God’s Best Idea
About the Guest
What's so unique about grace? Everything! Best-selling author Max Lucado explains why grace is so essential to the Christian message and why it frees believers from having to prove themselves to God. Max notes that we shouldn't limit grace to what Jesus already did for us; it's what He does-His presence inside our heart. Bottom line: God is the ultimate heart surgeon, transplanting His heart into ours, as He tells us in Ezekiel 36: "I'll remove your heart of stone and replace it with a heart that's God-willed, not self-willed.
Max LucadoMax Lucado is a Minister of Preaching at Oak Hills Church in San Antonio, where he has served since 1988. He has been married to Denalyn Preston Lucado since 1981, and they have three grown daughters—Jenna, Andrea and Sara—and one son-in-law, Brett.
What’s so unique about grace? Everything!
God’s Best Idea
Bob: The Bible says, “If any man is in Christ, he is a new creature; old things have passed away; all things have become new.” Max Lucado says it’s a little like a heart transplant.
Max: When you give your heart to Jesus, He returns the favor. In some supernatural, miraculous way, He begins removing our heart. In the Bible, our heart is our will and our desires—our longings. He pulls that out; and He places a new heart inside of us. So, “Yes, grace is what happened on the cross;” but, “Yes, grace is more.” It’s what’s happening right now because, as Christ’s heart grows within you, He begins to reclaim, and change, and make you into that new person that He wants you to be.
Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Monday, October 22nd. Our host is the President of FamilyLife®, Dennis Rainey, and I'm Bob Lepine. Max Lucado joins us today to talk about the power of and the need for spiritual transformation in all of our lives. Stay tuned.
Bob: And welcome to FamilyLife Today. Thanks for joining us. You know, I saw what we were going to be talking about today; and I thought, “Now wait. We’re supposed to be talking about marriage and family stuff.”
Dennis: Oh! Do you think this topic relates to marriage and family? [Laughter]
Bob: I guess it probably does; doesn’t it?
Dennis: You can write this over the doorposts of your house.
Max Lucado joins us on FamilyLife Today. Max, welcome to the broadcast.
Max: Well, thank you, Dennis. It’s really good to see you; and, Bob, it’s good to see you again.
Bob: Thank you.
Dennis: I don’t think you need any introduction. His books have sold close to 100 million. One in ten Americans—
Bob: I know, I insulted him—I said to him earlier, “So, you’ve sold about 10 million copies of your books?” He looks at me and, “Well, it is past 80.” I went, “Okay!” It’s like—if you’re going to guess a woman’s age, guess low. If you’re going to guess an author’s books, guess high!
Dennis: No doubt about that. [Laughter]
Max, I have to ask you this before we talk to you about your book, Grace. You said this is the first time you’ve been with Bob in more than 20 years. What happened 20 years ago?
Max: Yes, yes. You stole him away from me! Dennis, you don’t know this—
Dennis: I do know this. [Laughter]
Max: I came to San Antonio in 1988.
Max: In 1989, this gentleman, here, helped me start a radio program on the radio station KSLR. We went out, and had lunch, and we talked. He said, “Well, just start a 15-minute radio program. We’ll broadcast it on the radio station here and see how it goes.” I said, “How do you do it?”
Bob: The reason for this is because Max’s sermons fit well into—if you chopped them up—into about 12-minute segments. You could get four days; and then, the fifth day—we did “Q and A” about whatever you had talked about on the program.
Max: Yes, only I would take the sermon, and sit down—like we are today—and kind of re-teach it. This gentleman, here,—whom you’ve worked with so many years—he was really the instigator because he was living in San Antonio, at that time.
Dennis: Bob has been a gift to the body of Christ, beyond San Antonio. I’m grateful, now, for more than 20 years of working together with Bob. It’s been a real, real privilege.
You’ve written this book on grace. I have to tell you, as I was reading it, I resonated with what you were saying. Grace is almost like a Christian slang word. We have cheapened it. We really haven’t spent a lot of time really talking about it. That’s really your passion and why you’ve focused on this topic; right?
