There is a lot of talk about grace in Christian circles these days. It seems that we have begun to come out on the other side of “fundamentalism” where rules, standards, convictions were emphasized to the point where church attenders felt judged, condemned and “less than” after each sermon. The goal of course was to motivate us to godliness and holy living. The goal was noble but the method was ineffective and divisive. Church goers either left because they felt condemned, became proud and Pharisaical because they had some success in keeping the standards or learned how to “look” holy without actually living it out.
Enter grace. Grace is a concept. It is the unscripted, undeserved, unearned favor of God. But Scripture teaches us that grace “appeared” to all men (Titus 2:11). So grace is more than a concept it is also a person. Grace is Jesus. When we receive Jesus, we receive grace. Grace is also an experience. When God shows up in our lives and brings blessing, love, acceptance, it is NEVER because we were successful in obeying a list of rules, it is ALWAYS because God is gracious.
So does living in grace mean we no longer believe in holy living? Does grace make our behavior a non-issue? Absolutely not, Paul says “Shall we continue to sin so that grace can abound? God forbid!” (Romans 6:1). Grace actually makes holy living possible and releases us from striving to achieve it. How is this possible?
We no longer have to strive to be righteous because God by grace declares us righteous and allows us to live out of that new identity (II Corinthians 5:21).
We no longer have to strive to be acceptable to God because by grace we are accepted in the beloved (Ephesians 1:6).
We no longer have to strive for God’s love because by His grace nothing can separate us from His love (Romans 8:38-39).
We no longer have to strive to live the Christian life because by grace we already have “everything we need for life and godliness” (II Peter 1:3).
Grace changes who we are so that we can change how we live. Holy living flows out of a holy identity. Grace prompts a desire for holy living. Thus Scripture tells us that grace “teaches us that denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously and godly in this present world” (Titus 2:12).
We still need to be challenged to speak the truth, love one another, pray without ceasing, live soberly, etc., But the challenge doesn’t motivate us to try harder but to choose to live out of who we are so that we can experience life “to the fullest” (John 10:10).
So put your faith in the concept of grace. Live in relationship with the person of grace. Choose to live godly as an experience of His grace.