Last Friday evening, Jamin Goggin, Saddleback Church’s pastor of spiritual formation, launched their first in a series of Conversations in Spiritual Formation at Saddleback’s Rancho Capistrano retreat. Kyle Strobel, author of Formed for the Glory of God, shared on the theme, “Discovering the Life of Grace.” I appreciated his insight that grace is far more than mere forgiveness, but is God’s gift of God’s own self in Jesus Christ to us. I found Kyle’s insights helpful in so many very personal ways. In gratitude I wanted to share my notes in three installments here.
As always, when I share notes from a presentation, my standard disclaimer is that these are insights that I gained from listening to Kyle. They are sometimes his exact words or quotations. They are sometimes my own words or reflections on what he shared. So, don’t assume I’ve transcribed his presentation. And these notes are lightly edited, so bear with possible typos or grammatical goofs. I’ll take responsibility for any way in which I might have misunderstood him. With that in mind, I pray these notes will help you in your own journey of entering into the life of God’s grace.
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What has gone wrong? Why do so many claim to follow Jesus but have no experience of abundant life?
How does grace work for me?
Famous story: Prodigal son (really two sons).
As the elder brother, we may not have left home, but we’ve still become servants–dutiful. Our hearts fled to the far country. Both sons make the same error, rejecting abundant life. Both sons accepted less than they were given. They are confused about status and treasure that aren’t really that.
Some of us have tired hearts from trying so hard. Doing our duty, hoping it will be enough and that God likes you.
Here are two axioms that are universally affirmed, but widely ignored:
1. Your greatest strength will be the place of your greatest weakness.
2. If we fail to focus on the large narrative of scripture, we will whittle the gospel down to something much less than it actually is. We will then embrace it and seek to be dutiful in that small gospel.
We embrace an “older son gospel” that isn’t one. It is a gospel disconnected from a life.
Re: axiom 1: How many are unwilling to acknowledge their strength, and are therefore unable to see their weakness.
Evangelicalism has a great strength in our view of God’s graciousness. Grace cannot be earned or bought. We can’t be worthy of it.
Axiom 2: We have forgotten the grandeur and expansiveness of grace. We’ve settled for so very little.
We settle for defining grace without experiencing grace. We define it as being free without experiencing the freedom is gives us.
Our small definition of grace is forgiveness. That’s not the gospel. It’s too small. It isn’t an abundant and grace-full life.
What is this gift given to us? What is grace? It is God freely giving Himself to us. He sends the Son to show us Himself, and He gives us His Spirit to help us.
God’s presence and God’s life is the answer to every one of our issues.
The main biblical image for this is temple. There is a portable tabernacle, then a more permanent temple.
The temple involves concentric circles of holiness going outward that included more and more people for more and more time. Holiness billowed out from the holy of holies. God is with us, but there are walls. The temple was a taste but not a full realization
Jesus comes as Emmanuel–God with us. Jesus comes as the true temple, the true place of God’s presence with us.
Jesus says I will be with you, but then leaves. His Spirit comes, but we still experience absence.
All of this is leading to the culmination of the scriptures–Revelation 21—a new heaven and new earth.
I did not see a temple in the city, because the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are its temple. The city does not need the sun or the moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and the Lamb is its lamp. (Revelation 21:22-23 NIV)
The heavenly city has the same cubic dimensions as the temple’s holy of holies.
(Read Part 2)
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