Wednesday, November 2, 2011
In the book, The Grace of God, by Andy Stanley, God's grace is portrayed in story form fashion and Andy creates a fresh angle on a popular subject. To those who find the Old Testament God lacking in grace, Andy argues that the divine intent from the beginning was to show mankind huge grace with little requirement.
After Adam and Eve sinned grace brought discipline rather than destruction and provided redemption through the promise of Jesus who would crush the serpent's head. The story continues with each chapter highlighting a Biblical character whose life showcases God's grace.
Abraham was chosen to begin a nation through which God would fulfill His plan to send Christ. Through Moses, God initiated relationship with a nation of Egyptian slaves and then gave them His law to confirm His care for them. The law is intended not to make us good, but to keep us free from the natural consequences of sin. When the law is broken, God's grace included instructions for how to make amends.
Other Biblical stories in the book include God sparing Rahab's life in the Jericho account, grace that was bigger than David's notorious sin with Bathsheba, and a grace that complicated Jonah's life by calling him to administer grace to an enemy nation. Grace is God's response to the thirsty soul as evidenced in Jesus' encounter with the Samaritan woman.
Lastly, the author challenges the church to neither add to or take away from this Grace, or it will not longer be Grace. Let the church not make it difficult for the new believer to be embraced and accepted.
Without complicated theological arguments or definitions, the Grace of God is a comfortable read. There were sections where I believe the author takes a fair amount of liberty in assigning motive or conclusion to a Biblical account. Nicodemus probably became a believer after his late night clandestine visit with Jesus. He is openly involved in removing Jesus' body from the cross. However, Stanley covers almost 5 pages explaining how Nicodemus reasoned his way to faith and then makes this statement, referring to the crucifixion of Christ.
"Nicodemus stood in the crowd and watched as Jesus was lifted up. Perhaps he was the only one who understood the significance and sacredness of that moment. And as he watched the Messiah die, he believed. He was born from above. For the first time in his righteous life, he had assurance of a righteous standing with God." (p. 160)
Another section that bothered me was, again, within the Nicodemus story. To Nicodemus, Jesus compares his death to how Moses lifted up the bronze serpent in the wilderness. Stanley claimed the Israelites had wandered into an area that had poisonous snakes. As many people where dying, God instructs Moses to create the snake to set on a pole. (Num. 21:9). "It was an object lesson meant to to teach the nation to look to God for their protection and provision." (p. 155) I think Stanley misses the redemptive message in the Numbers account. Verse 7 clearly implies the snakes were sent by God because the people had sinned and spoken against the Lord. The snake was raised so that anyone who looked upon it could live. Without that truth in the story there is no redemption and a comparison to Jesus' death would infer that his reason for death was less than a willing sacrifice for our salvation.
Even with these flaws, I gained a perspective on divine grace that increased my awe of a good God who loved humankind from the beginning and has always been working for reconciliation and provides a way for them to be eternally with him through sending his only son to die for their sins. This message is clearly presented in a prayer for salvation the author includes in chapter 10.
There are great quotes throughout the book that could easily be extracted for gracing a refrigerator door. I'll leave you with just a few to ponder.
"Grace is the vehicle God uses on occasion to ensure that we get precisely what we don't deserve."
"Christ's death and resurrection signaled to the world that the kingdom of God is not reserved for good people. It is reserved for forgiven people."
"In God's story, you are the focus of a celebration. Not what you've done. You."
I received this book free of charge from the Booksneeze.com program in exchange for my honest review.