Thinking Out Loud

March 16, 2014

When Did Jesus Experience Grace?

coffee time

A conversation joined in progress…

“…she never brings anything to a potluck dinner, they just show up. He never comes to a church work day. They don’t attend Bible studies or prayer meetings.”

“But what’s that to you?”

“I think we’d all like to know if they’re all in.”

“Why do you need to know that?”

“Because it would be nice to have a conversation with them that wasn’t superficial; that wasn’t just all about the weather and the school their kids go to. It would be nice to know where they stand.”

“Why don’t you just ask them? Say, ‘So what’s God been doing in your life lately?’ Or, ‘What’s God been teaching you lately?”

“You can’t just start a conversation cold like that.”

“Maybe not at the grocery store, or with a relative stranger, but this is church, you sit in the row behind them every single week.”

“It would be awkward.”

“So here’s a question for you: Was Jesus ever the recipient of grace?”

“Wait. What?”

“Was Jesus ever the recipient of grace?”

“That’s just wrong.”

“Did Jesus ever experience grace?”

“Grace is for sinners. Jesus was without sin.”

“Are you a sinner?”

“I was a sinner; but now I’ve passed from death into life.”

“Have you ever sinned since? Maybe even this week?”

“Yes. Absolutely. So have you.”

“Does the grace of God meet you in that place?”

“Yes. But that’s different; second Corinthians 5:21 says, ‘God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.’ He had no sin, or some translations say he knew no sin.”

“You just happen to know that verse?”

“It was on a Christian radio on Friday while I was driving to work.”

“And you memorized the reference?”

“My sister’s birthday is 5/21 so that helped. So when did Jesus experience the grace of God?”

“What is grace?”

“Grace is unmerited favor with God.”

“So the answer is, ‘At his baptism.’ A voice from heaven, the voice of God, says, ‘This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.'”1


“He experienced the favor of God even though he hadn’t done anything yet. This was the outset2 of his public ministry. He hadn’t taught anything, he hadn’t called disciples, he hadn’t healed anyone. It was unmerited in the sense that he hadn’t commenced his spiritual work.”

“But he had been alive for 30 years at that point. He always had the favor of God. Luke 2:52 says, ‘Jesus grew…in favor with God and man,’ so this was something he had earned over time.”

“But the people at the Jordan River didn’t know all that. To them, he was simply one of many being baptized for the forgiveness of sin and then God says he is ‘well pleased’ with him. We tend to think of that as more of an end-of-life pronouncement from God, as in ‘Well done, good and faithful servant.’ 3 In other words, he has already been made a recipient of the favor of God.”

“But that has nothing to do with works, he was well-pleasing to God because of who he was, not according to anything he did. It’s the same with us, like that verse that says, ‘Not by works of righteousness that we have done…but because of his mercy.’4 There’s nothing that we do that ultimately earns us the grace of God. It’s who we are not what we do.”

“Exactly. So maybe it wasn’t grace in the sense of being freed from punishment because Jesus was, as you said, without sin. But it was a favor with God that preceded everything he was about to do over the next three years.”

“Okay. You could think of that way I suppose, but how did we get on this topic again?”

“The family that sits the row in front of you at church…”


“Could it be the grace of God is working and operative in their lives in ways you just don’t realize?”

“…Hmm…Maybe we need to get to know them a little better…”

1 Matthew 3:17

2Harmonization of the Life of Jesus

3Matthew 25:23

4 Titus 3:5

April 19, 2012

Book About Chasing Fulfillment is Most Fulfilling

I am biased.

I have read every book Pete Wilson has ever written — both of them — but I came to the first already a huge fan after years of reading Pete’s blog. When Plan B released, I raved, “I believe that with this single book, Pete Wilson moves outside the circle of American pastors and bloggers and into the arena of people we consider major Christian voices for this generation.” But it wasn’t just hype.

But with Empty Promises: The Truth About You, Your Desires, and the Lies You’re Believing, I wasn’t sure if the second book could live up to the superlatives I had heaped on the first.

Not to worry. This book is a class act. I want to explain why in a moment, but first, I need to say that Empty Promises is about our various attempts to pursue happiness and satisfaction in life by chasing after and striving for the material things or marks of status that we think will help us attain that personal fulfillment. Of course — spoiler alert! — the end result is that the peace, joy, contentment and completeness we are looking for can only be found in knowing Jesus Christ.

But most of you who read this blog also read Pete’s blog, and you know him and wife Brandi and the three boys with the hip names, so I know you’re going to buy the book in some form or other; so let’s move on to why I think the book works so well.

First, there is the transparency of the author. There were times I cringed as I was reading, thinking, ‘Pete! What are you doing? Don’t you know some of the people who attend your church are going to be reading this?’  Especially when Pete shares about ending a recent phone call with church board members and then raking his hand across the desk sending everything flying. You’re not supposed to share those kind of stories. It spoils the pretense that keeps our Evangelical system working so well. Pastors can’t experience moments of brokenness, can they? That would make them… well… human.

Second, there is the obvious amount of work that goes into crafting any book. I remarked here awhile ago that I would love to see the large pieces of chart paper that a certain fiction writer must have tacked to his walls to detail the plot line of an obviously complicated book. It’s the same with non-fiction, though. There are quotations and footnotes to be sure, but each chapter, and each paragraph has to have a specific purpose. Put too much into one chapter and people miss the individual points. Put too little in, and the book is shallow. The forethought that goes into a book dictates a certain pacing will result and this book reminded me of that so well.

Third, there is the high value that is placed on scripture throughout each section. It’s like I’m conversing Pete — and listening to the weekly internet service from Cross Point means I am actually hearing his voice as I read — and at each juncture he’s saying, “You know that reminds of that time in the Bible where…” followed by a related text. There is a lot of scripture in Empty Promises. Which reminds me, if anyone tells you that the only way to teach the Bible is verse-by-verse exegesis, then hand them this book, okay?

Fourth, the DNA of the entire book can be found in each chapter, and on each page. Seriously. Rip a page out of the book and give it to someone and you’ve given them the essence of the whole. Except the page with the desk-raking story. Then again, maybe that page, too. I can’t say this about every book, or even most books that I’ve read, but it’s really evident that the essence of the book is written into every page.

Some will feel I’ve more dissected the book than anything, but I really feel that this is a writer who truly resonates with the average Joe or Joanne. Whether that’s because of his transparency, the conversational yet rich text, the identification with the various Bible stories used as examples, or the consistency of the message throughout; it’s hard not to see the book as though one is holding up a mirror to their own life.

Pete calls the book a “diagnostic” and that’s really what we need; because, as a culture, we in The West are chasing after all the entirely wrong things.

Read an excerpt from Empty Promises at Christianity 201
A copy of the book was provided for review by Thomas Nelson, Inc.

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or catch the Empty Promises series anytime at

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