Following Jesus sets a Christian apart from every other world religion. Years ago, that very question was discussed at a conference. Some argued that Christianity is unique in teaching that God became man, but a few objected, saying that other religions teach similar doctrines. What about the resurrection? No, it was argued, other faiths believe that the dead rise again. The discussion grew heated.
S. Lewis, a strong defender of Christianity, came in late, sat down, and asked, “What’s the rumpus about?” When he learned that it was a debate about the uniqueness of Christianity, he immediately commented, “Oh, that’s easy. It’s grace.” How right he was! The very heart of the gospel is the supreme truth that God accepts us with no conditions whatever when we put our trust in the atoning sacrifice of His incarnate Son.
Although we are helplessly sinful, God in grace forgives us completely. It’s by His infinite grace that we are saved, not by moral character, works of righteousness, commandment-keeping, or churchgoing. When we do nothing else but accept God’s total pardon, we receive the guarantee of eternal life (1 Tim 3:4-7).
Hope & Peace
Grace is a delightful, fragrant word. It intrigues, attracts, and compels. Grace is the most audacious and generous gifts mankind is extended. Wesley Allan Dodd tortured, molested, and murdered three boys in Vancouver, Washington. Dodd was scheduled to be hanged (the first hanging in three decades) shortly after midnight, January 4, 1993. Reporters from all over the country crowded around the prison. 12 media representatives were first hand witnesses to the execution. When they emerged 30 minutes after Dodd died, they recounted the experience. One of them read Dodd’s last words: “I had thought there was no hope and no peace. I was wrong. I have found hope and peace in the Lord Jesus Christ.”
Gasps and groans erupted from the gallery. The anger was palpable. How dare someone who has done anything so terrible say he had found hope and peace in Jesus? Did he really think God would let him into heaven after what he’d done? The idea of God’s offering grace to Dodd was utterly offensive.
Thoughts on Grace
Grace is an essential part of God’s character and is closely related to God’s benevolence, love, and mercy. Let me give you four thoughts on grace and how it interfaces with the fear of the Lord.
- Grace is unmerited favor that brings blessing and joy. God’s favor toward the unworthy. According to the Complete Word Study Dictionary, grace is “a favor done without expectation of return; the absolutely free expression of the loving kindness of God to men finding its only motive in the bounty and benevolence of the Giver; unearned and unmerited favor.
- To fully understand grace, we need to consider who we were without Christ and who we become with Christ. The life-changing power of grace can be easily diminished without understanding who we are outside of it:
- We were born in sin (Psalm 51:5.
- We were guilty of breaking God’s holy laws (Romans 3:9-20).
- We were enemies of God (Romans 5:6).
- Deserving of death (Romans 6:23).
- We were unrighteous (Romans 3:10).
- We were without means of justifying ourselves (Romans 3:20).
- Spiritually destitute, blind, unclean, and dead. Our souls were in peril of everlasting punishment.
But then came grace and God extended His favor to us. Grace invites us into a saving relationship with Jesus and it does not stop there. God is gracious to us for the rest of our lives, working within and upon us. The Word of God encourages us with many additional benefits that grace secures for every believer:
- Grace justifies us before a holy God (Romans 3:24).
- Grace provides us access to God to communicate and fellowship with Him (Hebrews 4:16).
- Grace wins for us a new relationship of intimacy with God (Exodus 33:17).
- Grace grants us immeasurable spiritual riches (Proverbs 10:22).
- Grace helps us in our every need (Hebrews 4:16).
- Grace is the reason behind our every deliverance (Psalm 44:3–8).
- Grace preserves us and comforts, encourages, and strengthens us (2 Timothy 2:1).
- Grace disciplines and trains us to live in a way that honors God. When biblical grace touches a human heart, desires and lifestyles change. Former habits and sin areas lose their appeal for the sake of living in the fullness of God. True biblical grace empowers the believer to leave ungodliness and worldly passions behind.Titus 2:11–14 (ESV)
“For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age, waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works.”The true grace message inspires us to deny lust and gives us power to walk godly. Much of the grace teaching in the body of Christ is not true grace teaching. It is distorted as it empowers compromise and passivity as it gives a false sense of assurance. True biblical grace inspires us to repent or to come into agreement or realignment with God’s heart.False grace is a perversion of God’s grace reducing its message to receiving forgiveness without repentance and seeking to make people comfortable with God while continuing in their sin. This cheap grace message promotes:
- Liberty to disobey the Lord and His Word.k,i;plpok[0.j’/u0om/l
- Rationalizing sin in our lives by comparing ourselves to people and not the Lord.
- Excusing the need for repentance and confession.
- “Convenient commitment” to the Lord and gives the ability to love Him or not depending on your mood. (Just imagine being married to a person that only loves you when it is convenient for them).
Paul had some very sobering predictions about man’s condition to describe the times we are living in today. He wrote,
2 Timothy 3:1–4 (NLT)
“You should know this, Timothy, that in the last days there will be very difficult times. For people will love only themselves and their money. They will be boastful and proud, scoffing at God, disobedient to their parents, and ungrateful. They will consider nothing sacred. They will be unloving and unforgiving; they will slander others and have no self-control. They will be cruel and hate what is good. They will betray their friends, be reckless, be puffed up with pride, and love pleasure rather than God.”
Paul is not describing the world but the church. He says,
2 Timothy 3:5 (NLT)
“They will act religious, but they will reject the power that could make them godly.”
They will frequently attend church, hear God’s Word, talk God’s Word, boast in the saving grace of the Lord, but will reject the power that could make them godly. What is the power that could make them godly? It is the very grace of God of which they boast.
- Grace is not an excuse but an empowerment. Grace is unmerited; and it does cover…but not in the manner we have been taught. It is not an excuse, but an empowerment. Although grace covers, it is not merely a cover-up. It goes far beyond that. Grace enables and empowers us to live a life of holiness and obedience to the authority of God.
Hebrews 12:28 (NKJV)
“Let us have grace, by which we may serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear.”
Biblical grace is powerful not only to redeem us but also to grant us the ability to live our lives in a totally different manner. Biblical grace empowers us to live in the fear of the Lord. Biblical grace trains us to say yes to what the Lord loves and no to what He hates. Biblical grace instructs us to renounce ungodliness and to live upright, godly lives. Biblical grace strengthens us to live in faith waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ (Titus 2:13).
What grace have you put your hope in: Biblical grace or cheap grace? Dietrich Bonhoeffer in The Cost of Discipleship says, “Cheap grace is the grace we bestow on ourselves. Cheap grace is the preaching of forgiveness without requiring repentance, baptism without church discipline, communion without confession. Cheap grace is grace without discipleship, grace without the cross, grace without Jesus Christ, living and incarnate. Costly grace…is the kingly rule of Christ, for whose sake a man will pluck out the eye which causes him to stumble, it is the call of Jesus Christ at which the disciple leaves his nets and follows him.”
Open your heart today to receive the true Biblical grace of God over your life. Open your heart to receive Him as your Savior and Lord. Open your heart and allow true Biblical grace to fill you and empower you to live as a disciple of Jesus.