Read an Excerpt
WILD GRACEWHAT HAPPENS WHEN GRACE HAPPENS
By Max Lucado
Thomas NelsonCopyright © 2012 Max Lucado
All right reserved.
Chapter OneTHE GRACE ADVENTURE
God's grace has a drenching about it. A wildness about it. A whitewater, riptide, turn-you-upside-downness about it. Grace comes after you.
You steer your kayak downriver, your heart hammering like a hummingbird's wings against your chest. Are you ready for this? No turning back now. The swirling eddies and cascading currents that lead to Monster Rock are just ahead.
You surge forward, the foam flying and rapids roaring. A shout escapes your lips before you even realize it: "Wooooohooooo!"
This is living.
Quick paddle strokes move you past one boulder, then another. Suddenly, there it is. A black mound bigger than your garage. The Mother of All River Rocks.
You know from scouting this spot that the current is your true enemy. You've got to veer left, before the raging water takes your cork of a craft, slams it against stone, and mashes you into pumpkin pulp. Time to paddle!
You pull with all your strength. Your heart is beating so loudly that you're scared your eardrums will explode.
Left! Left! Are you going to make it?
Suddenly, you shoot through the mist into calmer waters. You did it! You've conquered the Monster!
Only a moment ago your heart was pounding like a drummer on steroids. Relentless. Desperate. Now the danger has passed. You've pushed through the moment of near panic. And your heart is changing. From rushing like a freight train to the calm thump ... thump ... thump ... of a heart at rest.
If only it were that easy to change the rest of your heart. You know, the part that houses those other monsters. I'm talking about selfishness. Superiority. Anger. Greed. Guilt.
Nope, no easy switch for any of us. But for God? Not a problem. He's in the business of changing hearts.
We would be wrong to think this change happens overnight. But we would be equally wrong to assume change never happens at all. It may come in fits and spurts, an "aha" here, a breakthrough there. But it comes.
Could you use some?
You stare into the darkness. Your cat slumbers at the foot of your bed. The ceiling fan whirls above you. In fifteen minutes the alarm will sound and zoom you like a snowboarder on a half-pipe into another free-for-all with teachers, classmates, teammates, and friends-who-might-not-be-friends. For the millionth time, you'll make your bed, breakfast, the bus, and homework deadlines ... but for the life of you, you can't make sense of this thing called life. Its beginnings and endings. Makeups and breakups and due dates and drama and questions. What's it all about anyway?
You turn the page of your Bible and stare at the words. You might as well be gazing at a graveyard. Lifeless and stony. Nothing moves you. You yawn through the daily reading with the same barely awake expression you save for sixth-period calculus. But you don't dare close the book, no sirree. You're afraid God will give up on you if you do.
You run your finger over the photo of your mom's face. You promised her you'd never touch drugs. Then your best friend asked if you wanted to smoke some pot. You were curious. You only meant to try it once. But once became twice became a few times a week. Now it's practically a habit. Even worse, your mom guessed something was up. When she asked if you or your friends had ever tried marijuana, you said no. You lied to her face! Now you feel terrible. How are you supposed to fix this?
You listen to the preacher. A tubby sort with jowls, a bald dome, and a thick neck that hangs over his clerical collar. Your dad makes you come to church, but he can't make you listen. At least, that is what you've always muttered to yourself. But this morning you listen because the minister speaks of a God who loves prodigals, and you feel like the worst sort of one. You can't keep the pregnancy a secret much longer. Soon your parents will know. The preacher will know. He says God knows already. You wonder what God thinks.
It doesn't get easier, does it? Bad hair days. Bad class days. Bad choices that ruin families, friendships, and futures, making you feel like a failure. Will you ever figure it all out?
God answers the junk of life with one word: grace.
We talk like we understand the term. The library gives us a grace period to pay a late fine. The no-good politician falls from grace. Musicians speak of a grace note. We describe an actress as gracious, a dancer as graceful. We use the word for hospitals, baby girls, kings, and premeal prayers. We talk like we know what grace means.
Especially at church. Grace graces the songs we sing and the Bible verses we read. Grace shares the church office with its cousins: forgiveness, faith, and fellowship. Preachers explain it. Hymns proclaim it. Bible schools teach it.
Here's my hunch: we've settled for wimpy grace. It politely occupies a phrase in a hymn, fits nicely on a church sign. Never causes trouble or demands a response. When asked, "Do you believe in grace?" who could say no?
This book asks deeper questions: Have you been changed by grace? Shaped by grace? Strengthened by grace? Emboldened by grace? Softened by grace? Snatched by the nape of your neck and shaken to your senses by grace? God's grace has a drenching about it. A wildness about it. A whitewater, riptide, turn-you-upside-downness about it. Grace comes after you. It rewires you. From insecure to God-secure. From regret-riddled to better-because-of-it. From afraid to die to ready to fly. Grace is the voice that calls us to change and then gives us the power to pull it off. Once you encounter it, you'll never be the same.
