Grace Upon Grace

“For from his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace.” (John 1:16 ESV)

Many think Grace has limits, that there’s a line we can cross into no more Grace-land. Not so! We never run out of grace. When we exit one season of Grace, we simply enter the next season of Grace. His Grace is forever! It’s not… “Grace, but…” It’s… “But Grace!” Goodness and mercy constantly pursue us, sweeping away the littered trail of our mistakes (Psalms 23:6). I believe we can have a truly happy new year when we stop reliving the past year and move forward with hope and expectation.

At the turn of this new year, I have been reflecting on the many times God’s grace was greater than my flubs, dubs, stubs, scrubs, and snubs…

The Flubs - For fumbling the ball. For allowing myself to take on more than what God called me to. For embracing drama not intended for me. For the times I wasted not investing in things of true value. For all the mess-ups and mishaps… There was Grace.

The Dubs - For trusting in my own intuition and ingenuity. For taking something simple and complicating it, spoiling the outcome. For thinking I had all the answers. For believing I could do all things through Tony who strengthens me… There was Grace.

The Stubs - For the obstacles I stumbled over. For wrong decisions and broken relationships. For the hurt I caused others and myself. For holding onto offenses and refusing to forgive. For all the bumps and bruises, scrapes and scratches… There was Grace

The Scrubs - For trying to clean up the mess and only making it worse. For not giving God time and space to work things out for my good. For trying to manipulate the situation in my favor. For trying to fix things and instead they “fixed” me… There was Grace

The Snubs - For my pride. For sneering at opportunities God gave me because they didn’t look like the ones I asked Him for. For refusing to listen to wisdom. For my know-it-all attitude. For devaluing others and being devalued. For being rejected… There was Grace

Prayer… Thank you Lord for taking my hangups and bang-ups and turning them around for my good. Your Grace has even used my failures to promote me (Romans 8:28). Your undeserved favor has brought me into high and wide open spaces. Your Grace is greater than all my sin. I will not fear what my mistakes have caused. I’m grateful that ALL is forgiven! When I am faithless You remain faithful (2 Timothy 2:13). My future is bright! My successes are not because of my hard work, striving, networking, or politicking. They are all because of You… and Grace upon Grace.

But Grace

"For if one comes and preaches another Jesus whom we have not preached, or you receive a different spirit which you have not received, or a different gospel which you have not accepted, you bear this beautifully." (2 Corinthians 11:4 NASB)

The following excerpt is from my foundational book GRACE WORKS.

Two very important distinctions in the grace message are legalism and libertarianism. We must understand these opposing viewpoints to better embrace the gospel. When you preach the pure gospel that says we are saved by grace through faith, not of works (without boundaries, exceptions or controls) that is called Libertarianism. When it is taught that we are saved by grace but also must maintain our salvation by good works and sinless living, that is called legalism. Legalism advocates that we must not sin or we jeopardize our righteous standing with God. This is not the New Testament gospel (Paul called it preaching “another Jesus”). Legalism is accompanied by the fear that unless we preach grace with stipulations, then we are throwing everything out of balance. It’s, “Yes grace BUT we must also…” or “Yes, grace BUT we must be careful…” Fear causes us to attach warnings to the message of grace. Simply stated: Legalism says, “Grace, but…” Libertarianism says, “But GRACE!”

When we try to coerce others into adhering to the standard of holy living out of fear that they will take license to sin, we fall into the tireless cycle of fear and control. Why? Control is a by-product of fear. We fear losing control of people so we impose extra addendums to keep them out of sin. Fear is the mother of all confusion. When we operate out of fear and control it only brings envy and strife. Envy and strife are the co-conspirators of confusion and evil, and where confusion and evil exists, sin will surely abound… (James 3:16 KJV).

Enforcing religious controls on people will prove ineffective to produce true holiness in them. People will comply with legalism to a point but will eventually rebel because the flesh can’t keep up with the Law. The Law eventually runs the flesh down. That’s the way God designed it. He created the Law to drive us to utter exhaustion in our own strength (Galatians 3:24). It is God’s Grace alone that totally extricates us from the harsh domination of the Law. Legalism is based on manipulation and control, which ultimately brings people back into bondage. Libertarianism however, liberates the believer to hear from God and respond to God’s power. Living in this way leads the believer towards true life-transformation.