Wanna know a secret? I wrote the whole of Embrace Grace before I wrote the opening. The first draft began with, “The forgiven life. The grace-filled life.” All well and good, but I didn’t exactly invite you in and offer you a chair, did I?
Something had to be done. I wanted you to feel wrapped in God’s loving embrace from page one.
So, I prayed at length, and then typed the words, “I’ve been waiting for you. Holding this good news close to my heart…”
My eyes filled with tears. Yes, Lord. That’s it.
Soon an image came to mind: scratchy wool coats of guilt and regret, weighing us down
Then I pictured us taking off those heavy winter coats and hanging them up for good. Thank you, dear Jesus. You alone make that possible.
Of all the books I’ve ever written and all the messages I’ve ever spoken, this is the one I care about most. Why? Because only God’s grace can set us free. And because I long for every believer to experience the Forgiven Life—especially you!
If you’ve ever heard or read my Former Bad Girl testimony, you know how desperately I need the grace of God—not only for those ten Bad Girl years, but also for every hour since I stumbled out of the baptistry. More on that when we reach the chapter “Embrace Sin.” (Eek!)
For the moment, let’s turn to the opening epigraph, taken from the book of Romans, meant to capture the heart of Embrace Grace. (If you’re reading on Kindle, your e-book probably opened to page one. Just back up two pages and you’ll be all set.)
Now, compare what’s in my book to what’s in your Bible, and you’ll see I quoted only the second half of verse one and the first half of verse two, hoping to emphasize the word peace at the start and grace at the end.
Great, Liz. But you left out the most important part!
Right. Now is the perfect time to fix that. Here’s the whole passage, which neatly sums up this week’s lesson.
Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God. Romans 5:1-2
Honey, that is a mouthful. Actually, a plateful. Let’s carve it into bite-size pieces.
Therefore… Romans 5:1
This word points to something vital in the previous chapter of Romans. There, Paul focuses on the difference between faith and works in the life of Abraham, an old man whose wife, Sarah, was past the age of childbearing. Even so, God told Abraham that Sarah would bear him a son.
Crazy as it sounded, Abraham had to take God’s promise on faith. As the Word so beautifully puts it, “Against all hope, Abraham in hope believed” (Romans 4:18).
Even so, he believed.
However you translate it, this is a truth worth jotting down in your journal, worth committing to memory, worth hiding inside your heart:
“He was past hope, yet in hope he trusted” (CJB).
“When it all seemed hopeless, Abraham still had faith in God” (CEV).
“Even when there was no reason for hope, Abraham kept hoping” (NLT).
He believed. He hoped. He trusted.
“The same thing gets said about us when we embrace and believe the One who brought Jesus to life when the conditions were equally hopeless” (Romans 4:24 MSG).
Resurrect a dead body? Can’t be done. Oh, that’s right. It has been done.
When we say we have faith, we’re saying that we believe God raised his Son from the dead, and that he can and will do the same for us.
Think of some issue in your life that seems…well, impossible. What would happen if you believed? if you hoped? if you trusted?
Suppose you said, “Lord, I don’t know how you’re going to manage this, but I don’t need to know how. I only need to know Who.”
That’s what it means to embrace grace. It means we hang onto this thing called faith and run with it, like Abe did.
…since we have been justified through faith,… Romans 5:1
I don’t know about you, but the word justified trips me up. It sounds so legal, so formal. Or worse, like we’re making excuses, trying to justify our bad behavior.
But we don’t justify ourselves; that’s entirely God’s doing. Because of his gift of grace, we’re “acquitted” (AMP). Off the hook, if you will. Set free. “Put right with God” (GNT) and “declared not guilty” (OJB).
It’s the best news in town, beloved. Especially when you consider what a big yield our tiny mustard seed of faith produces.
…we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ… Romans 5:1
Peace. It’s what we pray for, long for, plead for—at home, at work, and all around the globe.
I feel a momentary sense of peace when my house is clean, my family is sleeping, and I’m holding an armload of freshly folded bath towels, still warm from the dryer. But that sort of peace is so temporary it’s laughable. Within hours sticky crumbs will cover my kitchen counters, and wet towels will hang limp over the banister in the hall.
Peace with God is different. It’s a forever kind of peace, a peace that truly matters, a peace that can’t be earned nor taken away. “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you” (John 14:27), Jesus told his followers.
On our own? We have no peace with God. Through Christ? Total peace with God.
Jesus is the One who makes the impossible possible. He is the One who brings us “into this place of undeserved privilege” (NLT).
If you need more peace in your life, you need more Jesus.
…through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. Romans 5:2
I love how Eugene Peterson phrases this passage: “We throw open our doors to God and discover at the same moment that he has already thrown open his door to us.” Romans 5:2 MSG ). Yes, yes, yes.
Jesus isn’t merely a gatekeeper; he’s the entranceway itself: “I am the gate; whoever enters through me will be saved” (John 10:9). And, as we read at the start of our chapter, “See, I have placed before you an open door that no one can shut” (Revelation 3:8).
Jesus is that open door. He is the one who invites us to enter into his grace, his peace. And he doesn’t mean for us to simply walk in, but to stay there and make ourselves at home. Maybe bring a bunch of people along with us, while we’re at it.
And we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God. Romans 5:2
Rejoice, dear one! Again I say, rejoice! We rejoice in the hope he gives us, and celebrate the fact that he will be glorified, and not us.
When I share my testimony, it’s never meant to glorify sin; it’s meant to glorify God. That’s why I keep the sordid details to a minimum. “If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!” (2 Corinthians 5:17). That says it all. And you gotta love that exclamation point. Rejoice!
Believe me when I tell you, thirty years ago I did not get my act together then come seeking God. Quite the opposite. God opened the door and waved me in. He bathed me, dressed me in clean clothes, and called me his daughter.
Talk about “Ta-da!”
Now, it’s your turn:
At the close of the chapter, I offer an invitation to release your burdens and lift your arms toward the One who loves you most. Sometimes in order to embrace the grace of God, we have to let go of something first. What might you need to release, in order to receive his mercy in all its fullness?
As for the three questions I posed at the end of the chapter, my own answers are already woven throughout the text of the book, so I’ll include just a brief response below. How might you answer them, the second one in particular?
- When, if ever, have you been aware of God’s tender embrace?
In that hour when I reached the bottom of my pit, I suddenly realized I was not alone. God was there—had been there, all along—right by my side, loving me through it all. The sense of his presence was very humbling. And yet so comforting.
- What words do you wish God would whisper in your ear?
You are loved. All is forgiven. I can never hear those truths often enough. His love is unceasing and unconditional. His forgiveness covers all our sins—all. On days when the world is cruel or my sin overwhelms me, these simple words keep me going.
- Are all things possible with God? How can you be sure of your answer?
The Bible states it clearly, and God’s miracles prove it unquestionably: “What is impossible with men is possible with God” (Luke 18:27). When hope begins to falter and doubt creeps in, this verse never fails to bolster my faith.
And so our journey through Embrace Grace has begun! Kindly post your comments online so others will be encouraged. (If you’re reading this via email, click on the title at the top to reach the blog). Next week we’ll Embrace Doubt—not for good, but definitely long enough to get real.
Until then, I’ll be praying for a peace-filled week for each one of us!
Your sister, Liz