It Truly is Grace that Saves

OK, I admit it.  I’m a graceaholic!  I just can’t pass up a well-written discussion about grace or an illustration of grace in action.  I hope that like me you will appreciate this article by Tullian Tchividjian who Pastors the Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church in Coral Ridge, Florida.  Pastor Tchividjian is a grandson or Billy and Ruth Graham.  RMF

Tullian Tchividjian

Tullian Tchividjian

The Mathematics of Grace

By: Tullian Tchividian

I love the way Philip Yancey describes the discrepancy between our instincts and God’s instincts in his book What’s So Amazing About Grace?

By instinct I feel I must do something in order to be accepted. Grace sounds a startling note of contradiction, of liberation, and every day I must pray anew for the ability to hear its message.

Eugene Peterson draws a contrast between Augustine and Pelagius, two fourth-century theological opponents. Pelagius was urbane, courteous, convincing, and liked by everyone. Augustine squandered away his youth in immorality, had a strange relationship with his mother, and made many enemies. Yet Augustine started from God’s grace and got it right, whereas Pelagius started from human effort and got it wrong. Augustine passionately pursued God; Pelagius methodically worked to please God. Peterson goes on to say that Christians tend to be Augustinian in theory but Pelagian in practice. They work obsessively to please other people and even God.

Each year in spring, I fall victim to what the sports announcers diagnose as “March Madness.” I cannot resist the temptation to tune in to the final basketball game, in which the sole survivors of a sixty-four-team tournament meet for the NCAA championship. That most important game always seems to come down to one eighteen-year-old kid standing on a freethrow line with one second left on the clock. He dribbles nervously. If he misses these two foul shots, he knows, he will be the goat of his campus, the goat of his state. Twenty years from now he’ll be in counseling, reliving this moment. If he makes these shots, he’ll be a hero. His picture will be on the front page. He could probably run for governor. He takes another dribble and the other team calls time, to rattle him. He stands on the sideline, weighing his entire future. Everything depends on him. His teammates pat him encouragingly, but say nothing.

One year, I remember, I left the room to answer a phone call just as the kid was setting himself to shoot. Worry lines creased his forehead. He was biting his lower lip. His left leg quivered at the knee. Twenty thousand fans were yelling, waving banners and handkerchiefs to distract him. The phone call took longer than expected, and when I returned I saw a new sight. This same kid, his hair drenched with Gatorade, was now riding atop the shoulders of his teammates, cutting the cords of a basketball net. He had not a care in the world. His grin filled the entire screen.

Those two freeze-frames—the same kid crouching at the free throw line and then celebrating on his friends’ shoulders—came to symbolize for me the difference between ungrace and grace.

The world runs by ungrace. Everything depends on what I do. I have to make the shot.

Jesus calls us to another way, one that depends not on our performance but his own. We do not have to achieve but merely follow. He has already earned for us the costly victory of God’s acceptance.


About ronfurg

Former naval officer, federal investigator, forensic scientist, senior executive service member and pastor. In retirement serves as volunteer and life group leader at New Life Christian Church ( Devoted to beautiful wife, kids and grandkids. Looking forward to the time when every knee will bow and every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord of all and that He is the Way, the Truth, and the Life.
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2 Responses to It Truly is Grace that Saves

  1. james jordan says:

    “Pelagius was urbane, courteous, convincing, and liked by everyone. Augustine squandered away his youth in immorality, had a strange relationship with his mother, and made many enemies. Yet Augustine started from God’s grace and got it right, whereas Pelagius started from human effort and got it wrong.”

    Sounds like Pelagius got it right to me. “Grace” in Augustine’s sense is no better than “welfare”: the losers in life are always looking for a handout that they don’t have to lift a finger for. The sexually immoral always want grace/welfare, both from God and the State. The sexual immoral like Augustine with his live-in-girlfriend and all his illegitimate kids, of course, wanted God to just overlook it all without repentance by “grace” and for the state to feed all kids by “welfare.” Meanwhile, Pelagius’ followers waited for marriage, were faithful to their wives once married, and provided for their own kids. Pelagius himself was a lifelong celibate, and not like the modern Roman Augustinian clergy who takes vows of celibacy but cannot keep them because they’re hoping for “grace” that they never recieve. Without vows, Pelagius lived it lifelong, by faithfulness without welfare. Pelagius will have the only true grace that exists — God’s mercy in the day of Judgement. While Augustine will have hell-fire.

  2. ronfurg says:

    James — Thanks for checking out my wee blog. I’ll leave it to my handful of readers to discern the validity of your comments. I do believe that much is expected of a Christian starting with love and followed closely with the command to be a disciple-making disciple of Jesus. Further I believe that grace empowers a Christian to live a life worthy of the Savior’s sacrifice. I side with Bonhoeffer in denouncing what amounts to the “cheap grace” dispensed by many modern churches. Finally, whether early or late we ALL need God’s grace. Without it we’re lost and without hope.

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