One of my passions is that grace must not just be a doctrine we teach, it must be the way we live. I have a real concern that people are more concerned with dotting the “i”s and crossing the “t”s of grace teaching correctly that they do not know how to be gracious.
If you are the one with the right understanding of grace, but in every argument you go high, rather than go low and seek to listen and learn, you in fact do not have the right understanding of grace. Grace must permeate our lives, our confidence, our prayers, our relationships, how we perform at work, how we live out our marriage, everything. Grace has to be the way we live! The doctrines of grace must become flesh in our graciousness in our lifes!
If you think grace is an excuse for sin, a licence to sin, or God ignoring sin, you have not understood a thing about grace. Not Biblical grace, which actually teaches us to say “no” to sin (Titus 2.212). What has happened so sadly in many “grace “churches and ministries is what happened in the day of Jude – “some ungodly people have wormed their way into your churches, saying that God’s marvelous grace allows us to live immoral lives” (Jude v.4).
So let’s start by thinking about what grace actually is and how it can transform our lives. In this first post, we will look at what grace really is.
Grace at its simplest is this: God accepts you just the way you are, independent of your performance, your rituals, your actions. In other words, God loves you despite your worst behaviour and He loves you despite your best behaviour. Your goodness, your badness – none of it changes how much God loves you, accepts you and adores you.
The problem is that in most areas of life the world has linked acceptance with behaviour and performance. You start school and immediately your behaviour and performance are being reported on! Even with the best of parents loving you unconditionally as best they could, the idea that performance and acceptance are entwined starts infecting our souls. We then start our first job, and again acceptance and performance are linked. We watch the TV and the adverts tells us if you drive the wrong car, or use the wrong soap, you will not be acceptable to people!
Because of this constant linking of behaviour and acceptance in the world, it is all to easy to bring this into our faith in God, and our walk with God, and develop a religion of performance. We have to understand that is not the way God relates to us. God relates to us with grace. If you never did anything good ever again, if you burned your Bible to ash, if you burned the church down, if you never tithed and never gave in the offering and spent all your money on drink and drugs, God will still love you, accept you and adore you, exactly the same as if you lived 100% for Jesus! That’s grace!
You are accepted by God, you are valued by God, you are righteous, pure, holy. You are accepted, loved and adored by God. That is grace. We have to settle this before we can live a life of grace – you are accepted no matter what you have done, no matter what you are doing, no matter what you ever do. That is grace!
If you do not build that foundation, I could preach a great message on tithing, on prayer, on living for Jesus, but your mind because you are not settled on the unconditional love of God, would twist a great message into a message about performance. I say “lete’s share our faith”, and people who do not get grace hear “let’s share our faith or God will stop loving us”. If I say “let’s pray daily”, people who do not get grace hear “let’s pray daily or God will not accept us”. That’s not the way. We do not do things to be accepted, we are accepted, loved and adored by God irrespective of behaviour.
That is grace. If we do not understand what grace is, that God loves us totally unconditionally, then everything else in our lives gets twisted. You might have some good doctrines of grace, but unless you start to live a life of grace, you will never walk in victory. Unless it is settled in your heart that God accepts you without qualification, then you will not grow or develop as a Christian. We must understand and appreciate that God accepts us no matter what. That His love is without conditions. Then we are in a position to build a living genuine life of grace, and not a fake grace that leads to immoral lives.
The Greek word for grace is charis, it means a totally undeserved kindness. All of God’s love for you, all His acceptance of you – it is totally undeserved. You do not deserve it, you cannot earn it, it is not a reward, it is not wages.
A lot of us see God’s acceptance as wages, a reward for a job well done. Then if we do not do the job well, we feel that we have somehow lost God’s favour, acceptance and love. But it is not wages, it is a gift. You cannot earn it, you can never deserve it. That’s grace!