by Kyle Idleman
Hebrews 12:15 says, “See to it that no one misses the grace of God” (NIV 1984). This command is followed by a warning of what happens when someone does miss it:
And that no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile many. (v. 15 NIV 1984)
When we miss grace, a bitter root begins to grow. In Hebrew culture any poisonous plant would be called a “bitter” plant. The author of Hebrews uses “bitter root” as a metaphor to make it clear that when we miss grace things become toxic. Religion without grace is poisonous. A relationship without grace is poisonous. A church without grace is poisonous. A heart without grace is poisonous. The bitter root may be small and slow in its growth, but eventually the poison takes effect. When we miss grace, the poison of bitterness and anger will eventually become too much to keep buried. The poison of guilt and shame will eventually destroy a soul.
I tend to think grace is best and most fully understood not by way of explanation alone but through experience. And when something is best understood through experience, it’s best taught through stories. Stories bring you into an experience. The Bible is full of narratives that teach us about grace. When Jesus wanted to help people understand the grace of God, he didn’t give a lengthy and detailed explanation. Instead he told the story of the prodigal son.
Compare what we learn about grace from Paul with what we learn about grace from Jesus. Paul uses the word grace more than a hundred times in his letters as he helps the church understand grace. Jesus, on the other hand, never used the word grace. Instead he showed us what it looked like. Both approaches are helpful and needed, and certainly Paul’s explanations were motivated by his own experience of grace and his desire for others to experience it. But if grace is explained without being experienced, it really doesn’t have much effect. To repurpose E. B. White’s famous quip about humor, “Grace can be dissected like a frog, but the thing dies in the process.”
I’ve sat through several seminary classes taking detailed notes on the subject of grace. I’ve memorized countless Bible verses that describe grace. I’ve read numerous books about grace. But do you know what has taught me the most about grace? My own story and the stories of others who have experienced grace.
God’s grace is compelling when explained but irresistible when experienced.
It’s my prayer that you won’t miss grace but rather will powerfully experience the grace effect in your life—and no matter what you have done, no matter what has been done to you, you will personally experience the truth that grace is greater.
Grace is powerful enough to erase your guilt.
Grace is big enough to cover your shame.
Grace is real enough to heal your relationships.
Grace is strong enough to hold you up when you’re weak.
Grace is sweet enough to cure your bitterness.
Grace is satisfying enough to deal with your disappointment.
Grace is beautiful enough to redeem your brokenness.
Grace explained is necessary, but grace experienced is essential.
Excerpted from Grace Is Greater by Kyle Idleman. Baker Books, a division of Baker Publishing Group, 2017. Used by permission. BakerPublishingGroup.
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