Abounding Grace (6)
For it is the God who commanded light to shine out of darkness, who has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellence of the power may be of God and not of us…For all things are for your sakes, that grace, having spread through the many, may cause thanksgiving to abound to the glory of God. 2 Corinthians 4.6, 7, 15
Grace to the world
But for the grace of God, the cosmos and everything in it would cease to exist.
By the Word of His power, Jesus Christ upholds the universe and all things (Heb. 1.3). God sends the weather, causes the plants to grow and the rivers to flow, feeds the creatures, maintains the seasons, empowers people to make culture, sustains the systems of our bodies and the patterns of creation, enables communications and relationships, and keeps in check the evil inherent in human souls and throughout the fallen spiritual world (cf. Pss. 147, 104; Acts 14.17; etc.).
Why does God do this? For the same reason that He sent Jesus, the quintessence of grace: God loves the cosmos which He has made (Jn. 3.16); and in His love, He channels His goodness and grace continuously throughout the whole vast cosmos.
Theologians refer to this as the common grace of God – common, because everything that exists is upheld, enriched, served, enhanced, and sustained by it. The cosmos is charged with the grace of God, like electrical charges that pervade the ground and air, and which, when they line up just right, can discharge heat and light in the form of lightning.
Similarly, when the special grace of God connects with His common grace, sparks of awareness can fly, and the lightning bolt of salvation can bring life to a dead soul.
Lightning needs an agent to connect the charges in the ground and air – typically a thunderstorm. The lightning of saving grace requires an agent as well, and we who have come to know the saving grace of God are called to be those agents of grace to the world. We are the earthen vessels through whom saving grace can reach those who are pervaded by common grace.
Agents of grace
What’s involved in our being agents of grace to the world? First, we must have the experience of saving grace ourselves. As lightning illuminates the surrounding darkness, saving grace illuminates the dark, allowing the common grace of God to come to our awareness; and we are overwhelmed with gratitude for all the evidence of God’s love, continuously attending to us.
The more we experience of the grace of God – the more we receive His many and constant communications of grace – the more our gratitude and awareness increase, and we become charged with grace for the world.
But grace does not begin in words and deeds; it issues in them. We must make sure that we are disposed toward the world as God is. God loves the world, even the lost and those who despise and reject Him. He continues to do good for them in ways they utterly disregard. But because He is love, He can only love that which He has made.
That does not obligate Him to save all His creatures. He loves fallen human beings enough to allow them to choose their own destiny. Yet He warns and woos and pleads with them to reject the folly of rejecting Him, and to position themselves for the lightning strike of saving grace.
And He does that through people who love the lost like God does. When, infused and charged with grace upon grace, we channel that grace in love for the people around us, grace will flow like lightning toward the lost people in our lives, spreading the saving grace of God to more and more people, and increasing thanks and praise to Him for His love.
But this will happen only when we set our hearts to love the lost as God does.
Fields of grace
God’s grace is active at all times in all places in the world, including those spaces and people to whom God sends you every day. The world is comprised of myriad fields of grace! In your home, at work or school, in your neighborhood, among your friends and associates – the people you see week after week after week – God’s grace is a pervading presence in their lives. You see it, even though they don’t. And God hovers over them all, at all times, ready with the potential for a lightning strike of saving grace.
Which He may be pleased to discharge through you.
Think of the people you encounter each week. Can you see the common grace of God at work in and for them? Have you ever thought to point out to them how good the Lord is to them, like Paul did in Acts 14.17? Like Joseph did (Gen. 41.25-32), or Daniel did (Dan. 2.27-38)? You are God’s agent of grace to the world, the means whereby He connects common and saving grace to bring the heat and light of salvation to the lost. We are called to be witnesses to Jesus, and that includes proclaiming not only the Good News of the Gospel, but pointing out the inescapable, undeniable, and everywhere-in-evidence grace of God, inviting the people in our field of grace to join us in thanking and praising Him.
The followers of Christ today are sent into fields of grace, as agents of grace, to celebrate the common grace of our loving God, and to set up the conditions – by our love and witness – for saving grace to strike like lightning in the soul of a lost neighbor, co-worker, or friend.
Do you love the people in your grace field enough to be God’s agent on their behalf?
1. What is common grace, and what does this have to do with helping others come to know the Lord?
2. Why is the pervasiveness of common grace a good starting-point for setting up the conditions that bring saving grace to the lost?
3. How can Christians help one another increase in love for the lost people in their lives?
Next Steps – Transformation: Make a list of all the people in your field of grace. Start praying daily for opportunities to point out the grace of God that pervades their lives.
Grace flows from our relationship with Jesus Christ. The better we know Him, the more His grace will do its work in us. Our book, To Know Him, can help you in drawing closer to Jesus and increasing in Him. Order your copy by clicking here.
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Except as indicated, Scripture taken from the New King James Version. © Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.