Offer Them Christ
The Weblog Of J.F. Howard

“By God’s Grace”

In 1 Corinthians 15, the Apostle Paul presents one of the clearest expositions of the good news of Jesus Christ found in Scripture.

In a few brief phrases, Paul declares what Jesus Christ has accomplished on behalf of a flawed, sinful humanity:

1 Brothers and sisters, I want to call your attention to the good news that I preached to you, which you also received and in which you stand. 2 You are being saved through it if you hold on to the message I preached to you, unless somehow you believed it for nothing. 3 I passed on to you as most important what I also received: Christ died for our sins in line with the scriptures, 4 he was buried, and he rose on the third day in line with the scriptures. 5 He appeared to Cephas, then to the Twelve.

(1 Corinthians 15:1-5, Common English Bible)

The good news of Jesus Christ centers on what Jesus accomplished in a span of time between the cross on Good Friday, the empty tomb on Easter Sunday, and the return to glory on the Day of Ascension. Paul says, “Christ died for our sins” (15:3). “Christ was buried and he rose on the third day” (15:4). “Christ appeared” (15:5).

The good news of God that brings salvation to the world focuses with laser like clarity: Jesus died on the cross. Jesus was buried. Jesus rose. Jesus appeared alive.

That is the heart of the good news.

What has always captured me about Paul’s gospel declaration focuses on how Paul sees this good news transforming his life. In 1 Corinthians 15:10, Paul states:

10 I am what I am by God’s grace, and God’s grace hasn’t been for nothing. In fact, I have worked harder than all the others—that is, it wasn’t me but the grace of God that is with me.

1 Corinthians 15:10 (Common English Bible)

Paul knew by personal experience that the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus did not occur in vain. Jesus did far more than die a martyr’s death. Jesus died, was buried, and was resurrected to effect radical, life-altering transformation in those who “are being saved” (1 Corinthians 15:2) through this message of good news. Paul noticed a difference in his own life when he personally encountered and appropriated this good news. The message changed him from what he was, and made him into what he became.

“I am what I am by God’s grace” (1 Corinthians 15:10).

The grace of God as seen in the life, death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ has the power to reform, renew, and redirect a human life from one thing into something radically different.

It is this phrase “I am what I am by God’s grace” that has served as my north star for many years.

Just recently someone asked me, “How did you ever get where you are?”

My response, echoing the sentiments of Paul, was to say, “All I can tell you is that it is by the grace of God.”

Looking back you would not have elected me “Most Likely To Succeed.” I was raised in a dysfunctional family. My mother and father were not married to each other. I was adopted by my maternal grandparents. My grandmother died not long after I started first grade. I attended 4 elementary schools in 6 years. We bounced around from house to house and town to town. I never seemed to get settled long enough to find security, put down roots, or fit in. My family was never what could be called regular church attenders. My home life had a vague notion of God but no real connection or commitment to God.

But I always felt the pull of God’s grace, drawing me to come to God. In my teenage years I met this God personally and accepted the claim that Jesus Christ had on my life. I was first of all, an unlikely follower of Jesus Christ, but then I became an even more unlikely candidate to be a pastor serving Jesus Christ.

All I can say decades later, is that it has all occurred because of God’s grace. I did not deserve what God has done in my life. I have only received this grace in an attitude of grateful humility.

Grace is a gift that you don’t deserve and cannot earn. It can only be accepted. But a gift of grace has a way of changing you and forming you.

When I was in college I had a part time job working at a church. The income was approximately 20% of my college tuition. I had some money from my family that equaled about another 20% of college expenses. Still, I needed to come up with more than half the costs of college each year, not to mention additional living expenses. As with most college students, I found money to be tight.

But over time I began to receive anonymous gifts of $20 a month and $50 a month. Later the $50 became $100 a month. These gifts arrived each and every month throughout my years of higher education. In the years to come I would learn the identities of my two benefactors. One was a man named Carl, who would eventually become my father-in-law. The other was Darrell, a man with children of his own, but who gave sacrificially to help me along through school.

To this day I cannot fully express how much those gifts inspired and motivated me. When school got tough, or just tedious, I remembered that I had people investing in me, and believing in me. Their gifts of grace kept me going when the finish line seemed so far away.

Though many years have come and gone since those men invested in me by their gifts of grace, I can confidently declare that their sacrificial generosity, and that of so many others, contributed to make me what I am. I am who I am because of the grace of God at work in me.

All of the blessings of life that I have been privileged to receive, have come as a result of God’s grace, freely given to me.

The good news makes sense to me. Jesus did it all. I am a recipient of His gift of grace.

By the grace of God, given to me in the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ, I am what I am.

So are you.

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One Response to ““By God’s Grace””

  1. Thanks for those words … I really needed to hear this today!


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