Monday, November 7, 2016

Book Review: Unlimited Grace

Unlimited Grace. Bryan Chapell. 2016. Crossway. 192 pages. [Source: Review copy]

Do Christians really need yet another book on grace? The answer is yes. Why? Because I think Christians struggle daily--whether they are aware of it or not--with living in the knowledge of the grace they profess. Another good reason, I think, is that everywhere--in and out of church, in and out of "Christian" circles--Christians hear mixed messages about grace. Accepting, understanding, embracing grace doesn't come naturally or easily to us. We're wired to act and live in such a way that opposes notions of grace. We're wired to think that we earn God's approval, we merit heaven; that our standing with God is dependent on US and only us. Sad but true, that surface-only, "cultural" Christians actually think that they get into heaven because of good works. So essentially there are plenty of reasons as to why "yet another" book about grace needs to be published.

This book has THREE parts. In the first part, "this book takes us on the journey to discover how grace not only frees us from the guilt and shame of sinful lives but also provides daily fuel for the joy that is the strength of Christian living." In the second part, this book "explains how preachers, teachers, counselors, mentors, parents, and all others who share God’s Word can find grace in every portion of Scripture. My hope is that everyone will be able to see that grace is not a sidebar in the Bible but the consistent theme that culminates in the ministry and message of Jesus." In the third part, this book "attempts to answer the common questions people ask about how to find grace, and how to keep from abusing its blessings."

I loved, loved, loved this one. I found it to be a great read. I would definitely recommend this one to new believers especially. Though the older and rustier Christian could probably benefit greatly as well!! I'm just thinking I really wish someone had told me the great news of the good news when I was a new believer!!!

Favorite quotes:
You cannot claim as “Christian” any message denying that the grace of God is greater than all our sin and always available to cover it.
New obedience and daily living in harmony with Christ’s standards may enable us to experience God’s forgiveness, but we never earn it. God is not waiting for us to get good enough to deserve his mercy and pardon.
The most powerful human motivation is love. Guilt is not stronger. Fear is not stronger. Gain is not stronger. What drives a mother back into a burning building? Love for her children. Such love is stronger than self-protection, self-promotion, or self-preservation. Such love finds its highest satisfaction and greatest fulfillment in protecting, promoting, and preserving its object. A Christian for whom love of God is the highest priority is also the person most motivated and enabled to serve the purposes of God.
Our love will be as strong as our realization of the guilt of sin and the hell of consequences from which we have been rescued.
Our reception with God is a consequence of his grace, not of our works. Most Christians nod at this familiar truth, but fail to come to grips with its everyday implications.
Sanctification is about being holy as a consequence of being justified. Justification echoes the language of a courtroom to help us understand how Jesus’s provision frees us from guilt. Sanctification echoes the language of the Old Testament temple to help us understand how Jesus’s provision makes us pure, or holy.
Sanctification is about being made pure for a purpose: to further holiness in us and others. God makes us pure for his use in the world about us.
Our identity determines what we do; what we do does not determine our identity.
The message that Jesus loves us because we are good denies that the cross was either necessary or sufficient. The child who obeys Jesus to secure his love will be the adult who doubts Christ’s love when life’s temptations and challenges make it all too clear that we are not always his good little boys and girls.
Through that union, I have the identity of Christ and cannot be loved more, because I am already loved as infinitely as he. And because of that union, I will not be loved less, because Christ’s life, not mine, is the basis of God’s love.
Knowledge is power. We cannot do our Savior’s will if we do not know what he wants. Teaching grace in such a way that God’s people are left ignorant or insensitive to God’s standards actually denies God’s people their heart’s desire.
While, it is true that our obedience to God’s law is not the basis of his love for us, that does not mean that God’s standards are bad, irrelevant, or to be ignored.
Living in accord with God’s standards—no matter what else may challenge or tempt us—ultimately demonstrates that we believe that walking closely with our Savior is better than anything this world can offer. He is more lovely than anything else, and separating ourselves from anything that would distance or dishonor him brings us joy.
We do not become or remain God’s children because of how good we are or how much we know.
Knowing ourselves—our strengths, weaknesses, inclinations, susceptibilities—is also necessary to walk the path God has designed to bless our lives.
The first thing we need to know about ourselves is that we are human. I know that seems obvious, but without facing the implications of being human, we will be unprepared for the challenges of staying on God’s path. The first implication of being human is that we are vulnerable to temptation. We may think that our character, background, training, or resolve would make us impervious to the assaults of Satan that others experience, but that would be a grave error.
Because we are new creations, spiritual change is possible in our lives. Tomorrow doesn’t have to be like yesterday.
If you do not believe that spiritual change is possible, you will not strive for it. Knowing we can change keeps our hearts engaged and our hopes alive.
The answer to “Why do we sin?” is “Because we love it.” We sin because we love it. Consider this: if sin did not attract us, it would have absolutely no power over us. We yield to sin because we find it attractive, beneficial, pleasurable, or advantageous (John 3:19; James 1:13–14).
So, if our love of a sin is what grants the sin power over us, how do we get rid of that love? The scriptural answer is plain: with a greater love. No motivation is stronger than love. Guilt is not stronger. Fear is not stronger. Personal gain is not stronger. While each of these can motivate people for both good and evil, none is stronger than love. Through grace we experience the love that ignites ours.
Our disciplines do not make us acceptable to God because they are long enough, deep enough, or frequent enough.
The love we show is the love we know. In expressing his love selflessly and sacrificially, we sense more of the reality and depth of his love for us and, consequently, love him more (Matt. 22:36–40; 1 John 3:14–19; 4:12).
Our goal as faithful Bible readers is not to try to make Jesus magically appear in every text, but to see where every text fits in this redemptive epic.
Grace emerges on the page whenever God provides for people who cannot provide for themselves.
By simply asking, “What does this text teach about God and me, we will see something distinctive about his nature and ours—something that separates us unless he unites us to himself—something we require that he alone can provide. The provision may be specifically named in the text, or we may need to discern it by identifying the human need that requires God’s aid. The result will be the same: inevitably these lenses will help us see that God alone supplies the grace we need but cannot provide for ourselves. Even if there is no direct mention of Jesus—and most of the time there will not be—the text will lead us forward in our understanding of the grace that our Redeemer must supply (Acts 20:24; 1 Cor. 2:2; Gal. 3:24). Gospel glasses . Together these lenses (the two key questions) function as gospel glasses to help us see basic truths of unfolding grace (e.g., God is holy and we are not, God is sovereign and we are vulnerable, God is merciful and we require his mercy). Such reading glasses always make us aware of our need of God’s grace to compensate for our sin and inability.
Christianity cannot be found on any spectrum of beliefs where our behavior is the basis of our relationship with God.
Repentance does not cause forgiveness. If either God’s present love or his eternal forgiveness of us is determined by the presence or quality of our repentance, we are all in terrible danger. Because our hearts and understanding are yet imperfect, we remain blind to sins we will see only with further maturity—and perhaps not until eternity (Ps. 19:12).

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

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