In every other article before this one, we’ve found a way to reword the “remedies” Thomas Brooks offers to counteract Satan’s devices. In this article, we’re going to concentrate on Brooks’ definitions and explanations of true grace instead.
We could easily devote an entire blog – not just one post, but the whole thing – on the subject of biblical grace. For our purposes, let’s allow a simple definition to suffice.
What is God’s grace?
Grace is God’s unmerited favor toward those he saves by faith in Christ. We differentiate grace from mercy, which is withholding of just punishment for wrongdoing.
You may have also heard grace defined this way, via an acronym: God’s Riches At Christ’s Expense.
Another common definition helps us distinguish grace from mercy:
- Grace – receiving what we don’t deserve
- Mercy – not receiving what we do deserve
Again, a fair examination of God’s grace could fill volumes. Far more qualified theologians have written on the subject for the serious scholar to explore.
Thomas Brooks’ “graces”
I want to be sure we know we’re talking about the same thing when we say the word “grace,” with respect to this part of the book. If Satan tempts us to believe our “graces” are not true, what sort of graces are these in the first place?
Remedy 1: Salvation vs. dispensation
Look at remedy 1. Brooks reminds us grace is taken in two ways.
- First, there is the grace God extends to some that saves them from their sins. This is the grace that comes to us who have faith in the work of Christ on our behalf to grant us eternal life and adoption into God’s family. It’s the grace we just defined at the beginning of this article.
- Second, there are the grace-gifts God extends to believers through his Holy Spirit. The Scripture where we commonly read about these is 1 Corinthians 14. We often call them “spiritual gifts.” But the original Greek (charis-ma) behind that Scripture doesn’t have the word “gifts,” only “spiritual,” the outworkings of grace. “Happenings of grace,” perhaps.
Interestingly, Brooks argues that God extends some graces of this second category to “hypocrites” – those who profess Christ but don’t truly believe. In Brooks’ mind, understanding these differences is itself a remedy against Satan’s scheme. If we are to win this battle against our enemy, we must know what sort of grace it is that he argues is untrue.
It would seem much more critical for us to know God’s saving grace is real. We can tolerate mistaking a human talent or ability as a spiritual gift. We cannot, however, tolerate false assurance of salvation.
Remedy 2: Renewing vs. restraining grace
The second remedy comprises the remainder of this book section. Brooks wants us to understand the differences between “renewing and restraining” grace – the grace that sanctifies us and the grace that carries us through the hardships of the day. Again, if the latter is merely an act of our own wills, so much for it. But for sanctifying grace to be untrue is spiritual death.
Let’s examine these differences for ourselves. Brooks writes extensively in this part of his book, so we’ll leave most of that work in his capable hands. We will provide only the briefest comments and analogies here.
1. True grace effects glory
God’s grace is transformative. It exposes us to his glory, and causes us to reflect and magnify his glory back to him and to the world. It’s like a vital nutrient that works itself into every part of your body, producing health and radiating a healthy glow to everyone who sees you.
Being deeply in love with another person does this. It changes the way your heart beats, how often you smile and laugh, what you think about, and how you dream. Love affects your physical posture, your appetite, and your demeanor toward others. It produces “glory within” that spills over and out. But grace is the love of God in us, isn’t it?
2. True grace points to supernatural things
We know we have the true grace of God when he helps fix our minds on “things above, where he is king.” If our true citizenship in in heaven, as the Scriptures teach, our minds should regularly dream of our real home. “The things of earth will grow strangely dim in the light of his glory and grace.”
3. True grace helps us do God’s will with joy
We mentioned in an earlier post that “duty” is a word we don’t like to use these days. Duty feels distinct from delight, in that if we act out of duty we must not really “feel” like acting.
But the Scriptures teach that duty and delight go hand-in-hand. The grace of God teaches us to say “no” to sin and “yes” to glad service to his kingdom. Because we operate from a position of love, we learn that duty toward God can and should be delightful. But even absent the positive emotional response, our duty in exchange for God’s grace is always the right transaction.
4. True grace helps us know our true selves
Saving grace teaches us to examine our own hearts instead of judging the actions of others. We think of Jesus in his Sermon on the Mount, telling us to take the planks out of our eyes before we remove the splinters from our neighbors’. We have enough work to do aligning our actions with Christ’s words that we have no time to bother with others’ shortcomings.
5. True grace helps us remain true to God’s word
“Here I stand. I can do no other.” Luther’s confession to his accusers at the Diet of Worms are the words of a grace-filled soul. Every hardship, sacrifice, and loss gladly suffered for the sake of Christ and his kingdom proves the power of saving grace.
6. True grace makes us want God more than anything in the world
When you possess Christ through God’s grace, what else do you need? It’s what makes people turn away riches, give outrageously, turn their lives upside down so that others can hear about Jesus.
7. True grace makes us do the right things for the right reasons
We already mentioned that God’s grace causes us to delight in duty. It also gives our duty the correct motivation. We serve God to please him, to draw near to him, and become more like him in his presence. If we never receive an award or an accolade in this life, or a position of honor or acclaim, all our efforts are worth God’s pleasure in us alone.
8. True grace moves us toward God with all our hearts
There is so much of Christ in this one point. Brooks reminds us here that perfection is not the goal. Loving God with all our hearts isn’t a measure of our sinlessness but of our desire. Grace teaches us that we can confess our imperfections to God while striving to live righteously. We limp and struggle toward the finish line of our high calling, stumbling and falling, but always progressing. And the Lord showers us with grace at every step.
9. True grace points us toward Christ as the center of all life
This ninth point sounds very much like Brooks is speaking of the Holy Spirt. It is the Spirit’s task to point us to Christ as our head, to lead us to the truth that he is Lord and Savior. So, the grace of God in Christ points us to the Son as well. Grace, then, is like a signpost. It points to Jesus as our chief end, the center of our being. If we see all of our lives as summed up in and for Christ, we know we have saving grace.
10. True grace satisfies us with Christ, and Christ alone
The rich description of what it is like for the contented soul to have found all in Jesus is stirring, striking, and humbling. It bears repeat reading. And it is not unattainable! The more we dwell on Christ’s riches in grace, the less this world and its offerings will satisfy us.
We hope this small effort has pointed you more directly toward this Jesus who offers you God’s unmerited favor through the gift of his grace. And we also hope these reminders are remedies to you when Satan tempts you to think this grace is untrue.