What a difference grace made for Shannon. What a difference it can make for you. Can't forgive the friend who humiliated you in the cafeteria? Can't face your parents because you failed a test? Can't forgive yourself for the terrible thing you said or did yesterday? Christ can, and he is on the move, aggressively budging you from graceless to grace-shaped living. The gift-given giving gifts. Forgiven people forgiving people. Mistakes still? Of course. Despair? Rare.
Grace is everything Jesus. Grace lives because he does, works because he works, and matters because he matters. To be saved by grace is to be saved by him, not by an idea, rule, or church membership, but by Jesus himself, who will sweep into heaven anyone who so much as gives him the nod.
Not, mind you, in response to a finger snap, a religious chant, or a secret handshake. Grace won't be stage-managed. It's like Jesus himself: uncontainable, untamable. Like a wild, whitewater kayak ride that is thrilling and scary and joyful. Grace isn't merely an app to be acquired. It's an adventure to be lived.
Are you wondering what to make of this crazy existence? Too weary to have hope in yourself or your future? Worried you've messed up so badly that even God will turn you away? Wild grace is what you need.
Let's make certain it happens to you.
Chapter TwoNO MORE CRITICS
A clean conscience. A clean record. A clean heart. Free from accusation. Free from condemnation. Not just from your past mistakes but also from the ones ahead.
You freely admit it. You're a social guy. It doesn't matter where the action is—you want to be in on it. Who wouldn't want to hang out with his best buddies on a Saturday night?
On this particular Saturday night, however, there's a problem. Your parents are out of town for the night, and you promised you'd stay home. Alone. As in you, yourself, and the family goldfish.
But then Drew calls. The movie's over, and the guys are looking for a place to chill. Nothing wild, just to hang out, play some Xbox, unwind. You know you should say no. You gave your word. But Drew can be persuasive, and he knows your parents are gone. Before you know it, you've invited five guys over.
Well, you think, what's the harm? It'll be fun. My parents won't know the difference.
Of course, when the guys arrive, it's not five people piling out of the cars but ten, a few of them girls. You have second thoughts, but you let them in anyway.
And it is fun. Jake tells a few jokes that get everybody going. Brandon does his always-hilarious impression of the school principal. Then Drew gives you the thumbs-up. You've just earned the top score on his social meter.
Now it's your turn to take center stage. You start the story of your climb up Mount Rainier last summer, the one where your partner slipped and you had to pull him back to safety. You build the suspense. You're getting to the good part. You can see that a couple of the girls are leaning forward, waiting to hear what happened.
This, you think, is turning into a great party.
Which is exactly when it happens. Headlights in the driveway. Car doors slamming. Front door opening.
Your parents are home early.
Your spirits drop faster than your buddy on Mount Rainier. There are disappointed looks and angry words from your parents. But the worst part? Drew's muffled laugh as he walks out the door, shaking his head. Your score has just dropped from ten to zero.
I've been there. We all have. Sooner or later, we all get caught in the act. It's been going on forever. It happened even when Jesus walked the earth.
Picture a woman in bed, her sleep interrupted by voices.
"Get up, you harlot."
"What kind of woman do you think you are?"
Priests slammed open the bedroom door, threw back the window curtains, and pulled off the covers. Before she felt the warmth of the morning sun, the woman felt the heat of their scorn.
"Shame on you."
She scarcely had time to cover her body before they marched her through the narrow streets. Dogs yelped. Roosters ran. Women leaned out their windows. Mothers snatched children off the path. Merchants peered out the doors of their shops. Jerusalem became a jury and announced its verdict with glares and crossed arms.
Then, as if the bedroom raid and parade of shame were inadequate, the men thrust her before the holiest judge of all.
"Teacher," they said to Jesus, "this woman was caught in the very act of adultery. The law of Moses says to stone her. What do you say?" (John 8:2–5 NLT).
There it is again—caught in the act. These pompous, proper authorities had their questions and convictions; she had her flimsy nightgown and smeared lipstick. The woman had no exit. Deny the accusation? She'd been caught. Plead for mercy? From whom? From God? His spokesmen were squeezing stones and snarling their lips. No one would speak for her.
But someone would bend down for her.
Jesus "stooped down and wrote in the dust" (v. 6 nlt). We would expect him to stand up, step forward, or even ascend a stair and speak. But instead he leaned over. He descended lower than anyone else—beneath the priests, the people, even beneath the woman. The accusers looked down on her. To see Jesus, they had to look down even farther.
He does that. He bent down to wash feet, to embrace children. Bent down to pull Peter out of the sea, to pray in the garden before soldiers arrested him. Bent down to carry the cross they used to crucify him. Grace is a God who stoops. Here he stooped to write in the sand.
