Derek often said that he did not know any word that could sum up the true meaning of Christmas better than the word grace. And we hope that by exploring Derek’s teaching in this article this Christmas season will be truly blessed and meaningful for you.

What is grace?

First, I want to begin by offering you a definition of grace. This is a kind of official definition which is accepted by many Bible teachers. It does not exhaust the full meaning of grace but it is a good starting point. The definition is this: Grace is the free unmerited favour of God toward the undeserving and the ill-deserving.

Notice, first of all, that grace is free. It cannot be earned, it cannot be worked for. And then notice it is not only toward those who are undeserving but even to those who are ill-deserving. In other words, when we deserve ill, out of His grace God offers us good.

The word favour is an alternative word for grace. Especially in the Old Testament, both words are used almost interchangeably. Grace is one of the key concepts of the whole Scripture. It is unfolding begins in the Old Testament and it is brought to completeness in the New. In the New Testament, the Greek word for grace occurs 150 times. The normal New Testament salutation of Christians among themselves was “Grace and peace.” Sometimes they added also “mercy” and said, “Grace, mercy and peace ...” One thing is implied by this salutation that if you want peace, you must have grace first. The only way we can have true peace is out of the grace of God.

Most of the New Testament epistles end with the word grace with some phrase like “the grace of the Lord be with you” or “grace be with your spirit.” Now, these epistles are the primary source of our understanding of Christian living. So, the lesson really is this: that Christian living begins and ends with grace.

Grace begins with God

One common phrase that is used many times in the Old Testament incorporating this word is “to find grace (or favour) in the eyes of” somebody. For instance, it says of Noah that Noah found grace in the eyes of the Lord. That distinguished Noah from all the other men of his generation. In other words, grace has got something to do with the way that we look at people. And the grace of God has got something to do with the way that God looks at people.

There is a saying which says, “Beauty is in the eyes of the beholder.” And this is true of grace. It does not begin with us but with God. It originates out of the way that God chooses to look upon us. When He looks upon us with favour, then grace begins to operate in our lives. The concept that grace depends primarily on the way that God looks at us or sees us is beautifully illustrated by the Levitical blessings which are found in Numbers 6:22–26, a blessing that’s probably familiar to most of us who’ve ever attended church or any kind of religious service.

A blessing that is shared between Christians and Jews— both use it alike: “The Lord said to Moses, “Tell Aaron and his sons [that’s the priests], This is how you are to bless the Israelites. Say to them [and now here comes the blessing], ‘The Lord bless you and keep you: the Lord make his face shine upon you and be gracious to you: the Lord turn his face toward you and give you peace.’”

Let me single out that particular passage: “The Lord make his face shine upon you and be gracious to you, the Lord turn his face toward you,” so that grace is placed between the way the Lord looks at His people.

First, the Lord makes His face shine upon His people and then the Lord turns His face toward His people. That is the operation of the Lord’s grace. It depends on the way that the Lord looks at us. And the outcome of it, is peace. Notice, then “He gives you peace.” Peace only comes out of the grace of God.
Now there is a rather beautiful example of the Lord’s grace manifested in His looking on His people at the end of chapter 2 of Exodus describing Israel’s misery in Egypt and how the Lord began to show grace or favour toward them. It says in Exodus 2:22–25: “During that long period, the king of Egypt died. The Israelites groaned in their slavery and cried out, and their cry for help because of their slavery went
up to God. God heard their groaning and he remembered his covenant with Abraham, with Isaac, and with Jacob. So, God looked on the Israelites and was concerned about them.”

You see, here are the Israelites in desperate need and misery, unable to help themselves. All that they can hope for is the grace of God. God hears their crying and God’s response is this: “He looked on the Israelites and was concerned about them.” That is God’s favour. His grace was turned toward the Israelites. He became concerned about them. Practically, He began to move on their behalf to intervene and deliver them. But at the point where it says, “God looked on the Israelites,” that was the point which His grace began to operate on their behalf.

How to receive grace

There is one essential requirement for receiving God’s grace. Let me say straight away, that requirement is humbling ourselves. Then let me add that humility is a decision we make, no one else can do it for us. I really don’t think it’s fully scriptural to pray to God and say, “God, make me humble” because I think in the Scripture God comes back to us and says, “If you want to be humble, humble yourself.”
Let us look at some New Testament Scriptures on this theme of humbling ourselves. Let us look at James 4:6–7 (see also 1 Peter 5:5–6): “But God gives us more grace. That is why the scripture says: God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.”

Notice two different attitudes of God. To the proud He offers opposition. To the humble He offers grace. And then James goes on in the next verse: “Submit yourselves, then, to God.” In other words, if you want God’s grace, you must lay aside pride and submit yourself. Then he goes on: “Resist the devil, and he [the devil] will flee from you.” (NIV)

Once we have submitted to God, we are in a position to resist the devil. But believe me, if you try to resist the devil without being submitted to God it will be disastrous for you. The first submission is toward God. You see, by humbling ourselves we acknowledge that we need God’s grace. God never thrusts His grace on those who do not see their need of it.
There is a beautiful pattern of this in the song of praise that the Virgin Mary gave to the Lord after the angel had announced that she was to become the mother of the Messiah. We find this pattern in Luke 1:46–48: “And Mary said: “My soul praises the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior. For he has been mindful of the humble state of his servant. From now on all generations will call me blessed.” (NIV)

Notice what it was that caused the Lord to pick Mary the virgin for this unique honour among all women. It was her humble state. When the angel first appeared to her he said: “Hail, thou who art highly graced.”
It’s the same word. So, the high grace of God was bestowed upon the Virgin Mary because of her humble state. And later, in the same song she continues: “He [that is, God] has performed mighty deeds with his arm: he has scattered those who are proud in their inmost thoughts. He has brought down rulers from their thrones but has lifted up the humble. He has filled the hungry with good things but he has sent the rich away empty.” (NIV)

Notice again the emphasis on the humble and the hungry, those who feel their need of God. And then, on the other hand, God rejects the proud and the rich, those who are sufficient in themselves, those who need nothing from God—as they see it. Often the barrier of pride that keeps God’s grace out of our lives is self-righteousness. So, let me encourage you, be on your guard against that barrier. Do not bring to God your goodness, your righteousness and your religion because you will not be accepted.

Let me close with one beautiful Scripture from the New Testament. First Peter 5:10 says this:

"And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast.”

This article was taken from DPM World magazine.
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