Grace Changes Hearts

Kyle Bartholic   -  

Grace – getting something that you don’t deserve or didn’t earn


What is your first tangible memory of receiving grace? Mine comes from junior high. My father was and is a wonderful dad and now grandad. Among the many things, he did well were instilling a work ethic in my brother and I, a commitment to keeping your word, and timeliness. As you can imagine, all of those things have helped me immensely as I grew into an adult and even now as I raise my children. However, one word that doesn’t immediately come to mind is gracious. Now, please don’t misread this. My dad was (and is) loving, present, and thoughtful. He just always followed through on disciple. And, I mean always! Trust me; as the rebellious son, I tested his consistency quite often.


But, once, when I was in sixth grade, my brother and I had just received new BB guns. And, we realized that if they weren’t fully pumped, they would only leave a pockmark in the window in the back machine shed. So… we peppered it till it looked like swiss cheese! Do you know who found out? Dad. Do you know who was consistent in discipline? Dad. But, this time, with deep empathy for two young and adventurous sons, he extended grace. He bought the new glass, and he installed it! We didn’t get grounded or punished at all.  We rightfully deserved punishment and to pay for and replace the window. Instead, we got something we never deserved, a gracious response from our dad.


Our heavenly Father is the same way. He graciously sent his Son Jesus to die on the cross and be the payment for our sin. We did not and do not deserve it. We cannot earn it. It is a free gift from the overflow of his love, a love that is selfless. As we (Christians) experienced this selfless love for the first time at the moment of salvation and continue to experience it every new day by abiding (remaining) in Jesus, our joy is being made complete (1 Jn. 1:4). So what happens as our joy is being made complete? The love of the Father is perfected in us (1 Jn. 2:5). What type of love is this? A selfless love. As that selfless love is made complete in us, it becomes more and more integrated into our identity. In that, it is less of “something to do” and more increasingly “something of who we are.” And in this way, joy prompts grace because we are content and secure in our identity in Christ, and from the overflow of love and grace we have experienced, we desire to give grace away. And nothing has more power to change a heart than grace.


We are living in an age that has been described as post-truth. What that means is that truth is in every way relative and up to the individual to define. In the swirl of this cultural moment, we can often feel like the way to rebuff it is by serving a steady diet of truth. And, yes, truth is needed to bring clarity. But, we must not forget that grace makes truth palatable. As a 6th grader, I learned that lesson powerfully. I knew my dad meant business because he followed through on discipline, but his extension of grace changed my heart. Jesus came in grace and truth (Jn. 1:14). And I do not think that John’s ordering is accidental. Jesus came to change the hearts of humanity. His very arrival was an act of grace. We had rejected him, and yet he came to us. Yes, God means business, but he changes our hearts by starting with grace.