Grace is an amazing word. Not just the word, but what it means. One definition is, “God’s Riches At Christ’s Expense”. Another is, “The love and mercy given to us by God because God desires us to have it, not because of anything we have done to earn it”. Maybe one of the best ways to understand grace is to read some of what Paul said about it in Romans (there are 18 references to grace in Romans):
- justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus (3:24)
- it depends on faith, in order that the promise may rest on grace (4:16)
- Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand (5:2)
- For if many died through one man’s trespass, much more have the grace of God and the free gift by the grace of that one man Jesus Christ abounded for many (5:15)
- For if, because of one man’s trespass, death reigned through that one man, much more will those who receive the abundance of grace and the free gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man Jesus Christ (5:17)
- Now the law came in to increase the trespass, but where sin increased, grace abounded all the more, so that, as sin reigned in death, grace also might reign through righteousness leading to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord (5:20-21)
- sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace (6:14)
- What then? Are we to sin because we are not under law but under grace? By no means (6:15)
- But if it is by grace, it is no longer on the basis of works; otherwise grace would no longer be grace (11:6)
We see that faith and grace go together, as opposed to works and law. Sin brings death, but grace brings life. Grace is free. If we are under grace, we are not under law. For me, this understanding of grace has been continually unfolding throughout my life. When I first became a Christian, I knew very little of grace, and because of this, I became almost paralyzed by lies of he enemy that wanted to keep me under law and condemnation, trying to earn favour and never quite succeeding. But even then, I did understand grace as something given to me that I didn’t deserve, and so grace took hold inside of me … and changed my life.
I’ve heard that some people and churches are selling a message of “cheap grace”, which basically says, because Jesus did it all, you can live as you want because it’s all covered by grace. Actually, this is not a new concept, Paul covered this in Romans chapter 6 – “What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it”. I think the reason that this idea of cheap grace is present is that it is the logical unfolding of a heart that has not been transformed by God.
Our entire walk with God is a journey of transformation … from glory to glory. If I only intellectually assent to the fact that Jesus died for my sins, then it is easy to jump to the false grace conclusion … it’s convenient, and allows me to live as I want. If, on the other hand, I understand what Jesus has done for me and my response is to embrace it, then transformation starts. Maybe grace is like a seed. I can have the seed and never plant and water it, and so nothing grows. Once I do allow it to grow, it changes me from the inside. The test for any of us is to see if there is a transformation happening, or if we’re happy just to believe God saved us so we can run our lives in our own way.
Paul said that if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved (10:9). The confession of the mouth and the believing in the heart is like the activation sequence for grace … and for everlasting life. Both confessing and believing are required, since with the mind we understand, but with the heart we receive. Cheap grace leaves us unconcerned with the things of God. True grace transforms us into his likeness.
The amazing thing about His grace is that once we are in it, it is He who does the transforming. Every change in my life, whether it is dealing with sin or aligning more with His will, is actually all directed by Him. I have had things in my life that I wanted to deal with, but God seemed unconcerned. It was like He was saying, “yeah, I see that. Don’t worry about it, we’ll get to it later.”
I know there is no condemnation for me, since I am in Christ Jesus (8:1). I know I have unresolved things, sins in my life, but as far as God is concerned, they are dead, and he wants me to recognize them as such. When He brings things up in me to deal with, I still have to confess (acknowledge) them and turn from them. In doing so, they get “unhooked” from me and I am no longer dragging around their dead weight.
A few years ago, God gave me a picture of a streetlight which projected a cone of light onto the ground. I saw myself standing partly in that cone, but felt God tell me to move into the centre of it. The cone of light was where He wanted me to be. Once I was positioned in the centre of it, I saw that I would be completely covered by His grace, completely protected and in the centre of His will. My whole life has been about being transformed. At times it has been slow, but there are also times when I notice a leap in the level of my understanding. Each time, I see that God’s grace is bigger than I imagined, and each time, it draws me to that centre. When I first started the journey of grace, I thought God was there to help me live my life. I know now that this is a very limited understanding. When I lead my life, I don’t like how things unfold. As I allow God to lead, transformation occurs.
Right now, my prayer is, “Lord, I’m done with agendas. The only agenda I want is what You have for me. You have a destiny for me and I want to walk in it more that anything in the world. I want to bind myself to you so that no matter what, I only live according to your desire.” It’s scary, but I love the path He has me on. I can’t do anything else. He is my all in all.