Ch 1- Something Is Radically Wrong
The idea that we have to do something to earn our salvation. “Put bluntly, the American church today accepts grace in theory but denies it in practice.” He says that “our culture has made the word grace impossible to understand.” p16
“Though the Scriptures insist on God’s initiative in the work of salvation–that by grace we are saved–our spirituality often starts with self, not God. Personal responsibility has replaced personal response…The emphasis is on what I do rather than on what God is doing.” p17
But “sooner or later we are confronted with the painful truth of our inadequacy…We discover our inability to add even a single inch to our spiritual stature.” He says then that “life takes on a joyless, empty quality.” To this, “something is radically wrong.” p17-18
The remainder of the chapter takes a pretty poetic look at grace. Too much for me to quote. I’m left desiring a deeper practice of grace in my life, but at the same time I feel like that is missing the point.
“Our approach to the Christian life is as absurd as the enthusiastic young man who had just received his plumber’s license and was taken to see Niagara Falls. He studied it for a minute and then said, ‘I think I can fix this.'” p18
His stance is basically that we need radical acceptance of anyone and everyone in the church. That’s something we say, but difficult to practice.
I think his main point about grace in this chapter is based on Romans 1:17, that the “gospel reveals the righteousness of God to us.” He quotes Martin Luther who asked during the Reformation, “How could the gospel of Christ be truly called ‘good news’ if God is a righteous judge who rewards the good and punishes the evil?” I’m struggling to fully understand this point, but I think he’s saying that if the gospel (which means, good news) allows us to know God – and to know that he is good – how could it be a negative message if I don’t follow it? That would be bad news. He explains then, that the light clicked for Luther when he understood that God’s righteousness was not for himself (passive) but “for the sake of Jesus Christ, God made sinners righteous (that is, active righteousness) through the forgiveness of sins in justification.” p19-20
So apparently there’s a connection here between being made right with God, and his love for me. “Justification by grace through faith” then means that God loves me no matter what I do. He says “this is almost too incredible for us to accept. Nevertheless, the central affirmation of the Reformation stands: Through no merit of ours, but by His mercy, we have been restored to a right relationship with God through the life, death, and resurrection of His beloved Son. This is the Good News, the gospel of grace.” p20-21
I’m still a little confused. I’m reading this book with some old guys from church though, and maybe they’ll help clear it up.