I am glad for these words of Paul which I've rejoiced over for many years:
Ephesians 2:8-9 (New International Version)
8 For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— 9 not by works, so that no one can boast.
I've read many good books that are considered "self-help" books. They have very wonderful ethical teachings in them--teachings that would benefit anyone who follows them. Recently I was glancing through one in a store by an author that I respect deeply but the bottom line of the book was "human will power" and there was no teaching about either God's forgiving or enabling grace. Everything was left up to the individual to "change" his thinking, do this, do that, etc. The approach was definitely a "lift yourself up by your bootstraps" one.
Through human will power sometimes people do give up bad habits and addictions and become easier to get along with but what about deep spiritual fulfillment and the peace that passes all understanding? Did the martyrs sing praises to God while they were being burned alive because of human will power? Did John Bunyan and many other great saints endure months and years in the most loathsome dungeons imaginable through human will power? John Bunyan testified of how he felt the very presence of Heaven while imprisoned in conditions that none of us would even want to think or talk about, let alone experience. Did the mighty evangelists such as D. L. Moody, Charles Finney, John Wesley, Billy Graham and a host of others who brought multitudes to a decision for Christ that changed their lives forever do this by human mind manipulation or trickery or some kind? Now, I will admit that I've met committed agnostics and atheists who credit all of these things to mere human effort of some kind but I believe that God's grace is as high above human thinking, no matter how good it may be, as the heavens are above the earth (see Isaiah 55:7, 8).
I will add my testimony that very early in my spiritual journey in the 1950s godly teachers brought to me teachings about God's wonderful enabling grace that made all the difference in my life and always will. I was very conscientious about serving God but at the beginning didn't clearly understand the power of grace and how I could find it in my daily life and was directed to the right teachings by several people. I can say with Paul that "by the grace of God I am what I am."
I can learn good teachings about daily living from self-help books and nonchristian writers but without the grace of God I wouldn't have made it these many years. As I've said numerous times in my writings I merely seek to share what has been wonderful to me and has worked for me and at the same time do not wish to meddle with whatever path of life others may choose. My desire is that all people truly find the peace and the love of God and learn to live within that sacred center.
I want to share with you the precious words of a hymn that we used to sing back in my first years of church attendance, especially at camp meetings and other special occasions. I LOVE these words and so I share them with you for your encouragement.
Marvelous grace of our loving Lord,
Grace that exceeds our sin and our guilt,
Yonder on Calvary's mount outpoured,
There where the blood of the Lamb was spilt.
Grace, grace, God's grace,
Grace that will pardon and cleanse within;
Grace, grace, God's grace,
Grace that is greater than all my sin.
Sin and despair like the sea waves cold,
Threaten the soul with infinite loss;
Grace that is greater, yes, grace untold,
Points to the refuge, the mighty cross.
Dark is the stain that we cannot hide,
What can avail to wash it away?
Look! there is flowing a crimson tide;
Whiter than snow you may be today.
Grace is but glory begun, and glory is but grace perfected. ~ Jonathan Edwards
Written by Tom Durst of Spokane WA