1589) Powerful Grace

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By John V. Halvorson, How Long, O Lord?, 1986, pages 32-3 (paraphrased)

     Pete was the best mechanic I ever knew.  He had worked at the same garage for fifteen years.  Business had grown to the point that an additional mechanic was needed.  The owner of the company hired Fred, a much younger man than Pete.  They had very different personalities.  Pete was modest and reserved, while Fred was outgoing, friendly, and gregarious.  Fred was well liked, and many people who had appreciated Pete, now began to prefer Fred.

     Pete grew jealous and felt threatened by this new man.  He thought to himself, “I’ll have to be clever about it, but I can think of ways to undermine this new man.  Then people won’t think he is so great.”

     But then in a quiet moment, Pete began to recall some things he had heard in church about the grace of God.  Grace, he recalled, was more than just pardon and forgiveness, but there was also a power in being gracious.  On one level, being merciful and gracious seemed weak to Pete, but he remembered Romans 1:16 which says, “I am not ashamed of the Gospel, for it is the power of God unto salvation.”

     Pete had learned that grace was a power that could penetrate deep within his soul, melt his pride, and make him a stronger and better person.  When Pete began to pray for grace to help him adjust to this new situation, he experienced some of this power.  He decided that he too could, and should, be gracious.

     In the meantime, without anything being said by either man, Fred was sizing up the situation in his own way.  He graciously began to pull back and push Pete forward, thus giving Pete a feeling of security.  Pete no longer felt threatened, and he was able to let go of his jealousy.  

     We sometimes call this grace that people show each other common grace.  It can flow from special grace, which is the grace that God has shown to us in the person of Jesus Christ, and which comes to us as pardon and power.  Frequently, it is in the midst of common grace that we come to know the meaning of special grace.  God’s grace is the dynamic which makes change possible when something old is threatened by something new.

     Grace is a powerful force.  That is what we mean when we sing in verse four of that favorite old Christmas carol, Joy to the World:  “He rules the world, with truth and grace.”

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Romans 1:16a  —  I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes.

Acts 6:8  —  Stephen, a man full of God’s grace and power, performed great wonders and signs among the people.

Acts 4:33  —  With great power the apostles continued to testify to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus.  And God’s grace was powerfully at work in them all.

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Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound,
That saved a wretch like me.
I once was lost but now I’m found,
Was blind, but now I see.

‘Twas Grace that taught my heart to fear.
And grace, my fears relieved.
How precious did that grace appear,
the hour I first believed.

–John Newton  (1725-1807)