyright restored © 1996 by C. S. Lewis Pte. Ltd. All rights reserved. Used with permission of HarperCollins Publishers. A Year With C.S. Lewis: Daily Readings from His Classic Works. Copyright © 2003 by C. S. Lewis Pte. Ltd. All rights reserved. Used with permission of HarperCollins Publishers.
Prayer is either a sheer illusion or a personal contact between embryonic, incomplete persons (ourselves) and the utterly concrete Person. Prayer, in the sense of petition, asking for things, is a small part of it; confession and penitence are its threshold, adoration its sanctuary, the presence and vision and enjoyment of God its bread and wine. In it God shows Himself to us.
From The World's Last Night
Compiled in A Mind Awake
The World's Night. Copyright © 1952, 1955, 1958, 1959, 1960 by C. S. Lewis Pte. Ltd. "Screwtape Proposes a Toast" copyright © 1959 by Helen Joy Lewis. All rights reserved. Used with permission of HarperCollins Publishers. A Mind Awake: An Anthology of C. S. Lewis. Copyright © 1968 by C. S. Lewis Pte. Ltd. All rights reserved. Used with permission of HarperCollins Publishers.