A few weekends ago, I packed my bags and headed off to a retreat with my church’s youth group. Only a 30 minute drive from home, somehow the location of this camp makes me feel like we’re hundreds of miles from home– in the most relaxing and enjoyable way possible. I love our youth retreats. Our church staff does a great planning and implementing them, but even more I just love the quality time I get to spend with a handful of girls, talking about life, problems, boys (inevitably), goofing off, and learning more about ourselves and our Savior.
This year the theme was grace. It’s such a small, simple word, that we throw around all the time in church or Christian communities, but a rather difficult bear to get your arms around when you really start to break it down. What exactly is God’s grace and what are we supposed to do with it? Below is an edited version of two morning devotionals I had the privilege of writing for our weekend that I thought I’d share with you.
Take the first few minutes of the morning to pray before diving into this study. Ask God to help you quiet yourself before Him this morning. Ask Him to prepare your heart for the day.
1. In your own words, define grace.
2. READ & EXAMINE: Read the following verses below and in the right column, describe what we learn about grace from each specific verse. The first one is done for you.
Do you need to edit your definition of grace? The simplest definition I’ve ever heard for grace is “receiving something you don’t deserve.” But grace is so many things. At it’s root, grace is the gospel. Grace is that there is a holy God who made a way for us, as sinners, to have a relationship with Him. Grace is that God sent His son, Jesus, to be sacrificed, His perfect and holy blood shed for you and me, so that we may be able to be in right standing with God. Grace is that because of what Jesus did, you and I are forgiven and can have a relationship and commune with our Creator. Grace is that we have received forgiveness and life, when we didn’t deserve it. That’s grace at it’s foundation. But above, I gave you just 8 references that describe grace in several more ways.
3. APPLY: Based on the chart in #3 and the seven descriptions you wrote about grace, which one is the most freeing or encouraging to you and why?
Which is the hardest one for you for you to believe or grasp and why?
For some reason, most of us choose to view Christianity as a set of rules. It’s easier for us to see ourselves as “good enough” or “not good enough” based on how well we follow those rules. Why? Because we feel we deserve judgment rather than grace. But, when we refuse God’s grace, we play God and punish ourselves. Instead, grace brings freedom. If we would accept grace fully, then we would have the freedom to admit failure and move on.
What areas of your life are you punishing yourself instead of accepting God’s grace?
What do you need to do right now in order to accept God’s grace in those areas?
4. READ: Titus 2:11-14. Read this passage, slowly and carefully.
11For the grace of God has appeared that offers salvation to all people. 12It teaches us to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age, 13while we wait for the blessed hope—the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ, 14Who gave himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for himself a people that are his very own, eager to do what is good.
5. EXAMINE: Go back to #2 and read the passage again. This time circle or underline key words or phrases that jump out at you.
According to verse 11, what does the grace of God offer?
In your own words, what does verse 12 say that grace teaches us?
According to verse 13, what are we supposed to be waiting for?
According to verse 14, why did Jesus die on the cross for us? Put it in your own words.
Again in verse 14, what does it say we should be eager to do?
6. READ: Ephesians 2:8-10
8For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— 9not by works, so that no one can boast. 10For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.
7. EXAMINE: Go back to #4 and read the passage from Ephesians again. This time circle or underline key words or phrases that jump out at you.
In your own words, what does verse 10 say we were created for?
Titus 2:14 and Ephesians 2:10 both connect “doing good” with first receiving God’s grace. Why do you think that is?
8. APPLY: This weekend, we’ve talked about accepting God’s grace, naming it in our lives, and extending it to others.
Looking at Titus 2:12 one more time, what does it look like to “say ‘No’ to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives”…
At your high school or college (in the hallways, in class, at lunch)?
When you are at home with your family?
When hanging out with your friends?
What does it look like to “do good” and extend grace to others in each of those places?
Spend the last 10 minutes of your time by writing out a prayer confessing to God where you still need help in receiving or extending grace. Ask Him to give you a specific way to extend grace this week.
“I do not understand the mystery of grace — only that it meets us where we are and does not leave us where it found us.” – Anne Lamott
You can download a printable version of the study here: DearHanna-GRACE.