It is for freedom that Christ set us free; therefore keep standing firm and do not be subject again to a yoke of slavery. Galatians 5:1
Galatians 5 is sometimes called the Magna Carta of Christian Liberty. The Grace Awakening is a Biblical study on the subject.
I’d like to make this book required reading for all Christendom, but such an autocratic mandate is contrary to its premise, so instead I will just HIGHLY recommend it. It isn’t just for Christians. Non-Christians, especially those who find Christianity to be oppressive, overbearing, or unkind, may find it valuable as well.
Early in the book, Charles Swindoll, makes two broad applications for the principle of Grace: Saving Grace and Living Grace.
Saving Grace is the message that anyone, no matter how unworthy (and we are all unworthy), may enjoy God’s favor. We needn’t earn it, we needn’t work for it; in fact we can’t. The work has been done by Christ, and God is pleased to give grace (his favor) freely to anyone who wishes to receive it. And while I cannot overstate the glory of that message – it is something I settled long ago. I rest securely and irrevocably in God’s favor.
Hence, I found the second point – living by Grace – applicable to my own life now. I found it incredibly relevant and important for Christianity as a whole. Many Christians, once saved by Grace, slip into a life of graceless living. We reduce Christianity to a list of rules and standards of conduct, and often become judgmental of anyone, including other believers, who don’t live as we think they ought. This is not Living Grace.
Much of what we squabble over, much of what we judge, much of what divides us…is nowhere prohibited scripture. The Holy Spirit revealed to me some years ago, that Christianity is more about living by principle rather than a code of conduct. Christ was explicit; the two all-encompassing principles are: Love God, and love my neighbor.
The problem comes when I find a way to apply those principles that works well for me, hopefully even that the Holy Spirit has led me to follow, and then I insist that others follow the same path. That way of thinking isn’t scriptural, it isn’t spiritual, and it isn’t Living Grace.
I cannot do justice to The Grace Awakening in a few paragraphs. If I tried to list the major points, they would lose impact without the Biblical context and pragmatic application contained in the book. But I will highlight one example that was particularly powerful for me.
At Corinth there was an issue dividing the church that had to do with the propriety of consuming meat that was left over from pagan sacrifice. (We don’t worry much about meat offered in pagan worship today, so feel free to consider contemporary issues such as: body art or piercing, dancing, going to movies, living opulently, dress and hairstyle, social drinking, rock music, Bible versions, contemporary Christian music, etc, etc, etc.) In the first century, this meat thing was the issue. You could buy the leftover meat at a discount. Some in Corinth believed it sinful to eat such meat, some had no problem with it, but there is no specific Bible prohibition. For some it violated their idea of Loving God, and in that case, they should absolutely NOT eat it, but they needn’t make a mission of ensuring no one did. Paul makes it clear that if others did not have a problem with it, they should not be prohibited…or judged. But what really stunned me, was when Paul, writing with Apostolic authority, said….
7However not all men have this knowledge; but some, being accustomed to the idol until now, eat food as if it were sacrificed to an idol; and their conscience being weak is defiled. 8But food will not commend us to God; we are neither the worse if we do eat, nor the better if we do not eat. 9But take care that this liberty of yours does not somehow become a stumbling block to the weak. ~ 1 Corinthians: 7-9
Did you catch that? The WEAKER brother is the more CONSERVATIVE of the two.
Grace is liberating, not restricting. I think that is the major premise of this book.
Four Biblical Guidelines that Magnify Grace
1. Accepting others is basic to letting them be
2. Refusing to dictate to others allows the Lord freedom to direct their lives
3. Freeing others means we never assume a position we’re not qualified to fill
4. Loving others requires us to express our liberty wisely
About the author: Charles (Chuck) Swindoll is a Christian author and radio preacher (Insight for Living radio broadcast). I’ve listened to him intermittently over the years, and always appreciate his gentle and joyful commitment to proclaiming the Word of God. (he also admits of being fond of Shakespeare …gotta love that.)
A few excerpts: These excerpts lose their full force when taken out of context. Read the book!
…where grace exists, so must various areas of gray
Grace killers are notorious for a judgmental attitude. It is perhaps the single most un-Christlike characteristic in evangelical circles today.
God is pleased with diversity.
The church is not a religious industry designed to turn out mass-produced reproductions on an assembly line.
Variety honors God.
Would you please give up your list of dos and don’ts for everybody else? Just keep it for yourself.
…two strong and very human tendencies: We compare ourselves with others (which leads us to criticize or compete with them), and we attempt to control others (which results in our manipulating or intimidating them).
Most folks, it seems, are better acquainted with their guilt and shame than with their God.