Friday, June 22, 2012

Thoughts On Grace

Grace is a common topic among the churched.  Some relegate it to the prayer before a meal, although I'm not quite sure where the origin of that comes from.  Some hold to the idea that it is the unmerited favor of God and although that is true, Scripture seems to offer us a much broader definition.  Still others see it as a liberty to live in such a way that results in no consequence for their actions.  A license to sin if you will.  Freedom to continue living in a way that requires no real transformation. It's as if grace has the power to save but stops short at really changing me.  Really, that's it?  A mere ticket to heaven?  So, I say a little prayer, trust in this gift of grace and I have the assurance of heaven, case closed?  When I reconcile that definition of grace with the truth in Scripture, that idea of grace seems completely shortsighted.

First, the grace of God is not actions without consequence. God does not simply choose to ignore our sin.  To do so would render Him unjust.  Justice requires payment for wrong done.  Because God is a just God, He does not simply let us off the hook.  God never turns a blind eye to our sin.  Never! The grace of God isn't simply a get out of jail free card.  The concept of grace is characterized by something much more powerful than a dismissal of the charges against us.  Sin carries with it a penalty of death and instead of changing the rules, ignoring our sin, or giving us a second chance, God has chosen to send His Son to die in order to appease the demands of justice.  Instead of actions without consequence, grace is actually Jesus paying the penalty for our sin. It looks like this, we sinned, He suffers the consequences of our sin, justice has been appeased. More than just a prayer and a free ticket to heaven isn't it?

On the cross, Jesus paid the price for all of our sin.  All past, present, and future sin.  Knowing that fact, as a Believer, shouldn't that change my perspective on how I approach life?  After all, if I know that my sin is not simply washed away but paid for by the suffering of Jesus, isn't treating grace as a license to sin absolutely horrific? The writer of Hebrews makes that point when he states we are in essence crucifying Jesus again when we continue in sin (Hebrews 6:6).  It is an immature and unlearned approach to grace when we live in such a way that we simply believe that grace affords use the freedom to continue a lifestyle inconsistent with that of the new birth.  
Indeed the grace of God reached into my situation and addressed my sin problem. That grace does not simply grant me the freedom to sin without facing the consequences of that sin. Grace has indeed set us free. That freedom is not freedom to sin, but freedom from sin. God's grace does not only offer me forgiveness for sin, but it actually empowers me to overcome sin. As a Believer, the life God designed me to live is characterized by a supernatural endowment to live victorious over sin. The grace of God does not stop with my new birth experience, it only begins there.

Titus 2 declares, "For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men, teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly in the present age, looking for the blessed hope and glorious appearing of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, who gave Himself for us, that He might redeem us from every lawless deed and purify for Himself His own special people, zealous for good works." So, while this grace indeed is characterized by God's unmerited favor towards us in saving us, it also empowers us to live the new life that we've been given. It is tragic for a Believer to choose to live short of that.

God is so good. Think about it for a moment. He sent Jesus to pay the price for my sin and to free me from the power of sin. That's grace! He also empowered me, by putting His Spirit in me in order to enable me to live the kind of life He designed me to live. That's also grace! He's done all the work and what He requires of me is to simply trust in Him and the work He's done. When I choose to do that, I'm allowing grace to complete its work in me. Anything short of that is settling for a life unworthy of the price He's paid.

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