Now There's Grace

Trying to be acceptable to God by using some form of the Law as life’s guide (the Ten Commandments, rules for holy living, doing the right thing) is essentially driving down the road . . . on a dark night . . . in a foggy mist . . . crashing from the guardrail on one side to the one on the other.

It’s when the collective damages from those crashes becomes overwhelming that His grace begins to appear.

And that’s His plan . . .

Beginnings of Grace

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 those rules really weren’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 its color as “red.”

Grace is often explained through the triplet: “Justice is getting what we deserve; mercy is not getting what we do deserve and grace is getting what we don’t deserve.”

That saying also identifies 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 living by 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. (That’s the gist of the contrast between the Law and grace in Romans chapters 5, 6 and 11.) However, as we grow in faith, we find that grace is a description of His total acceptance of who we have become –a friend of God –the promised bride of Christ.

Don’t Be Fooled

“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 (Galatians 5:4).

“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).

Growing In His Grace

“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 –grace and peace– 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 was a mystery that was only hinted about . . . but it’s right there in those familiar Old Testament stories.

  • Enoch didn’t die and neither did Elijah. Grace was shown by their instantaneous transition to being with God. Similarly, we’re truly in His kingdom even though we’re still living here on earth.
  • As the only good man on earth, Noah was chosen to usher in a second birth for the world –it had been covered in water once before (like in a mother’s water sac). God’s grace allowed him to bring along his family. His story predicts Jesus bringing us –His bride– with Him through new-birth.
  • God loved Abraham and inaugurated a kingdom of priests to the world through his offspring –they were former slaves to the ungodly Pharaoh. Grace is shown through the parallel –even though we were lost, dead in our trespasses, enemies to God –He gave us new life so we can be His ambassadors for Christ.
  • Moses was God’s friend –they met and talked daily face-to-face –and Joshua was there too. Grace for us is not being left alone to face our offensive, fleshly ways –our Savior has led us into His kingdom and the Holy Spirit is our Comforter while we wait to be with our best Friend face-to-face.
  • Gideon had wonderful exchanges with Him –and David was a man after God’s own heart. Grace for them was the same as it is for us. We can implicitly trust God regardless of our behaviors –and know that He loves us with His whole heart.
  • Two unworthy prostitutes appealed to King Solomon for a decision as to which of them should have custody of a three-day-old infant (a reference to obtaining new life through Jesus’ resurrection). They depict the two ways that mankind can relate to God. One demands His justice and gets it –eternal death, separated from Him. The other appeals for His mercy and grace and gets it –eternal life, resurrected with Him.

Jesus completed what the prophets hinted about –so Paul was able to explain grace extensively –particularly in Ephesians chapter three and Philippians chapter four. In those two letters (and others), he describes the secure relationship between believers and God. After realizing that security, the hints that we read about in the Psalms become factual –and the Song of Solomon becomes our love story with Him.

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 dramas and pictures from the Old Covenant (with earthly mediators presenting earthly sacrifices for earthly sins). Jesus –the One who was pictured by it– was born, crucified and raised to new life. Through that, God has revealed Himself so that we can understand and know Him personally –intimately. First Corinthians, chapter two says that’s the reason that He put His Spirit within us.

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” (Philippians 4:6-7).