Thursday, August 28, 2014
Amazing Grace in the Develop of Our Life
The popular Christian hymn, Amazing Grace, is noted for being the most recorded hymn with Wikipedia stating about 7,000 recordings. In hearing the song do we think over the concept of grace and the impact it can have on one’s life? The song dovetails in my mind to one of my favorite passages of the Apostle Paul’s letters to the early churches. Ephesians 2:8-10 reads: “8 For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— 9 not by works, so that no one can boast. 10 For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” Grace is a major concept in the Christian belief system. It uniquely separates Christianity from other religions. Where other religious systems are focused on man bettering themselves to reach out to God for favor; grace is God looking down towards the brokenness of mankind in love and presenting the work of Jesus on the cross and the power of His resurrection as the way to be in right relationship to God.
Is the initial work of grace in repairing our relationship to God where Amazing Grace ends? That thought is answered in a book, Resisting Grace, (click on book title to purchase the book) by Jon Ido Warden. (click on Jon's name to read his blog) He paints a more elaborate picture of the Amazing Grace of God and how Grace engages with the Christian believer’s complete life journey. I must say one initial reason I was interested in this book as I know the author from my days in Chicago in my undergraduate work at Moody Bible Institute. We lived on the same dorm floor, the famous “9th Floor” of Culbertson Hall. I remember him as a reflective thinker back then so it does not surprise me that he became a Counselor and a writer of a reflective book such as this.
Another reason I found the book an interesting read comes from my Christian Worldview so I was intrigued by his in-depth look at the Grace of God. In his words he describes the book. “This book is about the process of grace. Grace changes us, freeing us from our fears and self-protective mechanisms and develops in us the ability to live freely, fully, and gladly. God does all the work to bring about the change” (page 9). This connects with the scripture I shared at the beginning from Ephesians chapter 2. Salvation from the Christian point of view is a gift from God. God reaches down to human kind in our brokenness to heal and repair. Jon points to the analogies in the Old Testament that describe the sin nature we all carry as being like our being a broken cistern or clay pots that were made for a purpose of holding water but due to the cracks do not serve their purpose. I remember in the beginning of my Counseling program we had to describe our view of human nature. I wrote about the same analogy that Jon speaks of that we are “cracked pots”. I thought of it as it relates to the concept of someone being a crackpot as defined as an eccentric or foolish person with problems. I felt at that time and still do that part of the process of Counseling is moving broken people from being “Cracked pots” to “Masterpieces of pottery” appreciating the beauty and purpose of their lives.
As a Christian, I believe in line with the book, Resisting Grace, that the healing best works with God as the Master Potter, recreating the “Cracked pots” to being “Masterpieces”. I see that process being described in Jon’s book. I appreciate how he follows through how grace relates to all aspects and stages of our life. Just as verse 10 of Ephesians 2 brings out that the work of grace in our lives is God’s handiwork in each believer who is open to the gift of grace. The purpose of God’s grace in the life is to empower the Christ follower to do good works. The good works is not the instrument of salvation but instead it is the result and response of what God has done in our lives. Sad to say many non-Christians point to the lack of good works in the lives of Christians.
Jon ends each chapter with reflective thoughts and questions so it is a book to work through slowly and savor the information he is presenting about grace. One favorite part of the book is from a Counseling perspective, as I noticed many of the reflections and information connects to aspects of psychology and Jon sharing stories of his Counseling practice. One example is his mention of the Johari Window (page 101). The Johari window is a helpful self-understanding concept tool. In the one box is the Known self or also known as the Public self. It is how we are seen by others. It may be a true picture or many wears masks in public. Another box is the Hidden or Private self which is where we keep our secrets from others. This is the person we are in private. The Blind self are the blind spots which are positive or negative traits others may see in us but we often do not see. Then the last box is the Unknown self which Jon describes as the “Only God knows” box. This is the area of our lives where we and others may not understand why we feel or do things. Jon shows how God interacts in all the quadrants of our lives as we are open to His act of grace to fully allow God to be in charge of our lives. That as he states is truly freeing. Some think that Christians are not free but true freedom is resting with an open spirit to what God has in store for our lives.
Of course our human nature of resisting God comes to play in the dance with grace. Even as I wrote the previous paragraph and read Jon’s book I understood why he titled the book, Resisting Grace, as the inner tension of the sin nature wants to go my own way instead of God’s way. That is the root of the problem -- the broken pot is saying, “Why doesn’t someone use me to hold water?”, as it is blind to the open cracks where the water would be wasted by pouring out on the ground. We need that humble surrender to the Creator who can with our openness to the gift of grace refashion our lives to the Masterpieces He wants us to be.
This book is primarily for a Christian who is wanting to understand the process of Amazing Grace in his or her life. Yet I can see where it would be helpful to a truth-seeker who is exploring and wanting to understand what Christianity is all about. Jon aptly and fully paints a word picture of the importance of the unique aspect of grace that sets Christianity apart.
Reflection: What were your thoughts of the scripture passage, Ephesians 2:8-10 listed at the beginning? Look at the picture of the Johari Window – what do you learn about yourself by thinking and reflecting on the four quadrants of your life? Do you see God’s interaction in your life?