“If Go% :ne; m$, #o;
coul% H$ 5ov$ m$?”
April 2020 — pg. 10
Convincing grace makes it possible for us to believe the
incredible: First, Jesus’ story. Perfect, sinless man. God,
enrobed in human %esh. Completely God. Completely
human. Murdered by His contemporaries. Dying as the
payment for our sins. Risen from the dead on the third day.
!ese are the deal-breaker beliefs, I o#en preach. Beliefs that
we cannot embrace without God’s help through convincing
grace, and beliefs we must hold to be forgiven by our
We live in the most skeptical age of human history. Faith
once anchored in the good character of Christian leaders, of
government leaders, of heroes from many stripes of human
experience and activity became unmoored by publicly
revealed misconduct, and the believability of the gospel
sustained deep wounds.
Andrew !ompson tells us that John Wesley equated
convincing grace with repentance, and cites as Scripture’s
main example the dying thief “who rejoiced to see” Jesus
as the Son of God, as his Savior. “Repentance should not
be attributed to human will, because human will absent
the power of God’s grace would never be capable of it,”
!ompson writes in “Convincing Grace: !e Grace of
Repentance” (fmchr.ch/convincing). No part of our salvation
can be attributed to anything other than the grace of God —
the grace that goes before us, and the grace that convinces us
to “repent and believe the good news” (Mark 1:15).
Saving + Sanctifying
God’s convincing grace is followed by His saving
grace and by His sanctifying grace. Even on the heels
of belief and repentance, a holy God must look at faultridden
folk and forgive them despite their failures, not
because of their successes. In his description of his May
24, 1738, encounter with God’s saving grace, Wesley
wrote, “About a quarter before nine, while the leader
was describing the change which God works in the heart
through faith in Christ. I felt my heart strangely warmed.
I felt I did trust in Christ, Christ alone for salvation and an
assurance was given me that he had taken away my sins, even
mine and saved me from the law of sin and death.”
I miss altar calls where I witness men and women of all
ages having that same experience Wesley had — though
Wesley didn’t have his experience a#er an altar call.
!e thing is, in our era, we’re so jaded, so numbed by
our world that such experiences are no longer common in
the church. And there’s no way to whip it up with fervent
preaching or loud “Amens.” Only the grace of God can warm
hearts to spiritual truth and convince people of something
that they cannot see.
Recently, I taught a session on Principle 2 at our Celebrate
Recovery chapter. CR’s second principle challenges the
recovering individual to “earnestly believe that God exists,
that I matter to Him, and that He has the power to help me
recover.” !e second element of the principle can be a high
bar to reach too: believing that I matter to God. Even though
we hear it from earliest childhood (“Jesus loves me, this I
know…”), some of us tend to harbor a certainty that if He
knew the real me, how I have been wounded and the choices I
have made, all the songs and theology and Bible verses would
be set aside in our case. We know and disparage ourselves
If God knew me, how could He love me?
!e question, better asked: What can convince me of
!e answer is still the same: God’s grace.