John Henry Jowett writes that he walked by the incoming sea and read the following verses to the accompaniment of the incoming tide. He said that the onrush of the ocean seemed to get into the words, as if the grace of God was roaring toward him and toward the entire human race in an overwhelming and glorious flood.
In (Jesus) we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace, which he lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insight… (Ephesians 1:7–8)
God often uses the circumstances of life as an exclamation mark for the truths He shows me from His Word. Faith in Him is a practical and real part of my life. I am thankful for all His “comments” that link truth with experience, just as Jowett was grateful for the ocean’s suggestion of energy in the ministry of grace. As he says, grace is too commonly regarded as a pleasing sentiment, a gentle feeling of favor toward us by God, but such an interpretation is weak. Grace is not like a shimmering lake, but like the “sunlit majesty of an advancing sea.” Grace is a superior and indescribable force, the energy of God “washing against the polluted shores of human need.”
I agree. I’m far from the ocean at the moment, but can imagine grace as a tide, as God’s deliberate choice to love us and want the best for us, over and over, like waves at the shore. Grace is more than a favorable inclination on His part, but a surging energy that moves toward sinners like the fullness of an ocean tide.
In the past few weeks, this amazing grace has washed over me time and time again, like a relentless tidal power. I’ve struggled with temptation and grace is there. I’ve opened the Word and grace has opened my heart to the beauty of God. Sometimes I’ve expected chastening blows, but been surprised by a glorious refreshing. The grace of God is incredible and unexpected. It woos the heart and mends all brokenness. My attempts to describe it are wimpy, but grace is never weak. It energizes and heals with unspeakable power.
It is grace that enables God’s people to do right. Notice the connection in these verses between grace and action…
Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that having all sufficiency in all things at all times, you may abound in every good work. (2 Corinthians 9:7–8)
This instance is about giving, but it is true in all instances. No matter what God asks me to do, His grace abounds that I might do it. His grace is the dynamic of obedience, the energy of all decisions made to serve Jesus Christ. Grace is also from God alone, not in any thing I have or can do apart from Him. This is why He says, “Do not be led away by diverse and strange teachings, for it is good for the heart to be strengthened by grace…” (Hebrews 13:9)
Grace is not license. That is, the goodness of God does not roll over my life so that I might freely do whatever sin invites me to do. That presumption fits the way of a determined sinner and is the way that leads to death.
Or do you presume on the riches of his kindness and forbearance and patience, not knowing that God’s kindness is meant to lead you to repentance? But because of your hard and impenitent heart you are storing up wrath for yourself on the day of wrath when God’s righteous judgment will be revealed. (Romans 2:4–5)
Grace is poured out, washed over, splashed on me lavishly, that I would turn from sin and walk into the roaring surf of grace with confidence in the God who wants me to experience Him in oceanic fullness. He is never like the scanty trickle in a stream during a drought, but always like the powerful waves of a never-ceasing ocean tide.