Max: Absolutely. There are many reasons for that—that is exactly right, Dennis. One of the things that strikes me about grace is that it’s so unique to the Christian message. You know, we live in a day—that the tendency and the popular approach—is to blend all religions. You know, “If you want to take this approach to God, you do so,” “If you want to take this approach to God, you do so.” My contention is that’s not intellectually honest because Christianity is unique. No other religion in the history of the world declares that its founder is—number one—a Savior; and then—number two—continually indwells the hearts of the adherents—or the followers.
Dennis: Yes, you made that point in the book—that Buddha, Mohammed, none of them—
Max: Yes, they don’t indwell their followers.
Dennis: They’re dead.
Max: They don’t claim to be saviors.
Dennis: They’re gone!
Max: So, you just can’t say, “We’re going to all end up in the same place. You just take your road; I’ll take my road.” That sounds awfully wonderful; but when you sit down and get intellectually honest with what Christianity is—grace is what causes it to stand miles above and completely different than any other approach to God.
Bob: And I love the way you said it in the book. You said, “Grace is God’s best idea.”
Max: Yes, it is!
Bob: It really is the understanding that we contribute nothing. Every other world religion says you’ve got to bring something in order for God’s anger to be satisfied. Christianity says, “It’s been done for you.”
Max: It’s been done. We bring nothing. We bring nothing.
Dennis: It’s a part of why I think the Christian community—this is going to sound almost heretical—we don’t talk enough about grace because, I think, we still want to perform.
Max: I think you’re right, Dennis.
Dennis: I’m guilty of it! I mean, we want to keep the rules. We want to perform the religious deeds. “As long as our good works outweigh our bad,” you know, “God is pleased with us.”
Dennis: And yet, it’s not about that at all; is it?
Max: Absolutely not. And, again, that’s why it’s God’s best idea. If it’s up to me—that’s going to create either a person of arrogance or of utter insecurity—arrogance because I think, “Oh, I did it!” or utter insecurity because I think, “I’ll never do it.”
Usually, what it creates is a blend—kind of a roller coaster person—who is always trying to prove himself but feels like he never—or she never does. It’s this roller coaster of guilt and arrogance that comes across in the forms of many religions.
Dennis: You’re speaking now of God’s approval—
Dennis: —that we earn God’s approval by doing good works. We’ve earned them by virtue of forgiving another person or caring about another person. You’re saying—actually, you didn’t say it—Jesus said it, “If you want to receive forgiveness and grace, you have to receive Me. I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.” Jesus made it very, very clear.
Max: That’s the first step; isn’t it? I mean, that’s the open door. We don’t stand on the basis of our own good works or our own accomplishments. What’s the first Beatitude? “Blessed are the poor in spirit.” “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” Poverty-stricken—we come to Jesus, poverty-stricken, in spirit.
I think this is the core of the Christian message, and I think it does affect families. If I think I am saving myself and it’s up to me, look at the burden that places on my shoulders. What kind of dad can I be? What kind of husband can I be when I’m carrying that burden around? I’m either going to live in arrogance or fear, every day of my life.
But if I can come to the point where I say, “You know what? God has saved me. I am secure. I may not know everything, but I know that I’ve been bought by Christ. I am owned by Christ. I’m secure for eternity.” That just kind of equips me to be the kind of man that God wants me to be with my wife and my kids.
Bob: Max, you know there are some folks who hear talk about grace; and they get a little nervous. Christians get a little nervous because, if you say there’s nothing you can do—there’s nothing you have to do—why—aren’t we just writing everybody a ticket, now, to live according to the flesh?
Max: Yes; and, of course, that’s the question the Apostle Paul was asked. That’s the reason we have Romans 6 in the Bible. He said, “What shall we say, then? Shall we continue in sin so that grace may abound?” He said, “No, by no means!” He goes on to explain that grace, appropriately received, creates holiness—deeply desired. When you really receive grace, it creates just the opposite—it creates a desire to do good—not a desire to do bad.
Dennis: What we talk about here, on FamilyLife Today, is a biblical approach toward marriage and family. We try to follow Christ’s teachings of saying, “If you want to come after Christ, you’ve got to pick up your cross, die to self, and follow Him—obey Him.” It’s, ultimately, a heart issue because our hearts are selfish. That doesn’t make for a good marriage. That doesn’t make for a good family—a bunch of selfish hearts.
