Trying to be acceptable to God by using the Law as our guide, is essentially driving down the road –at night –in the rain –crashing from one guardrail to the other. When the damages from those crashes becomes overwhelming, His grace begins to appear. And that’s His plan…
For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast. (Ephesians 2:8-9)
For us grace-lovers, one of the greatest faith-moments ever experienced was realizing that the Law really wasn’t intended to be the guide for a believer’s life. It was such wonderful news that we began telling our friends about it –describing it as “grace.” But that’s as limited as telling a child about a rainbow –describing it as “red.”
An attempt at explaining grace is through this often repeated triplet. “Justice is getting what we deserve; mercy is not getting what we do deserve and grace is getting what we don’t deserve.” Although the saying is somewhat vague, it does identify the progression of a believer’s life. First comes demanding justice. After realizing what we would get, it becomes the last thing we want. Then there’s understanding God’s mercy. It’s the threshold for grasping God’s love and it’s what He wants us to relate to others. Finally, there’s grace…
Living by grace begins when obedience to the Law ends.
In dance, grace describes smooth gliding movements across the floor. In music, grace-notes are the brisk accents that engagingly carry the listener between chords. In gatherings, social-grace is the ability to pleasantly (and inoffensively) join in conversations and activities with others. In nature, it’s the seemingly effortless motion of trees swaying, water creatures swimming and birds soaring –each in its own environment.
God’s grace for believers describes the smooth, gliding, engaging, pleasing, inoffensive, effortless transition from the time we’re saved here on earth to when we’re holding hands with our loving Husband –romantically gazing into each other’s eyes at the marriage feast in heaven.
Our initial understanding of grace was that the Law’s constraints on our behaviors have been removed. However, as we grow in faith, we find that grace is a description of His total acceptance of who we have become –the bride of Christ.
“I’m sorry, please have mercy –and please don’t give me what I deserve.” Essentially that’s what we ask when a policeman stops us for a traffic violation. And it’s what we begged from our parents, teachers and supervisors when we got caught doing something wrong. However, that can’t describe how we relate to God –not if we believe that Jesus really, already did everything to reconcile us. Asking for mercy is denying what He did –it’s falling from grace ( ).
“It’s just not fair, I deserve justice.” Sure it sounds right and it’s natural to feel that way after being wronged. We want everyone to know we aren’t guilty and we want that other person to suffer the penalty of our choosing. It’s what our flesh craves but it’s not God’s way. (That’s the subject of the remainder of Galatians chapter five.) Wanting justice is evicting God from His throne as Judge.
God simply wants us to trust Him. He’s working out every detail of this life (the pleasant and the harsh) for our good (from Romans 8:28).
“Grace and peace to you” is a greeting found in the first few verses of most of the New Testament letters. Together those two words describe God’s goal for a believer’s life. However, at least an introduction to grace must come before peace can be attained.
Until Jesus came, grace –and mercy– were a mystery that was only hinted about …but it’s right there in those familiar Old Testament stories.
After Jesus’ coming, Paul talked about grace extensively –particularly in Ephesians chapter three and Philippians chapter four. In those two letters (and others), he describes a secure relationship between believers and God. It’s trusting that there is nothing you can do to mess things up between the two of you. You can relax and rely on His friendship, His companionship during your troubles, His provision for your needs, His work in the hearts of those dear to you, His Spirit’s presence in your every breath, His profound love for you. Literally, you are the love of His life.
Let’s not forget what changed. The time was over for pictures and hints from the Old Covenant. Jesus –the One who was pictured by it– was born, crucified and raised to new life. Now, God has revealed Himself so that we can understand and know Him personally –intimately. First Corinthians, chapter two says that’s why He has given us His Spirit.
His proving ground for maturing you in grace is right here on earth. It’s achieved through experiences –individually, and as a family member, a worker, a neighbor, a friend, an ambassador of Christ.
God isn’t interested in how good or faithful you are. Instead He’s proving that He is totally trustworthy –that He is necessary and sufficient for every bit of your life.
As you go through your day and recognize Him at work on your behalf –not always doing things the way you want– you have an opportunity to increase your dependency on Him and experience a magnificent result –“the peace of God which surpasses all comprehension” ( ).