Max Lucado: The Biggest Mistake People Make About Grace

The definition of grace, the pitfalls of legalism, and cultivating environments of grace in our ministries.

We recently caught up with Max Lucado to talk about the release of his new book Grace: More Than We Deserve, Greater Than We Imagine. In this candid conversation, we discuss the definition of grace, the pitfalls of legalism, and the urgency for pastors and leaders to model the never-changing, unadulterated power of God’s grace—both in our personal lives and in our churches.

Interview by Brian Orme

Grace is such a central part of the Gospel. What made it relevant to you—at this particular time—that you decided to write a book specifically about it?

It emerged out of a conviction I have in my heart that the church needs to go back and study grace. We just never study it enough. What I did sense is a resurgence of a secular, legalistic view of life that if there is a God we have to earn His favor and win His attention, whereas the worldview of the Christian who believes in grace is that God has already noticed me. He has taken notice of me. He is enraptured with me, and I don’t have to get His attention. I simply have to receive His affection. This book really targets that. If you let grace really happen to you, what’s it going to look like and how’s it going to change you?

How has your perspective of grace changed over the years?

I didn’t understand grace for many years. I thought grace was, at most, God tolerating me. Then I understood that God doesn’t tolerate me, that He is willing to forgive me.  But then, I still felt like that forgiveness was dependent upon my performance. I came to understand that my performance doesn’t have anything to do with it, that the performance of Christ on the cross is sufficient.

From Outreach Magazine  Rick Warren: 8 'Nations' of Innovation

There was a time in my life when I realized that I have passed from unforgiven to forgiven. This book, however, takes it even a step farther. This book talks not just about how God has taken us from unforgiven to forgiven, but how God has taken up residence inside of us and that He is aggressively changing us from one degree of glory to the next.

The image that I like to use is that of a heart transplant—that He literally removed my old heart and placed a new heart inside me—and that all of Christian discipleship is learning to trust the new heart of Christ. As you know, this is a favorite topic of the Apostle Paul. He talks about Christ living inside of us. He mentions it 216 times. This is not a casual topic to him, and yet, I had let it be a casual topic to me. I knew Christ was for me and with me and above me, but it just didn’t dawn on me that Christ was in me. I think that’s what grace is—that God is not only willing to forgive us, but He wants to move inside, and what He has begun in us will be finished.

This brings up another important question—how do you define grace?

I really wrestled with trying to find a way define grace because it’s such a huge thing, but what works for me is to see grace as a one-time gift of forgiveness and a lifetime gift of God’s presence. It’s that one-time sacrifice of Christ on the cross that moves us from condemned to forgiven, but it’s also a lifetime of His devotion to us.

From Outreach Magazine  Bobby Gruenewald:

I remember when my family and I moved to Brazil. From one day to the next, I went from not having a passport to having a passport, from being a tourist to being a citizen of Brazil. That was a one-time thing, but then the Consulate never contacted me again. They did their work, and they didn’t have to contact me again. God is not like that. God does that [He changes our citizenship], but then He adopts us. He brings us into His family. He moves inside of us, and it gets to the point where we can, hopefully, say what Paul said:  it’s no longer I who live but Christ who lives in me.