I love the way you start the book. You don’t know this; but you and Barbara, my wife, share a common surgery—radio ablation—a heart catheterization that goes into the heart, and burns a pea-sized spot of tissue in the heart to block pathways, to return the rhythm of the heart back to normal.
Bob: Now, I knew Barbara had had that done back in the ‘80s; right?
Dennis: Well, she actually had it done in—I believe it was 1990, by the guy who invented it.
Bob: Did you have that done at some point?
Max: I did; I did. Mine was performed by the guy who studied under the guy who invented it. I’m sure they know each other. I had to go to Cleveland to have it done at the Cleveland Clinic.
Bob: When was this—that this happened?
Max: That was about 2009 or 2008.
Bob: So was your heart starting to beat real fast?
Max: Oh, it was terrible. It was—we all look back at some section in our life and say, “That was the toughest part of my life.” That was really rough—when your heart just accelerates to about 120-130 beats per minute, for no reason, and stays there for three or four minutes. Then, the beat is erratic. You feel like you’ve just run a marathon.
Dennis: I want to go back to your story, though, because, as they were rolling you into surgery, you were kind of kidding the doctor. Share with our listeners what you—
Max: Well, I was trying to be cute, you know—trying to bring a little levity to a serious moment. I mean, how often do they take something and stick it inside of your heart?
Max: That’s exactly the language they used with me, Dennis, because I said, “So, you’re going to take this little catheter”—this ablation tool—ablate means to burn. I said, “You’re going to take this little tool and you’re going to burn the inside of my heart?” He said, “Yes.” I said, “Well, as long as you’re in there, burning the bad parts of my heart,” I said, “I’ve got some greed—I’ve got some selfishness—I’ve got some stubbornness—” [Laughter] “Can you burn all that out?”
Dennis: I loved it! I love the line, and I love the picture of that.
Max: I said, “Can you do that?” He gave me a good line. He said, “That’s out of my pay grade.” [Laughter] But, in the book, I say, “It’s not out of God’s.”
Max: He’s in the business of going inside our hearts—and burning, or recreating us—from the inside out. That’s why I think that grace—yes, it’s a forensic thing—it’s an accomplished thing, at the cross. It’s a transaction that took place. I don’t want us to limit grace, though, to what Jesus did. I think we need to open our minds up to what— grace is one of the words to describe what God does—His living presence, inside our hearts, changing us from one person to the next.
You talk about something that can bring hope to a dying marriage! If I look across the table at a woman, in whom Christ dwells, and she looks across the table, at a person in whom Christ dwells, we may be going through a hard time; but Jesus can love her, and Jesus can love me. So, there's hope, as long as Jesus is within our hearts.
Dennis: I love the illustration and the story that you used in the book to talk about how God transplants His life in ours. You share about a skiing accident that took the life of a 13-year-old girl.
Max: Right. Todd and Tara Storch took their daughter, Taylor, on a ski trip. It was a spring-break ski trip. Taylor, at the time, was 13 years of age. She died in a ski accident. Boy, can you imagine? It just turned what was to be a wonderful spring break week into disaster.
Taylor’sGift.org is where a person can even read about this story. It’s a powerful and compelling story. They, by the end of the day, had to make a decision, “Do we donate her organs?” They chose to do so. Through a really unique series of circumstances, they discovered the recipient of their daughter’s heart. They got in touch with Patricia Winters—the lady in Phoenix—at the time, 45 years of age—who desperately needed a heart.
They got in touch with her and made arrangements to visit her in Phoenix. One of the local news stations in Dallas, where Todd and Tara still live, followed them to Phoenix. They heard about this and followed them—sent a crew out—to Phoenix. So this is all on tape. It’s just the most unbelievable story of Todd and Tara walking in to Patricia Winters’ house. The three of them hug for a long time. They just weep, and weep, and cry.
Then, Patricia Winters is a nurse. So, she had a stethoscope. She retrieved the stethoscope. She invited them to come and hear their daughter’s heart. You’ve got to be hard-hearted not to be brought to tears by this moment because it’s—Patricia sits still. Tara places the stethoscope against Patricia’s chest, and she puts it to her ears. She says, “Oh, it’s so strong! It’s so strong.” I use that story, Dennis, in the book, just to ask the question, “When she heard that heart, whose heart did she hear?”
