I had an uncle named Charlie who was a Baptist minister most of his life. He seemed like a nice guy whenever we were together at family gatherings. My most vivid memories of those times together were of his discussions about religion with my father. They shared many facets of their beliefs, and they both seemed to enjoy the conversations. Some moments were a little tense when the topics of which they didn’t agree came up. For example, he believed the King James Version was the only proper English translation of the Bible. For the most part, as far as I can remember, their discussion was enlightening and encouraging.
At one of our family holidays, I can distinctly remember uncle Charlie talking with my dad about the Christian life. I was starting to have an interest in all matters of faith, and so I listened in on their conversation. This time he spoke about what he called “the second work of grace.” Later I would find out that he borrowed the phrase from the great leader John Wesley. Wesley and my uncle taught that there are two forms of grace. One is saving grace. That one-time moment in which we accept Jesus death on the cross as our place of salvation. Second grace came in the form of life transformation. This could happen instantaneously or over a long period of time. The basic concept is that there are two critical days in the lives of all believers. First is the day they are saved and the second is the day they decide to take it seriously.
While I am not sure you can prove any of this by scripture, I do comprehend it from an experiential nature. My personal story contains both elements. When I was only eight years old, I made Jesus my Savior. At the age of 21, I decided to surrender all my life to God’s will. I was sitting on my parent’s couch in their living room when I told God, “Do with me whatever you want.” That led to a summer mission trip and finally into located ministry.
Through the years I have seen this story repeated in the lives of other people. Many of them came to faith before the age of 18. When they attended college, their religion took a back seat. Then one day they found themselves married or living as a new parent and the call of the Lord came to them again. They returned to their roots, and a second time God’s grace did a work in their life.
Much of my ministry has been walking people toward one of these two moments in their faith. I hope and pray everyone accepts Jesus as their Lord and Savior. My other prayer is that people will take their faith seriously. I teach and preach, push and pull people toward a life wholly surrendered to God. I do not want people to know the history of the phrase “a second work of grace,” what I want is for them to experience it dramatically.
Jesus is looking for fully devoted followers. His grace is big enough to bring you him and has enough power to transform your life – but only if you let him.