Saturday, November 10, 2018

TTT #30 God’s First and Last Word is Always Grace

This blog article is the 30th and last one based on my forthcoming book Thirty True Things Everyone Needs to Know Now (TTT). I will be informing you later when the book becomes available, but please give consideration now to the following matters taken from the final chapter of the book.
Introducing Grace
Before writing that final chapter, I read Philip Yancey’s outstanding book What’s So Amazing About Grace? (1997) for the third time. I consider Yancey’s book one of the most significant books I have read over the last twenty years. 
In the first chapter of his book, Yancey calls grace “our last best word,” and laments the “shortage of grace within the church” (p. 14).
I fully agree with Yancey’s assessment, so I decided to write about grace for the last chapter of TTT. We need to be reminded constantly that for the Christian, or for anyone for that matter, God’s first and last word is always grace.
I have been reading and thinking about God’s grace for most of my adult life. One of the first good books about grace that I read maybe almost sixty years ago was penned by R. Lofton Hudson, a Baptist pastor and counselor. His book was titled Grace Is Not a Blue-Eyed Blond (1968).
Sometime before writing his book, the author was talking with a man who attended church only occasionally. Hudson asked him “What do you think of when I say the word grace?” The man’s quick reply, “Why, Grace is a blue-eyed blond!”
Well, probably not many people identify grace in such a manner, but many may need to have a deeper, more nearly adequate understanding of grace and the importance it has, or should have, in our lives.  
Concluding with Grace
After dealing with the issue of “grace vs. works,” sola gratia, and what some have called “grace abuse,” I concluded the last chapter in TTT when the assertion, “still, grace is God’s first and last word.”
Although probably not original with him, several years ago I read the following words boldly proclaimed by Archbishop Desmond Tutu:
There is nothing we can do to make God love us more.
There is nothing we can do to make God love us less.
That, truly, is the meaning of grace. And while it is necessary for us to recognize, and to beware of, grace abuse, we should always remember that the God’s first and last word is always grace.
The pivotal significance of grace is seen in the life and work of Jesus Christ.
In the first chapter of John we read, “The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth(v. 14).
And then, Out of his fullness we have all received grace in place of grace already given. For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ(vv. 16-17).
Toward the end of the first chapter of his book Grace Is Not a Blue-Eyed Blond, Hudson declares, “Primarily, grace is a face, the face of Christ and of Christian acceptance.” (p. 22).
Yes, because the Christian faith begins and ends with Jesus Christ, for the Christian—and for all the people of the world— the first and last word is grace.
Let’s never forget that, for it is certainly one extremely important true thing that everyone needs to know now.

[Here is the link to the entire 30th chapter of TTT.]


  1. Response has been slow on this Saturday morning, but the first I received was from local Thinking Friend Ed Chasteen--who I had already decided to be the subject of my next blog article.

    Ed wrote this brief comment: "In Les Miz comes the story of Jean Valjean: and GRACE."

    And then he pasted an article he had previous written about two of his favorite plays: "Our Town" and "Les Miz." That article is too long to post here, but this is the final paragraph:

    "Will Rogers is remembered for having said, 'I never met a man I didn’t like.' I’ve always wondered if he would have said, 'I never liked a man I didn’t meet.' It seems to me that one purpose of life could be to meet every person we can and expect to like every person we meet. I long ago adopted such a purpose for my own life. I’m a rich man now. Not a lot of money. But friends everywhere. And more all the time."

  2. Then I had the following response from Marilyn Peot, another local Thinking Friend.

    "Thanks, Leroy, I appreciate your sharing. It covers so much of our experience, doesn't it?

    "I can't resist sharing my take on how the meaning of grace has evolved for me:

    Embracing (enlightening, enlivening, empowering....)

    "I find that this is my experience of G R A C E. Matthew Fox says it well: Consider the immensity, intimacy and intensity of the Divine. I'm minded of Jesus' words: 'I come that they may have life and that in abundance'...and also 'I come to cast fire/love on the earth and desire that it be enkindled.' Is this not also an explanation of 'grace.'

    "Again, thanks for your brings me into this New Day!"

  3. And here are comments from Thinking Friend Glenn Hinson in Kentucky:

    "A searching thought, Leroy. In teaching Merton this semester, I’ve been impressed with how prominent this was in his thinking about spiritual formation and contemplation. We cannot simply wish ourselves to be transformed. It is God, the Holy Spirit, who does that."

  4. Thank you for leading us through your "Thirty True Things" essays. I hope many will read and appreciate your book.

    When I think about grace, I think about a book I read twenty years ago, "When We Talk about God . . . Let's Be Honest" by R. Kirby Godsey, then president of Mercer University, Macon, Georgia. (Published by Smythe & Helwys.) I read about it in Baptists Today, and bought a copy. I breezed about halfway through, thinking I knew what he was really saying, when it finally exploded in my mind that I did not. He actually meant what he said. I had to go back and reread from the beginning. It was a liberating experience. When I got to Chapter 15, "Amazing Grace," I was hooked. I volunteered to lead an Advent discussion group on the book at my church. We had a small group, but a wonderful experience. (My skeptical middle child, whom I lured into coming, told me afterwards that apparently most people at church must not think like I do, since almost no one came!)

    "We long and would even weep for grace to prevail, but, just in case, we make our own religious beds and hope and pray that God will come and lie with us when we feel alone in the dark night....In contrast to the labyrinth that we call the way to salvation, the Christian gospel is purely a proclamation of grace. Grace alone bears the burden of salvation." (Godsey, pp. 139-140)

  5. I know 3 or 4 Graces. All are blonde and blue-eyed. I have recently been re-reading Yancey's book. It has been a little more difficult this time through.

    This book has been an excellent read. I look forward to getting a copy.

    Grace does seem like a good place to end

  6. Yesterday morning, local Thinking Friend Temp Sparkman wrote, "I once told a friend that in looking back on my life experience I feel like I was carried. He replied immediately, 'That’s grace.' How has the grace you write about in the abstract been active in your life?"
    That is a good question that would take considerable time to answer fully. But it was answered briefly for me early this morning, still somewhat abstractly, by Thinking Friend Dan O'Reagan in Louisiana: "Though you put grace as the last chapter of your book, I know that it is the first chapter of your life, given in devotion and service to Him. I like what the songwriter said when he said, 'His grace is greater than my sin.' That is good enough for me. We live by grace, we serve by grace, and we die by grace."

    I grew up hearing grace defined as "undeserved favor"--and from my boyhood years to the present time I have believed, and experienced, grace as that indeed.