She heard her daughter’s heart. It was in a different body, but she still heard her daughter’s heart. The grace message says, “When you give your heart to Jesus, He returns the favor. He removes your heart, and He places His within it.” In some supernatural, miraculous way, He begins removing our heart. In the Bible, our heart is our will and our desires—our longings. He, literally, pulls that out; and He places a new heart inside of us. So, “Yes, grace is what happened on the cross;” but, “Yes, grace is more.” It’s what’s happening right now because, as Christ’s heart grows within you, He begins to reclaim, and change, and make you into that new person that He wants you to be.
Bob: It does take a little while for the transplant to acclimate. I mean, that’s true, biologically; but it’s true, spiritually, as well.
Max: It is! Dennis, I met someone in your ministry today who had a heart transplant five years ago. He had heard this story; and he said, “That’s true. It takes a while for the body to adjust to the new heart.” In the same way, it’s true in our faith. You know, we grow in Christ. That’s the phrase we use—Christ really grows in us. He grows inside of us and changes us, as the heart grows.
Dennis: While you were talking, I was thinking of the well-known passage in
Ezekiel 36—it’s speaking of this grace.
Dennis: The promise is, “I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you shall be clean from all your uncleanliness and from all your idols. I will cleanse you and I will give you a new heart and a new spirit I will put within you. I will remove the heart of stone from within your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. I will put My spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes and be careful to obey My rules.
Max: Isn’t that amazing?
Dennis: When I read that story—that you shared in your book—I thought, “That’s it!” He comes to live within us. That visual picture of that heart transplant is the picture of Christianity—what we’re talking about here. Grace, in the person of Jesus Christ, not only forgives us, but takes up residence, to cleanse us, on a daily basis, from our selfishness—
Dennis: —give us strength to obey and keep God’s Word, which our flesh still doesn’t want to do.
Max: That’s right.
Dennis: I just kind of rejoiced. I thought, “That’s it!” That’s a great reminder, for all of us, of Who lives in us and how we need to make sure our hearts are beating according to the Father’s heart.
Max: I think it gives us hope; doesn’t it? There are things that I don’t like about me; but as I understand that Jesus lives inside me, I think, “Okay, I’m not going to be the same me tomorrow that I am today.” Maybe, you can’t forgive your husband. That’s okay—Jesus can forgive him. He’ll take up residence, within you.
I’m talking about something supernatural here. I’m not talking about something that we just kind of conjure up. I believe that when a person gives their heart to Christ, He gives His heart to them. He begins a miraculous transformation—sometimes, comes in fits and spurts—sometimes, it comes in a 100-yard dash. It’s irregular, but it happens. It happens. When grace happens, that person is a different person.
Bob: I was having breakfast, this morning, with a couple who have got a child, who is a prodigal—not walking with the Lord. This young woman’s got a boyfriend. The mom and dad I was meeting with—they are getting ready to meet with the guy and the daughter—to talk about their relationship—to talk about what’s going on. As we talked, I remember saying—and I remember praying, at the end—that they would need grace, in that moment, because the impulses of the flesh—in that situation—anger, shame, and discouragement about the choices the daughter is making. Yet, how they want to respond—in that moment—is how Jesus would respond if He were sitting across from that young woman and that young man. We don’t do that naturally, but God’s grace enables us to do what we don’t normally do; right?
Max: Absolutely. I think that’s a good point, Bob, because grace is that power that enables us to do and to be who God wants us to be. Remember when Paul prayed three times for the thorn in the flesh to be removed. The response of Jesus was, “My grace is sufficient for you,” —“My sustaining power—My sustaining—not just My saving power—but also, My sustaining power—is enough. I will get you through this.”
Dennis: To that person, who is listening today—maybe they’ve been driving down the freeway, running errands, or on a trip—they’ve stumbled across our broadcast—and the concept of grace has kind of caused them to turn their heads toward the radio. They go, “I’m not sure I have that kind of relationship with God.” What would you say to that person who may feel like they’re standing on the outside, looking in, trying to understand something that is profoundly life-changing?
