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The Transforming Grace of God

Dr. Charles F. Stanley



God’s ultimate will is for every believer to be conformed to the likeness of His Son.  His grace is responsible for our rebirth, and from that point it directs, moves, and influences us to become increasingly Christ-like.  In that way, we can say with the apostle Paul, “By the grace of God I am what I am” (1 Corinthians 15:10).


Paul’s life is a powerful example of God’s transforming grace. In Philippians chapter 3, Paul describes how he once depended on his good works, nature, and conduct to gain acceptance before God. He did not originally understand there is only one way to be made acceptable in God’s sight — by His grace. However, encountering the living Christ totally changed Paul. He recognized that all of his human titles and achievements had absolutely no spiritual value. Like him, we must also realize we will never gain eternity by depending on anything we are or anything we do — salvation is unrelated to how much money we give, what excellent citizens we are, or how well we treat our family. It is by grace, and grace alone, that we are saved (Ephesians 2:8-9).


There are millions of people who sincerely but wrongly believe they will be acceptable to God based on how good they are. It grieves my heart to think they will die in ignorance, deceived by the false doctrine of working to earn the Lord’s approval. By grace, Paul’s thinking was corrected — he learned that everything he had counted as valuable was worthless. In this way, Christianity’s worst enemy became its greatest asset, chief proponent, and dearest friend.


How did this change come about? Saul, the “Hebrew of Hebrews” committed to destroying anything related to Jesus Christ, was approaching Damascus. Blinded after a sudden flash of light, he fell to the ground and heard Jesus say, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me?” (Acts 22:7-9). The future apostle leaned that being critical of the church or Christians was equivalent to opposing Jesus Himself (Matthew 25:40) and that to attack the body of Christ meant putting oneself under condemnation and judgment. But God’s grace was about to transform Saul by giving him a new nature and a fresh start. His hostile, vengeful heart would abruptly be changed, and he would become the church’s most powerful promoter. The grace that saves and transforms today is the same grace that changed Saul, the sinner, into Paul, the saint. And he became an example to those around him as well as to future generations. God wanted all of us to know that if He can come out of nowhere, knock Paul down, blind him, and transform him completely, then He can save anyone. Witnessing Paul’s conversion makes us ask, “Who among us cannot be transformed by the grace of God?”


But don’t be deceived by Paul’s dramatic experience.  I was saved at the age of 12.  I had been reading the Bible a great deal, and I understood that I needed God’s forgiveness in my life.  There was no flash of light; I simply stepped from the second pew, walked to the altar, and knelt down to pray.  I came from a home where my mom read the Bible to me, so my getting saved as an adolescent was somewhat normal and natural.  But what I want to tell you is this: It took just as much grace to save me at 12 as it took to save Saul of Tarsus, the violent, hateful persecutor of the church.  The Bible says we were dead in our trespasses and sins (Ephesians 2:l).  How much life does it take to make a dead person alive?  It doesn’t matter whether the dead person is 7 or 70 — it takes Jesus Christ, who is the way, the truth, and the life (John 14:6).


What an awesome example Paul is of the transforming power of God’s grace, which can change a murderous opponent of Christ into the world’s greatest missionary. He gave himself without reservation to proclaiming the gospel, and he was able to say that God’s grace toward him “did not prove vain” (1 Corinthians 15:10). Has God poured His grace out into your life? Don’t let it be in vain. Tell God how thankful you are — and tell others what He has done for you.


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