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Saturday, May 5, 2012

Justified by faith

Grace is one of those topics that is often discussed and argued about.  And I find it humorous that the Apostle Paul is called upon to justify any and all sides of the issue.  Jeff Lindsay over at Mormanity had a great post that talks about Paul's views on Grace that I'd definitely recommend you take a look at.  He makes some great points about what Paul taught...and does so in a really funny way! 

Whenever I think of Grace, I think of one of my favorite talks that I've ever read.  It's a training given by Elder Gene R. Cook titled "Teaching by the Spirit and Learning How to Receive Blessings From the Lord".  In this talk, given at a CES Seminary and Institute Meeting on June 30, 1989, Elder Cook talks about grace.  Elder Cook then says,

"The best definition I know of for the word 'grace' is 'enabling power.' If you look in your Bible Dictionary you will find those terms there.  It's a great definition.  If you have not taken the time, look up every verse you can find that mentions 'grace' and put 'enabling power' in its place.  you will then understand some doctrines about grace which you have never understood before. It is a great concept."
I have taken Elder Cook's advice, and this activity of putting "enabling power" in the place of "grace" truly does open your eyes to a meaning of grace that is otherwise easy to overlook.  I echo Elder Cook's recommendation, try it, you'll be glad you did!

Let me share a couple scriptures that describe to me how I think of grace. 

In Alma 42, Alma is talking to his son Corianton and explaining mercy and justice when he says,

"...whosoever will come may come and partake of the waters of life freely; and whosoever will not come the same is not compelled to come..." verse 27
And in 3 Nephi 10 The Lord is bemoaning the fact the the people had chosen to not come unto him,

"...how oft would I have gathered you as a hen gathereth her chickens, and ye would not." verse 5

These scriptures describe kind of how I think grace works.  GRACE IS ABSOLUTELY FREE.  If it wasnt free, "...grace is no more grace..." (Romans 11:6).  I'm sure many of my non-member friends expect that I will argue with them on this point.  I will not.  Grace is free, there is absolutely no way we can "earn" grace. 

Elder Cook puts it this way,

"Let's assume for just a moment that one of you puts in some but not all that is required and sitll obtains [a] blessing. My question is this, who put in the balance? Someone had to.  The Lord Jesus Christ did, didn't He? Jesus put it in for him and that's why the man got the blessing.  In other words, none of us have received one blessing, ever, in our whole lives, in which the Lord Jesus Christ did not pay part of the requirement." (emphasis added).

That being said, I believe we do have to do some things in order to make grace effective in our lives.  Hence these scriptures.  "whosoever will come may come...whosoever will not...is not compelled..."  God is not going to force us to partake of His grace.  He offers it freely, and it is our responsibility to accept it. 

Its like when someone comes up to you with a plate of cookies.  All he can do is hold out the plate and say "would you like a cookie?" It then becomes your responsibility to reach out, grab a cookie, and eat it.  Until you do your part, you will not enjoy the great tasting cookie. 

Just becase you had to put forth effort does not mean that the cookies are not free! 

Likewise, just because we must put forth effort to access the grace of God does not mean that it is somehow not free or that we are "earning" grace. 

This is what, I believe, Nephi was saying when he said,

"...we know that it is by grace that we are saved, after all we can do" 2 Nephi 25:23 (emphasis added)
That brings us back to the idea of grace as an "enabling power".  Grace is what makes up what we lack, and we all lack!  We all need grace! 

Next week I want to talk a little more about how we can access grace in our day to day lives. 

Until that time, I would strongly encourage each of you to take Elder Cook's challenge, go through your scriptures and write the words "enabling power" in the margin next to every reference to grace, then read the verse, substituting the words "enabling power" for "grace" in the verse.  Does this change how you view grace?

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Photo courtesy of Rachel Ford James, Some Rights Reserved

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