There are two responses I get when people hear I go to The Village Church. 1. How's Matt Chandler doing, I heard he has brain cancer. 2. Oh, you're one of those Calvinists, huh? (Sometimes the second one is implied, but I just nod and hope to smile away their obvious disdain.)
1. Matt is doing great. We continue to thank God for his healing, pray that he would stay healthy and that it would glorify God. And, if he does not stay healthy, that he would suffer well and it would glorify God.
2. I've honestly never read a single thing by Calvin, couldn't name the five TULIP thingies if I tried, stumble over a simple explanation of predestination (though I stumble even more over a simple explanation of free-will), I do believe that my salvation is secure and I absolutely believe that I have unmerited grace, I don't deserve it, I can't earn it, I can't beat it, and I can't get it back because I can't lose it. So yes, I suppose that, if pressed, I would say that the effects of the reformers' teaching has profoundly affected the way I see God and salvation now. So maybe I'm reformed. Yes. I would say that I am.
But more and more (and more and more) I read the Bible and I am absolutely floored by the grace in it (every book, Old Testament and New). Grace the concept, grace the gift, grace the favor, grace the expression, grace the action, all of it. I'm surprised by its accessibility, its encompassing favor, its undeniable availability, and its absoluteness.
And what scares people off (I find) from the doctrine of grace is that it will somehow give license to sin without regard (or omit the need to do the 'work' the book of James talks about). But the truth is, all grace does is set us free to live without regard for anything else but God's glory. So people respond, "what about when people abuse it?" And I return, just because a child eats only the tops of broccoli and not the stems, do you stop telling them that the entirety of the vegetable is good for them? No! We must understand that grace is the whole truth and we keep teaching the truth until we all eat the entirety of it. (Also, God is wholly unconcerned with the possibility that we could abuse grace, it's unsoilable.)
This weekend we are at a conference (The Groaning Cosmos) and it is a steady diet of grace. Yet I am still so surprised at the staggering in my heart, the catch in my throat, the question in my soul: is it really that good? That good? So good that it will propel me into greater service for the Kingdom AND God's glory will so much more magnified by my joy?
For a legalist, like me, this is good, good news.
My heart is so bent on doing, so intent on proving, so desiring of acceptance and constantly sick in its depths. But grace, grace is the perfect antidote.
Because it is the only antidote.