Monday, September 5, 2005

Guilty Soul's Guide to Grace

The Guilty Soul's Guide to Grace
Sam Laing
Discipleship Publications International
ISBN: 1-57782-196-3

Short review: I really reccomend.

This book from Sam Laing is about Grace, for the Grace-challenged. He targets people like him who live more under judgment and guilt (often self-imposed) than in blissful acceptance for forgiveness. To quote the author, "This is a book by the guiltiest of Guilty Souls, a man whose instinct has been, and is, to feel guilty and out of sorts with God" (p. 10).
The work is divided in 3 sections: understanding, accepting and living in grace. The author's style combines a lot of personal experience (and associated generalizations) and a solid foundation of Scriptures to bring his teaching forward.
In "Understanding Grace", we are presented by a description of the greatness, and gratuity of God's Grace for us. We are challenged to find out with whom we are confusing God, that Jesus was the incarnation of Grace, and that Jesus did not change God's mind about us, that we have always been His delight.
"(...) We think if we don't properly berate and beat ourselves into submission, we will end up abandoning God and becoming spoiled, selfish egoists. We think our pride is such a lurking beast within us that to give ourselves any sort of affirmation would let it out of the cage, and expose us as the spiritual werewolves we really are.
God doesn't have such a low estimate of us. He believes that the best way to make us loving is to love us first. (...)" (p. 24)
In "Accepting Grace", we are reminded about issues of trust in God, about tuning our over-zealous consciences to the standard of the Bible, about commitment, repentance, baptism. Ultimately, grace is a gift often unopened, and we have to learn to open it!
"This is my story of praying through prayers in the Bible. You need to live out your own story and make your own claim on grace. I urge you to do so. Go to God and claim his grace. Praise him and thank him to the limit you are capable, even if it seems awkward and artificial at first. This is where you must decide to love God with your mind and think the thoughts he wants you to think, no matter what you feel." (p. 111)
In "Living in grace", we learn to deal with matters of discipline, adversity, pride, worry, regret, fear, security, etc. This section gets very practical on the consequences of Grace, as in how it shapes us to be more Christlike.
"The grace of God softens our hearts. It reasons with our minds. It empowers our will. It heals our emotions. It leaves us not merely forgiving, but triumphant. Not merely free, but empowered- empowered to live again, to live again, to be happy again.
My two cents:
I am struggling with Grace, a lot. Reading this book helped me with some of the theoretical aspects, especially that I had issues with God's judgmental and expectant sides of His personality. It is hard for me to fully understand that I'm fully forgiven, loved freely, and yet see results expected of me. I could not realize, however, that i could not accept that God loved me, somehow. I felt like the dirty sinner he "fixes" with Jesus' blood, someone who's naturally evil. I got to pray over psalm 103, as the author recommended, and I begged God to help me understand His love. I can tell you that He answered my prayer, and that this belief is more than intellectual. I am still struggling, but I made a huge step forward.
I was so joyful after this that I started calling friends to share my "discovery"!

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