Sunday, October 13, 2013

Extravagant Grace: God's Glory Displayed in Our Weakness

After overhearing a friend's high recommendation of the book, I recently picked up a copy of Barbara Duguid's Extravagant Grace. Within the first ten minutes of reading, I was floored by her openness to the reality of her own sinfulness. In the book, Barbara does not feel the need to validate herself. Instead, she spends the entire book explaining how the Gospel is made all the more beautiful because of our inability to achieve a sinless life.
Have you ever wondered why there are some sins in your life that you just can't seem to overcome no matter how much you've prayed, tried, confessed, and so forth? I know I have. If God's purpose in sanctification is to make us “better and better” day by day, doesn't it seem like we're miserably failing? Or maybe He's not doing His job well enough? Barbara uses the writings and theology of John Newton to explain how God uses our failures and weaknesses to point to His glory. A few of my favorite quotes from the book:

“Newton argues that this greater goal is the fashioning of humble and contrite hearts in God's chosen people as, through their ongoing weakness and sin, they come to trust in themselves less and less and to trust and delight in Christ more and more.”

“God chose to leave us significantly deformed and imperfect after our conversion because he values something more than our sinlessness.”

“God is capable, when he pleases and for his own purposes, of giving me the grace to stand and resist temptation. But often he chooses instead, for his own good purposes, to show me grace through my falls, humbling me and teaching me my desperate need of him.”

Of brothers and sisters in Christ, who should not be surprised by our sin, we should hear: “'Of course you sinned... Come with me to the throne of grace to celebrate the love of your Savior and to find help in your time of need.'”

"What if being reminded that you don't have to change to win God's favor unleashes such joy and sense of safety in your soul that changing becomes the thing you desire most, simply out of gratitude for such overwhelming acceptance and love?"

"....God seldom frees us from besetting sin before showing us how deeply inability is rooted in our souls. If this work were cooperative, with me and Jesus working together, then at the end of the performance there would be two people on stage taking the bow. However, understanding my inability leads me to a far different posture. I am not on stage next to Jesus, taking a bow. Instead, I am flat on my face in the dust, with my hand on my foolish mouth, worshiping at the feet of my beautiful Savior whose power and grace has rescued me."

The first few chapters of the book explain different maturity levels of believers. I'd never thought of her distinctions and found the comments fascinating. She then spends a few chapters breaking down an understanding of human depravity and where God's grace fits in the bigger picture. She uses many scriptural references to back her points but not in a dry, lifeless way. She pointed me to an immeasurably great and glorious God. Her writings have driven me to my knees in both tears and prayer. I've been given a greater understanding of my own heart so that I may grow in my patience with the sins of others. She finishes the book by giving the “joyful implications of amazing grace,” which include advantages of remaining sin. Yes, you read that right – and I won't give the spoilers here.
This book rocked me to my core. It made me consider things in a way I've never given much thought to before. If you've ever struggled with sin, if you've ever been on the suffering side of the sins of others, if you feel dry in your relationship with the Lord, you need to read this book. For that matter, if you have a fervent desire to grow as a believer or even an apathetic attitude towards the Christian life and are ready for a change, read and be blessed.
Take care,