Why Grace is the Secret of the Universe
- Jared C. Wilson
- 2015 18 Nov
Grace is the secret of the universe.
And the reason grace is the secret of the universe is because it brings to creation the very thing that creation has been craving since everything went haywire.
God’s plan to bring lasting, satisfying connection and significance to mankind, to cure the angst for more that we all feel deep inside, to make us feel less like aliens and less like searching for them—is found in this thing the Bible calls grace. Grace is God’s modus operandi in the world. Not everybody gets all the grace God has to give, but everybody who wants it does, and everybody else gets some grace just for being a human creature trying to get by in the world. (Christian theologians call this “common grace.”)
What Martin Luther discovered is what we all discover: living our lives driven by appetites, seeking to gain as much pleasure or comfort or power as we can, does not solve the deep need for significance. It might medicate us against it for a while, but it just doesn’t last. Alternatively, living on the religious duty treadmill, trying to earn credit with God through personal righteousness, basically just trying to be “good people,” doesn’t solve our deep need for connection.
But the signal is coming from deep space. It transmits on lots of frequencies, some stronger than others. God is doing something with us. He is meaning something with creation. The message of grace—unmerited favor—hits the universal need with a specific message. And it bids us turn our gaze to the heavens to see God’s impressive strategy for the whole world. Your bank account is affected by this signal. Your weekend on the golf course is affected by this signal. Your family tree, your family holidays, your family dog—all are affected by this signal.
There is something coming through in this transmission of grace that affects everything, that changes everything. If we pan out and look at grace from the cosmological perspective, we see nothing less than the eternally expansive glory of God.
The problem of loneliness and insignificance is actually a lack of glory. The glory of God solves those problems (and a million others besides). It actually cracks the code of human existence and the future of creation. See, God has not been silent. He has declared these realities. He actually tells us what he’s going to do with everything! Like a Wow! signal straight from heaven, Habakkuk 2:14 announces, “For the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord as the waters cover the sea.”
Habakkuk 2:14 explains the reasoning behind Habakkuk 2:4. The righteous are made alive by faith and go about their everyday lives by faith so that the earth will be saturated in the knowledge of the glory of God.
This is God’s endgame for everything. Glory. He wants his glory to fill the earth, to drench it, really, making all the dry places alive again and all the dull places shine again.
This makes sense when we think about it, because God’s glory is the weightiness of all that he is—the beautiful summation of all his attributes. And since God’s glory is perfect and beautiful and, well, glorious, it makes sense that when we somehow receive that glory, we become more than what we already were. When creation itself somehow receives that glory, as in the vision cast by Habakkuk 2:14, it takes on the gleaming quality of perfection.
No place or thing is quarantined away from God’s endgame. His plan affects everything. So God’s vision for his glory has dramatic implications for both the people who receive his grace and the people who reject it. It has very real impact on good deeds done in faith and bad deeds done in rebellion. And it makes no distinctions between the sacred and the secular, the spiritual and the natural. God has a plan for dirt and flowers, for sports and video games, for sandwiches and milkshakes, for anything you can think of. His glory will be brought to bear on literally everything.
It is no wonder, then, that God is constantly talking about the priority of his glory throughout the Bible. He’s been declaring the point of everything from the moment time began. When light first appeared, it came from the eternally preexisting glory of God. When man first appeared, he was made to “image” God’s glory. When God saves his people from sin and their own stupidity, he frequently says he has done it “for my own name’s sake.”
Ultimately, everything exists for the glorification of God.
Some will say this makes God sound like a first-class narcissist. But that kind of objection fails to take into account two important truths. First, God is entirely perfect and thoroughly glorious. He is not like one of us dull creatures puffing up our feathers to seem more glorious than we really are. He is actually what he says he is, and he is not trying to prove himself to anybody. More importantly he wants to show himself. We would call a less- than-glorious person preoccupied with himself a narcissist or a less-than-perfect person claiming perfection a hypocrite, but God does not qualify for either of those categories. He is fully glorious and totally perfect, so we shouldn’t begrudge his claiming so. But second, perhaps straighter to the point, God’s prioritizing his own glory helps us. It is the thing we actually need! We don’t have the glory that makes us feel totally connected and wholly significant, and we need it. The world is broken and is desperately in need of mending. If God’s glory answers the deepest longings of the human heart, why would we fault him for talking himself up as often as he wants to?
Therefore, it’s not for no reason that the theologians known as the Westminster divines decided that the purpose of mankind was to “glorify God and enjoy him forever.” Mankind’s joy is inextricably connected to God’s glory. So in the end, what determines whether you are totally fulfilled and saved from ultimate despair is what you do with God’s glory. Do you embrace it joyfully? Or do you resist it? The first option ends forever one’s loneliness and insignificance. The second forever solidifies them.
[Editor’s Note: This excerpt is taken from The Story of Everything by Jared C. Wilson, ©2015. Used by permission of Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers, Wheaton, Il 60187, www.crossway.org.]
Jared C. Wilson is the director of content strategy at Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Kansas City, Missouri, and managing editor of the seminary’s website for gospel-centered resources, For the Church. He is a popular author and conference speaker, and also blogs regularly at Gospel Driven Church, hosted by the Gospel Coalition. His books include Gospel Wakefulness, The Pastor’s Justification, and The Storytelling God.
Publication date: November 18, 2015