Pastor Andy Stanley of the fast-growing North Point Community Church in Atlanta gives us a biblical overview of the message of God’s grace. Stanley believes in this message, and it is this foundational concept that he has used to start and grow his churches. He believes that all Christian churches should be doing the same in order to share the true message of Jesus Christ. But he doesn’t get to that until the last chapter, although it is a powerful chapter, backed up by all of the biblical exegesis throughout the rest of the book and a conviction and a hope to preachers everywhere looking for revitalization in The Christian Church.
However, this book is first and foremost written to the average person, not just the Christian, but also the nonbeliever, and most of all, to the sinner. Stanley begins at the beginning with Adam and Eve. I struggled a bit to meet with Stanley on his analysis of grace in the fall and the calling of Abraham. I worried that I just wouldn’t get it. The book is written in plain and simple language for the common reader, and I felt I needed more. The book became more relatable in the story of Joseph, and then Stanley knocked me off my feet with grace and the Ten Commandments. That’s right, grace and the Ten Commandments. After that, Stanley continued to turn the standard view of God’s rules and regulations on its head and demonstrate the power of God’s grace over and over again. The power of forgiveness over sin. The power of faith over self-righteousness.
The power of the message of grace increased with every chapter in the stories of Rahab, David, and Jonah. We are more than halfway through the book and he hasn’t even gotten to the New Testament! Stanley concretely shows that grace was God’s plan from the beginning, and it was fully realized – “it was finished” – in the life and death of His son, Jesus Christ. Stanley continues analyzing the message of grace in the life stories of Matthew, Nicodemus, the Samaritan women at the well, and the criminal hung on the cross, but now, we get the words of Jesus, the words of the Lord, and we clearly see His intention to bring the message of grace to all. Stanley uses scripture and also the parables of the workers and the prodigal son to leave no doubt that grace is what it’s all about.
This book would make an excellent bible study for a small group. Discussion questions can be downloaded online. Read the biblical story, then read Stanley’s interpretation, and you may wonder why you had never seen it that way before. Stanley provides a summary sentence about grace at the beginning of each of the 13 chapters and key ideas are bolded throughout the text. The book is also an excellent personal read for new believers, nonbelievers, and longtime believers who may have become like the Pharisees and been so caught up in following the rules that they forgot about the message of grace. Stanley even addresses the issue of fairness and reminds us that we are all in need of God’s grace and that it is freely available to all who believe.