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 am sharing 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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Do we think about gospel as the presence of God with us? Or, do we mostly think of a courtroom? The problem with the courtroom as primary is that it is not a place of lasting friendship. You do your business in court and you leave it behind (hopefully). You aren’t a friend to the judge or even your attorney.
Trying hard to be forgiven is lifeless. It is a very human gospel. But God has actually given Himself to us. Grace is the gift of God’s own life.
Two main biblical images beyond the courtroom that help us enter into this: adoption and marriage. Both are metaphors of family and affection.
We are God’s sons and daughters in Jesus Christ. The Son has broken open his relationship with the Father to us. “Abba” is Jesus’s prayer, and we are invited to pray it in Jesus. He is a Son by nature. We are children by grace.
Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ. For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love he predestined us for adoption to sonship through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will— to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves. (Ephesians 1:3-6 NIV)
For through him we both have access to the Father by one Spirit. And in him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit. (Ephesians 2:18, 22 NIV)
In adoption, we break open our lives to welcome a child into them. This is what God has done for us.
Through these he has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature, having escaped the corruption in the world caused by evil desires. (2 Peter 1:4 NIV)
Legal issues are involved in adoption and marriage, but this isn’t the focus. We don’t dwell on a marriage license or adoption papers. The focus in these is love—relationship. Adoption and marriage give us a new identity. It’s a relational reality.
A courtroom is not the ongoing purpose of the Christian life.
The prodigal son could only assume his true identity at the loving initiative of the father. He couldn’t get past the dutifulness of a slave.
Do we treat grace as limited, as if someone else receiving grace diminishes its availability to me?
We tend to turn everything into a mechanism that we control. It doesn’t become about being with God.
Do we go to church as a mechanism to feel forgiven, or as a place where, together, we come to know and enjoy God and be known by God?
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