Oh, you want more do you? Well, I'll try to collect my thoughts a bit. At the present, they feel rather jumbled.
I've just completed reading Extravagant Grace despite my wariness at the title. What I mean by that is that I have seen so many recent titles come out on the subject of grace these days that I'm thinking we're forgetting the fact that we're not supposed to sin. We do sin, of course, and so grace does abound as Duguid points out but I'm a little hesitant about our approach and our general obsession with this subject of late. It's not like grace has never existed in previous years or generations before so why the focus these days? When I look around at Christendom, I really don't see many strict rules or guidelines enforcing the law; rather, when I look around I see a lot of lenience with regards to the law. These being my misgivings, I liked the subtitle of this new release from P&R Publishing, which is, God's Glory Displayed in Our Weakness.
I nestled down into the couch cushions with a provided copy of Extravagant Grace and immediately got lost in the message which Duguid aspires to bring to the church. This is? You will sin. You do sin. You are a sinner. You will sin still and for as long as you are alive on this earth. But there is grace in spite of your sin which you have been committing and will continue to commit. Frequently we Christians (*cough* like myself *cough*) believe and act as if once you become a Christian you really are supposed to stop sinning. It is very true that when you become a Christian your desires are to be submitted to the Lord and that change, by necessity and by fact, will occur. However, Duguid points out that not every Christian is going to mature at the same rate or at the same levels and there is grace for every point in between.
". . . [M]any Christians wrestle with the agony of sinful failure in isolation and desperation. The silent message is deafening: Christians are people who quickly grow and change, and if you are weak and struggling you must not be a believer, or perhaps worse, you are a particularly bad Christian in whom God is very, very disappointed." (Chapter One, Welcome to Your Heart, pp 26-27)
It is a struggle for me to accept and/or acknowledge that fact that Christians can be weak, even though I know myself to be exactly that. I have a personality that comes down hard on sins which are visible to my naked eye. If you think I have ever come down hard on you, you can (and maybe should) only imagine how hard I come down on myself. I detest sin in myself and yet I go on doing some things which drive me absolutely out of my own mind. WHY do I keep sinning when I have been saved and redeemed? Instead of kicking myself, Duguid would suggest that I acknowledge that God knew I was going to sin (and might go on doing so) but that there is grace which will see me and anyone I affect with my behaviors through. He will give me grace to continue on whether or not I stop my "bad habits" or continue on with them. He will, can and does work for His glory in my weakness and displays His great strength so that I will understand that without Him all is futile. My sinful heart should pray for the desire to repent of the sins and I should ask for the Holy Spirit's help in striving to conquer the "old man" within. But above all I must understand that there is no obedience unless God gives me the grace and the help to obey. Everything starts and finishes with God and that is why we take note of the concept of grace because it is everything to us.
This next passage is rather long but I think it summarizes the book well and is worth paying attention to:
"If decreasing the total number of sins that I committed were God's primary objective, He would have kept me out of the wilderness. However, he led me into the wilderness to reveal my sin to me because seeing my sin is good for me and brings Him glory. It is good for us to see our sin, because when we do, our Savior becomes dearer to us. When we are standing tall and strong we do not tend to look at Christ - we don't need Him. But when we fall flat on our faces, overcome with sin and weakness, there is nowhere else for us to look but to the One who has died our death and lived the life we should have lived. God loves broken and contrite hearts, and we don't acquire those by living the victorious Christian life.
It is precisely within the context of all of this weakness and sin that our God invites us to lean upon His mighty arm and promises to guide us with unsleeping eyes and a loving heart." (Chapter Seven, Discovering Your Depravity, pp 118-119)
And again -
"If I have tried with all my strength and failed, I finally become convinced that without Christ, there simply is no hope of victory. If victory comes at that point, I am more likely to understand, deep down in my soul, that Christ has made all the difference and delivered me in spite of myself." (Chapter Nine, Standing in Christ Alone, p 148)
Extravagant Grace is not a book about forgetting the law and loving the sinner in spite of themselves. It is about loving the sinner in spite of themselves in the sense that we each of us know that we are sin-filled creatures ourselves, each grateful that no one knows the full depths of our depravity. But God does know. And thankfully there is grace which promises a sure future in Christ, regardless of our own frailty. We can rely on Christ to help us work on our obedience to Him and He is pleased with our efforts. However, He is also pleased with us if we fail, because He is not surprised by the fact that we would (and do). This is expected. The fact that our failure is expected is not license to do as we please but it should result on an acknowledgement of a gift that we have undeservedly been given. It is almost too overwhelming to contemplate and yet Duguid helps one to come to the cusp of understanding.
I have never viewed grace in the way that she presented it. If I am being honest, (oh bother), I suppose I have always prided myself on the fact that God got such a good "catch" in me. I am so very willing to obey after all . . . (except when I flat out do not want to). He must be simply delighted in me!
The gospel is not ultimately about us and what we can and can't do or what we will or won't do. It is all about Christ and what He has done to rescue lost sinners and make them fellow heirs of eternal life. (Chapter Thirteen, From Here to Eternity, p. 228)
Many thanks to P&R Publishing for providing a copy of this book to me in order to facilitate this review. All opinions expressed are my own (should anyone out there really doubt it!).
THIS CONTEST IS NOW CLOSED. THE WINNERS, as selected by Random.org, ARE #8 - Anonymous, who gratefully left a valid e-mail address! (YES! Thanks for following instructions!), #11 - Mama Hagan, and #22 - Ann Marie