“For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life.” John chapter 3, verse 16, is one that is known by many of us by memory. It is a perfect verse to sum up the gospel of Jesus. That’s probably why we see it on signs everywhere to evangelize others. It’s an intensely powerful concept to think about if we spend the time. God gave a son, God’s only son as a way for us to have eternal life with God. God sacrificed everything for the sake of humankind that he created and loved. That’s a pretty big deal. It’s easy to forget just how much that means. As we get closer to Jerusalem, we will begin to watch the drama unfold as we see just how deep a sacrifice it is.

In our Wednesday night study this past week, we spoke about grace. One of our members said that for them, grace was perhaps the most important thing about Christianity. Our Prayer Book Catechism defines grace this way: “Grace is God’s favor toward us, unearned and
undeserved; by grace God forgives our sins, enlightens our minds, stirs our hearts, and strengthens our wills.” It’s important, so let’s hear it again: “Grace is God’s favor toward us, unearned and undeserved; by grace God forgives our sins, enlightens our minds, stirs our hearts, and strengthens our wills.” There is so much in that definition for us to look at and be grateful for. Paul’s letter to the Ephesians talks about grace being given to us; it is not our own doing. We cannot earn God’s favor by what we do; it is purely a gift given by God to us who are by our very humanity, undeserving. Well, what about when people do good things, people ask. Does that matter to God? Well, yes it does matter, but not in the way we sometimes get tricked into believing. God doesn’t give us his favor because we do good things; we do good things in response to God’s love and favor. We are created, according to Paul, in Jesus, so that we might do good works. No amount of good works can earn our way to salvation; only God can make us worthy. Thankfully, God HAS made us worthy in the Son, in the life, death and resurrection of Jesus.

When you hear that definition, that grace “enlightens our minds, stirs our hearts, and strengthens our wills” what comes to mind? What does that sound like to you? Could it be, that grace is not just a concept, but that it too, is wrapped up in the life of the Trinity? Could it be that the gift of grace is actually the gift of the Holy Spirit? It appears to me that the two are extremely closely related at the very least. It is the Spirit that strengthens our wills enabling us to do good works, is it not the Holy Spirit that stirs our hearts, helping us to see Jesus in the world and in the people around us?

However we see it, however we define it, grace is most certainly a foundational concept for us. It’s also difficult for many of us to accept. I talk to people all the time who cannot grasp the love that God has for them; that somehow they have to do something in order for God to love them. In the brokenness that we all feel, it can be a difficult thing to accept God’s gift without thinking there’s a catch, some kind of this for that; we are so accustomed to people making us earn love. Thanks be to God, that in the kingdom of God, it doesn’t work like that. God has enough love and grace for all of us; and it is ours without God expecting anything in return. God so loved the world; may we love God and the world that he loves enough to give absolutely everything.