Read: Colossians 1:1-2; 2 Corinthians 13:14
“Grace and peace to you from God our Father.” Paul often opens his letters with this salutation. What a greeting! While we tend to start an email or a text with just “hey” or “hello,” wouldn’t it be great to open a message with the words of Paul? In the same way, he often closes his letters with a benediction that mentions the grace of Christ, as he does in 2 Corinthians.
Grace can be difficult to define. When we describe grace we often use words like love, mercy, forgiveness, acceptance, generous, initiating, unconditional, undeserving, unmerited, unearned. All of these terms are a collage of what is packed into the little word grace.
In the second century, a church leader named Irenaeus wrote, “[Jesus] became what we are that we might become what he is.” What a beautiful definition of grace!
Reflect: Take a moment to reflect on God’s grace to you. Think about God’s work of salvation. Think about his goodness to you. Take a moment to reflected on the unmerited, unearned gifts of grace.
Pray: God, thank you for your gift of salvation from Jesus. Help me to remember that grace and peace come from you. Thank you for your favor and love. Amen.
Read: John 1:14-17
In The Message, verse 17 is paraphrased this way:
We all live off his generous bounty,
gift after gift after gift.
We got the basics from Moses,
and then this exuberant giving and receiving,
This endless knowing and understanding—
all this came through Jesus, the Messiah.
All of this grace, gift after gift after gift, comes to us as a gift from Jesus, the Messiah.
You will notice in the passages we read yesterday that Paul doesn’t just wish his readers grace and peace, he emphasizes that these come from God. Grace comes from God, through Jesus. Because of this unmerited favor, we can have peace with God. Grace isn’t just some unnamed force, it is a gift. And it is a gift with a giver. Grace is the unconditional initiating action of the one named Jesus.
Because we know this grace is a gift from God, we cannot brag that we have done anything to earn it (see Eph. 2:8-9). Instead, this gift should humble us and lead us to give thanks and praise.
Reflect: Do you feel like grace is a gift from God? How does it make you feel to be in need of God’s favor?
Pray: God, thank you for your generous bounty! Help me to remember that grace is a gift from you. Keep me humble and thankful to you. Help me to not feel like I have done something special to earn your love, God. Amen.
Read: Exodus 34:5-7
So far this week, we have established that grace is a very big idea, and one that can be difficult to define. Sometimes, when something is difficult to describe, it’s easier to understand it in a story. What does grace look like? Thankfully, Scripture is full of stories that demonstrate God’s grace.
When we typically look for stories of grace, we look to the New Testament and Jesus. But the Old Testament is also full of grace. In Exodus, we see God described as compassionate and gracious. In Exodus 34, Moses has gone up to Mount Sinai. Here, God visits Moses in a cloud and reveals more of his character. He is telling the people, “I know what you need. I love you. I am patient with you. I am worthy of your trust.” Later in this chapter, God renews his covenant, or his promises, with the people. Even though they have messed up, he is abounding in love and forgiveness.
From the very beginning, God has sought to save his people and help them to flourish. God knows our needs and seeks to provide for us. And our very first and most pressing need is for his grace.
Reflect: Do you have stories of grace in your own life? Take a moment to write down a time when God has been gracious to you.
Pray: God, help me to remember your gracious love to your people. In times of doubt, help me to return to stories of your graciousness, both in Scripture and in my own life. Help me to cling to your grace. I love you, God. Amen.
Read: Jonah 4; Luke 10:25-37
In the story of Jonah, God commands the prophet Jonah to proclaim judgement on Nineveh. Instead, Jonah runs away. Why? Because he did not want to give the people there a chance to repent. Jonah knew that God was gracious and forgiving, and he did not want his enemies to receive that grace for themselves.
What’s very interesting in the book, is that earlier Jonah was happy to be on the receiving end of God’s grace (see Jonah 2:2-9), but he did not want others to receive God’s graciousness.
We can often be like Jonah. We are happy when God gives grace to us, but we don’t want that extended to others. We don’t want to have to show grace to anyone else. As Christians, our goal should be to become more and more like Jesus, abounding in grace and love.
The story of the Good Samaritan in Luke 10 shows us that we need to extend grace and mercy far beyond what makes us comfortable. Jonah’s story and Jesus’ parable show us that grace should be extended even to those we dislike. Ninevites and Samaritans, neighbors and family members, those with differing political views or cultural backgrounds, everyone is deserving of God’s grace—and yours.
Reflect: Who needs your grace this week? Who have you been reluctant to show grace to?
Pray: God, I am the recipient of your grace and mercy, but sometimes I fail to show that to others. Forgive me for this sin, God. Show me the people around me who need my grace and help me to give it to them. Amen.
Read: Luke 15:11-31
Many of us are probably familiar with the story that we read for today. The story of the prodigal son is one of Jesus’ most impactful parables. We have spent this week diving into some passages that reveal Jesus’ grace. Jesus tells this story as a response to Jewish leaders who criticized him for welcoming sinners and eating with them (see 15:1-2). Earlier in Luke, Jesus is called “a friend of tax collectors and sinners.” The story of the prodigal son is the last of three parables in chapter 15 that emphasize the grace and mercy of God.
When you read this story, can you imagine the father running in verse 20? What a sweet picture of how Jesus responds to us. When we are still a long way off, he runs to us. He replaces our rags with a robe and prepares a feast and a celebration. What was once lost has been found!
Jesus rejoices when we return to him. What a beautiful picture of grace Jesus paints in this story.
Reflect: Who do you identify most with in the story? Is it the younger son who runs away and squanders his inheritance? Or is it the older son who resents his father’s easy grace?
Pray: God, thank you for your grace. Help me to recognize it for the precious gift that it is. Help me to always treasure you and never forget your sacrifice for me. Help me to rejoice when others turn to you. We love you, God. Amen.
- Songs We Sing
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