We’re all too prone to take God’s grace for granted. Perhaps especially as we perceive ourselves to be climbing the ladder of formal theological training.
At the heart of the danger of seminary is coming to treat lightly the grace of God. But a healthy experience of seminary will do precisely the opposite.
The Centrality of Grace
Grace is no peripheral thing in Christianity. God’s astoundingly lavish favor toward us terribly undeserving sinners, because of Jesus, is at the very center. Lose our taste for grace and we have no good business calling ourselves Christians, much less putting ourselves forward as leaders in the church.
But here’s the catch: We can’t just make ourselves stay soft to grace. Or can we?
Ultimately, it is only by more of God’s grace that we stay fascinated with his lavish grace to us sinners. But there are “means of grace” that God is pleased to use in keeping his people keen on grace. Avail yourself of the means, and do so with a regular conscious prayer something like, “God, keep me warm to your grace. Help me to be endlessly astounded that in Jesus you’ve shown such amazing favor to such undeserving rebels like me.”
Grace and the Gospel
And as we ask God explicitly that he keep fascinating us with his grace, there is another means we employ: relentlessly keeping the gospel central.
The gospel of Jesus is the source of Christian grace, and true Christian grace is ever shaped by the message of the crucified Messiah for sinners. In each class, and with each book, ask explicitly how it relates to Jesus and his good news for sinners. Look for Jesus in all the Scriptures. Be on the lookout for God’s costly grace in every book of the Bible. Seminary is a good opportunity to go deep with the grace of God.
Being Real with Our Sin
Which will include not being afraid to know ourselves as deeply sinful. Keeping the gospel close frees us to look with honesty at our sins, and see all the more what recipients of grace we are.
Don’t be afraid to linger over texts like Ephesians 2:1–3 and identify deeply with “the sinners.” Don’t think mainly of others out there, but know yourself “dead in the trespasses and sins” (verse 1). Even if you’ve been a believer as long as you can remember, there’s still plenty of remaining sin in you to know its insidiousness and what trajectory it will lead you on if unrestrained. We all know all too well “the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience” (verse 2). There is some sense in which it still courses through our veins, even with the gracious pumping of a new heart.
Let’s admit it, we know “the passions of our flesh.” They are in us — evidence that we “were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind” (verse 3). The omnipotent wrath of God once was over us. And apart from Jesus, and God’s extraordinary grace, it would still be over us.
The Flood of God’s Grace
Spend a few moments trying to breathe the suffocating air of sin and its just penalty, and then feel the flood of grace in passages like Ephesians 2:4–7. Despite our dastardly rebellion and vacuous spiritual poverty, “God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ — by grace you have been saved — and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.”
Despite our rebellion. Covering our past. Flooding our present. Increasing forever into the future. May God never let us cool to his grace. Even (and especially) in seminary, may we never cease seeking to "continue in the grace of God" (Acts 13:43).
Don’t Ever Take Grace for Granted
For the Christian, boasting is excluded both in our salvation and in everything we do — seminary work included. “What do you have that you did not receive? If then you received it, why do you boast as if you did not receive it?” (1 Corinthians 4:7).
Don’t be under the delusion that seminary automatically makes you grow in grace (2 Peter 3:18). In fact, it can have quite the opposite effect. Beware of so frequently handling such holy things as the Scriptures and good doctrine and the gospel itself. And especially don’t be flippant with grace. For God’s sake, your own sake, and the sake of the people you’ll one day serve, don’t ever take grace for granted.