His Transforming Grace
What do we mean when we say, “His Grace Transforms”?
First of all, it means that only God can bring this transformative work within us. His work is so necessary because we are absolutely without any power to bring this change nor are we even able to offer God a helping hand. The Bible speaks about our sin condition in wide-ranging ways: we are dead (Eph. 2:1); deceitful (Jer. 17:9); filthy dirty (Isa. 1:18; 64:6); wayward (Isa. 53:6); lawless (1 John 3:4); ungodly, and certainly not ever God seeking (Rom. 3:10-18); and alienated from God and hard hearted (Eph. 4:17-18). We fall way short of God’s glory (Rom. 3:23); we suppress God’s truth (Rom. 1:18); and we act out in rebellious sinful ways (Rom. 1:21-32; Eph. 4:19). This is the depth of our wretchedness (Rom. 7:24); the stink of our condition (Isa. 6:5); and eternal judgment is what we justly deserve (Rom. 6:23). In our sinful condition, we are categorically without any hope. But God would have none of this!
Grace transformation begins when the heart of our soul hears those words – “BUT GOD!” Ephesians 2:4-5 boasts of the lavishness of God’s wondrous grace, “But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, [God] made us alive together with Christ – by grace you have been saved.”
Jerry Bridges, in his book, Transforming Grace, wrote:
“We were dead in our transgressions, but God intervened. We were in bondage to sin, but God intervened. We were objects of wrath, but God intervened. God Who is rich in mercy intervened. Because of His great love for us, God intervened and made us alive with Christ, even when we were dead in our transgressions and sins. All this is summed up in one succinct statement: ‘it is by grace you have been saved.’ Our condition was hopeless, but God intervened in grace.”
But the Lord did not stop there – His gifts of grace cascade upon us. By grace through faith in Christ, God grants us faith to trust in Jesus (Eph. 2:8-9), declares us righteous (2 Cor. 5:21), clothes us with Christ (Rom. 13:14), and gifts us with the Holy Spirit (Eph. 1:13-14). He empowers us to live in ways that please Him (Eph. 4:25-5:2) and His transforming grace enables us to say no to sin (Titus 2:11-14). Through His redeeming grace we are adopted into a new family (Eph. 1:4), given new status as His own dear child (Rom. 8:15-17) and deserving of that imperishable inheritance in glory (1 Pet. 1:3-5).
As Philip Graham Ryken, pastor of Tenth Presbyterian of Philadelphia wrote, “The Gospel of Grace:
is not man’s good news about God,
rather, it is God’s good news for man.
This doctrine of grace truly overwhelms our mind and nourishes our soul, but the real transformation takes root deep in our heart – for this is where we grasp the ‘awfulness’ of that Good News. We the unworthy sinner receive grace because Jesus the worthy true Son received the cross. This bloody sacrifice was typified in the death of the innocent lamb that was slain so that the angel of death would pass over the Israelites. This horribleness was prophesied by Isaiah, “He was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was laid on him, and by his wounds we are healed” (Isa. 53:5). When the heart of our very own soul is deeply broken at the knowledge that Jesus suffered and died for me – that through Christ alone we have been brought from death to life – then and only then may we personally experience the transformative power of His grace.
Word of warning – once this transformative power begins to work, nothing can stand in its way! Paul was transformed from ruthlessly persecuting the church to being ruthlessly persecuted for the sake of Christ. Peter was transformed from being a fisherman to a fisher of men. Zacchaeus was transformed from a cheating tax collector to one who gave half his riches to the poor. The demon possessed man of Gerasenes (Luke 8) was transformed from being filled by a legion of demons to a man of God who could now praise the Name of God. John Newton the slave trader and sex trafficker was transformed into a humble pastor and hymn-writer. Later in his old age he said, “My memory is nearly gone, but I remember two things: that I am a great sinner and that Christ is a great Savior.”