Max: Yes. I would say a couple of things: That’s the reason Jesus came to the earth—the reason that Jesus walked on the earth—the reason God came—in the form of Jesus Christ—is to tell us that we cannot save ourselves, but that He can save us. If you have been dismissing religion because you don’t think you’re good enough or because you think the place is full of hypocrites—probably, what you’re dismissing is not grace; but you’re dismissing a man-made version of religion.
Consider this gift. The Bible calls grace a gift. It is the gift of God that saves us. Consider it. Look at it. Examine it. Say, “Yes,” to Jesus. Just say, “Yes.” The minute somebody hears that invitation—they say, “Yes, but what if I mess up?” or, “What if I don’t understand it all?” or, “What if I accept it, and then I blow it?” That’s the reason it’s called grace! That’s the reason it’s called grace!
God, in the act of grace, makes a covenant with you. He makes a covenant with you to save you. He makes the covenant. So, then, the power is not you’re holding on to Him; but the power is Him holding on to you. You just trust Him. Jesus said, “Unless a person becomes like a child, he’ll never enter the kingdom of heaven.” Just kind of take a child-like faith and say, “Okay, Father—okay, Papa—I trust you.” The invitation is yours to accept.
Dennis: “I can’t do it myself.”
Dennis: “I want Jesus Christ to be my Savior, my Lord, my Master, and my Redeemer.”
Dennis: He hears that prayer. I don’t understand it all because I had that transplant, in my heart, a number of years ago; and I’m still trying to grasp it. But I can promise you it is the most important decision you’ll ever make, in all of your life.
Bob: If somebody goes to our website, FamilyLifeToday.com, on the left-hand side of the screen—there is a tab there that says, “Two Ways to Live”. If you click on that, it talks more about what we’ve been talking about here: “What does it mean to be a follower of Jesus Christ? What does it mean to have new life in Christ—to be a recipient of God’s grace?” Go to FamilyLifeToday.com. If you’ve never understood what it means to follow Jesus, click on that tab that says, “Two Ways to Live” —at FamilyLifeToday.com— and see if that doesn’t clarify some things for you and point you in the right direction, spiritually.
While you’re on our website, consider getting a copy of Max Lucado’s new book called Grace. I think this is a subject that a lot of people have a surface understanding of, and we need to dig a little deeper. We’ve got copies of the book in our FamilyLife Today Resource Center. Go to FamilyLifeToday.com. Again, the book, by Max Lucado, is called Grace. You can order from us, online, or you can order by calling 1-800-358-6329. That’s 1-800-“F” as in family, “L” as in life, and then the word, “TODAY”.
You know, I think about the subject of grace—and I think, in a lot of ways, those folks who help support the ministry of FamilyLife Today have been very gracious toward us and toward the work that we’re trying to do here. FamilyLife exists to effectively develop godly families—the kind of families who change the world, one home at a time. Our mission is to see every home become a godly home, to keep pressing biblical truth in your direction—the direction of those around you—so that people will embrace it and live by it. That’s one of the reasons we have conversations like the one we’re having today, where we talk about grace.
We want to say, “Thanks,” to those of you who have helped support this ministry in the past. We appreciate your financial partnership. This month, if you’re able to help with a donation to defray the cost of producing and syndicating this daily radio program, we would like to send you, as a thank-you gift, two audio CDs—a conversation we had with author and speaker, Shaunti Feldhahn, about a book she wrote called For Women Only—a book that looks at what men say, most often, is most important to them, in their marriage relationship with their wife. It’s an interesting conversation. The CDs are yours as our thank-you gift when you make a donation, this month, to support the ministry.
Go to FamilyLifeToday.com. Click the button that says, “I CARE”. Make an online donation, or call 1-800-FL-TODAY. Make your donation over the phone. Just ask for the CDs, For Women Only; and we’ll be happy to send those out to you. Again, we do appreciate you standing with us and your partnership in the ministry of FamilyLife Today.
We hope you can be back with us again tomorrow. Max Lucado will be here again. We’ll continue our conversation about God’s grace. I hope you can be here.
I want to thank our engineer today, Keith Lynch, and our entire broadcast production team. On behalf of our host, Dennis Rainey, I'm Bob Lepine. We will see you back tomorrow for another edition of FamilyLife Today.
FamilyLife Today is a production of FamilyLife of Little Rock, Arkansas.
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