Trying to be acceptable to God by living according to a set of rules (the Ten Commandments, godly principles, doing the right thing) is essentially driving on a dark night . . . in a foggy mist . . . crashing from the guardrail on one side of the road to the one on the other.
It’s when the collective damages from our many failures becomes overwhelming that 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 those rules with their associated penalties really weren’t intended to be our guide. It was such welcome news that we began telling our friends about this freedom –calling it “grace.” But that’s as limited as telling a child about a rainbow –saying that it’s “red.”
Grace is often defined as “unmerited favor” and 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 adage also identifies a believer’s progression. First comes encountering evil people and wanting God’s justice for them. Once we realize that we too “have sinned and fall short of His glory,” His justice becomes something we don’t want at all. Then there’s understanding His mercy. It’s the threshold for grasping His love and it’s what we depended upon while fearing His justice. Finally, there’s His grace . . . and unlike the other two, it’s wholly separate from obeying rules and avoiding penalties.
Grace is an unconditional attitude of kindness toward a person who’s in need. It’s expressed through helping actions . . . with no desire for repayment.
We use that word to describe things in our world. In dance, grace is the 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.
God’s grace refers to His relationship with us from the time we’re saved here on earth to when we’re holding hands with our loving Husband at the marriage feast in heaven. He’s made every provision for our interactions with Him to be smooth, gliding, engaging, pleasing, inoffensive and effortless. It’s up to us to believe that to be true and enjoy even this time with Him.
Sure, 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 synonymous with His total acceptance of who we have become –a new creation in Christ –a part of His body –joined together with Him.
“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 be 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 –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 in those familiar Old Testament stories, but it’s there . . .
Living in grace is 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.
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 rating 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 wondrous result –“the peace of God which surpasses all comprehension” ( ).