I got "The Grace of God" written by Andy Stanley, from Thomas Nelson Publishing a looooooong time ago. This poor book has travelled to 4 states, been lost under a bed, dropped in the bathtub, stepped on, ripped, bent, and just all around neglected.
Which, now that I think about it, is kind of fitting for a book about how God's grace is showered on us. The believers and non-believers who have been trampled, forgotten, abused, and shattered--all are given the gift of Grace.
This book chronicles some of the well-known men and women of the bible, and the story of how Grace worked in thier lives. From Rahab to David, the most scorned citzens to the most praised kings all have received Grace. Each chapter covers a different player. You don't even need to bring a highlighter along for this book--the author makes sure to bold the points he wants to emphasize.
For a new Christian, or even someone who doesn't believe in Jesus Christ, the message can be kind of muddled until you get to the last chapter. On the second to last page. The author even bolds the text so that you don't miss it. "In God's story, you are the focus of a celebration. Not what you've done. You." The stories of Jonah, Levi, Abraham & Isaac, and Nicodemus all intertwine to show us that God loves us, not our actions.
As a Christian reading this book, the essence of the message can be summed up on page 202. Mr. Stanley quotes a passage from Acts (15:19). There's a backstory--the paraphrased version in Stanley's book, or Acts 15:1-29 can be read to gain understanding. But verse 19 pretty much sums it up: "It is my judgement, therefore, that we should not make it difficult for the Gentiles who are turning to God." How many of us that call ourselves "Christian" have given rules and standards for baby Christians that we ourselves cannot meet? How many 'church people' look at someone who has never been to church on Sunday with contempt.
Jesus opened his arms to prostitutes, lepers, and tax collectors. The lowest of the low. Why is it, then, that we turn our backs on those same people? Why is it that those of us who feel ashamed and low turn from Jesus? There seems to be a lot of closed off people in a world that was given the Grace to keep arms wide open.
Please, read this book. Even if you just read the last two chapters. Gain some insight into the Grace that has been given to you, just because you are.