Remember the first occasion his fingers touched dirt? He scooped soil and formed Adam. As he touched the sun-baked soil beside the woman, Jesus may have been reliving the creation moment. Maybe Jesus wrote in the dirt for his own benefit. Or was it for hers? To divert gaping eyes from the barely dressed, just-caught woman who stood in the center of the circle?
The posse grew impatient with the silent, stooping Jesus. "They kept demanding an answer, so he stood up" (v. 7 NLT).
He lifted himself until his shoulders were straight and his head was high. He stood, not to preach, for his words would be few. Not for long, for he would soon bend down again. Not to instruct his followers; he didn't address them. He stood on behalf of the woman. He placed himself between her and the lynch mob and said, "'All right, stone her. But let those who have never sinned throw the first stones!' Then he stooped down again and wrote in the dust" (vv. 7–8 NLT).
Name-callers shut their mouths. Rocks fell to the ground. Jesus resumed his scribbling. "When the accusers heard this, they slipped away one by one, beginning with the oldest, until only Jesus was left in the middle of the crowd with the woman" (v. 9 NLT).
Jesus wasn't finished. He stood one final time and asked the woman, "Where are your accusers?" (v. 10 NLT).
My, my, my. What a question—not just for her but for us. Critical voices wake us up as well.
"Could you get any uglier?"
The voices in our world that judge and label us.
And the voices in our heads! Who is this rules cop who writes out a ticket every time we stumble? Who reminds us of every mistake? Does he ever shut up?
No. Because Satan never shuts up. The apostle John called him the Accuser: "For the Accuser has been thrown down to earth—the one who accused our brothers and sisters before our God day and night" (Revelation 12:10 NLT). Day after day, hour after hour. The Accuser makes a career out of accusing. He has one aim: "to steal, and to kill, and to destroy" (John 10:10). Steal your peace, kill your dreams, and destroy your future.
The devil has signed up a crowd of silver-tongued demons to help him. He gets people to peddle his poison. Friends dredge up your past: "Remember that time you cheated on the test?" Preachers proclaim all guilt and no grace: "You don't measure up to God's standards." And parents, oh, your parents. They own a travel agency that specializes in guilt trips. They try to send you on one every day: "Why can't you grow up?" "Would it kill you to work a little harder?" "You could be so pretty. When are you going to lose a little weight?"
Taunts and put-downs. That's how Satan operates. He reminds you of your mistakes as often as you let him, marching you through the city streets and dragging your name through the mud. He pushes you into the center of the crowd and megaphones your sin:
This person was caught in the act of ...
Cruelty. Stupidity. Dishonesty. Irresponsibility.
But he will not have the last word. Jesus has acted on your behalf.
He bent down. Low enough to sleep in a manger, work in a carpentry shop, sleep in a fishing boat. Low enough to rub shoulders with crooks and the diseased. Low enough to be spat upon, slapped, nailed, and speared. Low. Low enough to be buried.
And then he stood. Up from the slab of death. Upright in Joseph's tomb and right in Satan's face. Tall. High. He stood up for the woman and silenced her accusers, and he does the same for you. He stands up.
He "is in the presence of God at this very moment sticking up for us" (Romans 8:34 MSG). Let this sink in for a moment. In the presence of God, in defiance of Satan, Jesus Christ rises to your defense. He is the prince fighting off the attacking dragon. He is Aragorn protecting the hobbits with his sword.
Jesus offers a different road to your future. One with a clean conscience. A clean record. A clean heart. Free from accusation. Free from condemnation. Not just from your past mistakes but also from the ones ahead.
"Since he will live forever, he will always be there to remind God that he has paid for [our] sins with his blood" (Hebrews 7:25 TLB). Christ forever stands in on your behalf.
Jesus overcomes the devil's guilt with words of grace.
You have been saved by God's grace. And he raised us up with Christ and gave us a seat with him in the heavens. He did this for those in Christ Jesus so that for all future time he could show the very great riches of his grace by being kind to us in Christ Jesus. (Ephesians 2:5–7 NCV)
This is what grace means: saved by God, raised by God, seated with God. You've heard the devil's insults and believed them. Stupid. Lazy. Slow learner. Fast-talker. Quitter. No longer. You are who your Creator says you are: Spiritually alive. Connected to God. Awake to your potential. A billboard of mercy. An honored child. This is the "aggressive forgiveness we call grace" (Romans 5:20 MSG, emphasis mine).
A young man named Josh Phillips can tell you about it.
Josh Phillips replaced guilt with grace. When grace happens, Satan's accusations sputter and fall like a deflated balloon.
So why do we still hear them? Why do we, as Christians, still feel guilt?
Maybe it's because not all guilt is bad. God uses appropriate doses of guilt to awaken us to mistakes that offend him. We know guilt is God-given when it causes "indignation ... alarm ... longing ... concern ... readiness to see justice done" (2 Corinthians 7:11 NIV).
Excerpted from WILD GRACE by Max Lucado Copyright © 2012 by Max Lucado. Excerpted by permission of Thomas Nelson. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.