Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us, for it is written: Cursed is everyone who is hung on a tree. He redeemed us in order that the blessing given to Abraham might come to the Gentiles through Christ Jesus, so that by faith we might receive the promise of the spirit…no one can set aside or add to a human covenant that has been duly established, so it is in this case… Galatians 3:13-15
Grace basically means an undeserved act of kindness. This is one of the most enduring actions of love that could ever be conceived. This means that our salvation is a gift, which cannot be earned or purchased. This was the doctrine that fueled and motivated the Reformers who gave us the slogan of "Sola Gratia," meaning, we come to Christ by Grace Alone, the sounding proclamation of the Reformation. In theology, this means that Jesus knows His sheep, that He reveals Himself in such a way that we will respond. He does not force or coerce us to follow Him. He creates the work to allow us to be willing to be led and purchased by His blood.
Even though we will put up a fight against Him because we are naturally resistant, He gives it to us anyway. Even though we do not earn it or deserve it, He gives it to us anyway. If we are left out on our own, there is no amount of time or a situation that would come to pass that we would ever accept His precious gift, and He gives it to us anyway. Thus, it is by Christ's work first, then by our response that He makes it alluring to us. We do not respond first, because we are unable to do so. If we did, it would mean we earned it and would negate what Christ did on the cross for us. We have to see how incredible this is. We have something precious beyond hope or measure, of which we are not worthy. God is the one who regenerates us, creating a new will that will allow the work of the Spirit. His Grace is sufficient and "effectual", meaning it will overcome our sin to accomplish God's purpose.
Even though we are given grace anyway, too many of us Christians dispense grace and mercy to others sparingly as with a tiny spoon. He gave it to us with a dump truck! We use small spoons such as the decorative spoons you might collect on vacation and place up on a mantle, but this is not what Christ would have us do. It is not so much the spoons as the dispensing. We must learn that performance-oriented Christianity has no basis in the kingdom of God. We cannot evaluate people on how they look or their ability to perform tasks so that when they don't meet our expectations, we write them off. Do not confuse this with job performance. A good work ethic is essential to being a good Christian witness. A staff member in the church has a job description that should be biblically based, well thought out, and compared to others in the field. The staff member has an obligation to work hard and fulfill that job description. This is a different kind of performance of pleasing skewed agendas and not Christ.
The performance I am speaking of is when the rules of society are placed over and against the rules of our Lord. Here is a story to illustrate this. I was playing volleyball with a group of guys after church one Sunday, when they started to pick on another person because of his T-shirt. This was all in fun, but the person that they were picking on did not take it that way. He felt hurt, and never came back. So, one of the guys who picked on him called him and went to apologize to him. This is an aspect of grace-the willingness to admit when we are wrong and seek forgiveness. And, he came back. Grace does not judge someone for superficial things such as outfits, especially the non-Christians who are not used to Christian culture. When we pick on each other, we need to realize the magnitude of hurt this creates for others and for God. It is His precious Children we are picking on. There are times to have fun, "tongue-in-cheek," but it always needs to be practiced with the attitude of love and care.
In Christian circles, we hear the phrase "we are not under law but under grace." Perhaps you may say this often, or hear it said to you with the flair of patronization; but, when this is said, do we say it in the truth that is meant, or as an excuse to do whatever we want? Is this a statement of expounding the greatest gift ever given in the history of the universe, or is it a sly attitude to excuse our deviant behaviors?
We have to see the magnificent aspect of what Christ has done for us. We need to see the joy (James 1:2-4) and the hope (Hebrews 6:18-19) we are given. This is foundational to life and liberty. Without hope, we cannot persevere in life effectively, as we would give up and become captivated by correction or oppressed into drudgery. This hope gives us the road on which to drive our maturity and spiritual growth. As we go through life, we learn; and when we learn, we grow; and when we grow, we develop character that hones and improves our worship of Christ. This builds our personalities, allowing us to be better used in the lives of others, and minimizing our faults. Our character and what He is doing in our lives are our true treasures. This richness is so much more tangible and impressive than what the world offers. To take this hope to new levels and apply it with passion and conviction, we have to see who we are in Him. We must be careful that our faith is developed from God's nature and not ours. This hope will not just fuel our liberty, but also our worship because we are praising God for what He has done.
Do you realize the magnitude of the grace He has given you? Christ gave us grace; He saved us when we totally did not deserve it. And to top it off, God assures us of our salvation and motivates us to rejoice and glory in Him, no matter what happens or what we go through, because He has gone through more. Most Christians cannot fathom the efforts and ordeals that God went through to secure our salvation, thus we don't treat each other with the same characteristics. Christ has fulfilled the law in regard to the debt that we owe and the sin under which we were cursed. So, where and when does responsibility come into play?
Grace saves us, but also does so much more. It gives us the joy to endure the harshness of life. He gives us the hope to persevere and make our lives purposeful and meaningful. He does this with His Spirit and His love. He gives us access to Himself. It is God's abiding love that keeps us attached in grace and purpose for His glory. Alone, we would quickly fall away into our sin and forget who we are in Christ, just as the Israelites did throughout the Old Testament, especially in Judges 2. The Holy Spirit is the glue who keeps us sticking together. He takes us, who are His enemies by our sin, and reconciles us so we are no longer enemies, but rather His friends (John 14-15).
We, as Christians, must have a healthy understanding of what grace is, so we can reciprocate it to those around us. Christ paid the price of the broken covenant between us and God, a price that Christ did not owe. We deserved the wrath, punishment, and the condemnation; the curse was lifted, but not by anything we had or could ever accomplish ourselves. Then, we are filled with the promise and blessing of Abraham, so that all the world may know.
- Do you have a good idea what Grace basically means? How would you explain it to someone who is not quite sure?
- How do you feel that no matter how good you are, you deserve the wrath, punishment, and condemnation from God? To make you feel better read Romans 8!
- Do you realize the magnitude of the grace He has given you?
- How can you see the magnificent aspect of what Christ has done for you? How would your life change?
- How has Grace been sufficient and "effectual" to you?
- How can your knowledge of grace help you overcome your sin to accomplish God's purpose?
- What does performance-oriented Christianity mean to you? Why do you suppose it has no basis in the kingdom of God?
- Grace saves us, but also does so much more, how so?
- Is grace an excuse to do whatever we want? Why not?
- Does your church and its leadership have a healthy understanding of what grace is? If not what can be done? How would this improve your church and impact your world?
© 1998, 2001, 2003, Richard J. Krejcir, Ph.D., Discipleship Tools www.discipleshiptools.org