A few years ago I came across The Great Work of the Gospel: How We Experience God’s Grace by John Ensor. It intrigued me. John works in establishing pregnancy centers worldwide. He lives in Boston as well. So for years I’ve been meaning to buy and read this book. Something always seemed to be more important at the time. Until recently. I picked up a copy about 2 months ago and decided to read it since I was beginning a series on the atonement for Lent.
I’m sorry I waited, but the book was timely in light of the whole Rob Bell thing. The Christian should treat grace like a scientist treats gravity: not merely accepting its reality, but want to understand its totality. As recipients of grace, we explore grace that our hearts might be more captured by it and more grateful for it. To adapt an old saying, unexamined grace isn’t worth having. This is because to understand grace is to understand Christianity. How can you be a Christian without wanting to understand it?
“The grace of God that forgives us changes us. … The grace of God wounds our pride but then increases our confidence. When God forgives, he exposes the most shameful things only to then cleanse them all from our conscience.”
Let’s stop for a moment. Some personal context to lay my cards on the table. I grew up Catholic. I have a Ph.D. in guilt: true and false. I am a recovering Pharisee who couldn’t keep his own high standards, much less God’s. There are MANY things I don’t want you to know about me. There are things only a privileged (and I use that term loosely) know about me.
But I have no interest in cheap grace, or cheap forgiveness. I’m not trying to ignore God’s standards. Neither is Ensor following the fashion of the day. He structures the book on the topic of the Great Work. When we own up to our guilt, we desire forgiveness and grace. But if we never own up to guilt, then grace seems pretty much irrelevant. In all of the chapters, Ensor examines a variety of biblical texts and addresses numerous misconceptions. In the chapter on desiring grace, for instance, he tackles self-esteem and the reality of the conscience.