Let’s look at thebiblical theme of grace. It is a word that is widely used especially in the New Testament (NT). So what does it mean? What does the word convey?
For us today, when it is used, “when a person, or a lending institution, or a business extends grace, it means they are forgiving us.”
A person extends grace when they say to us, “You wronged me, you hurt me, but I am going to forgive you – no hard feelings.” In other words, they aren’t going to hold anything against you. They are going to treat you like they always had before.
If a lending institution extends grace, they are either extending the “grace period” in which a payment needs to be made or they are canceling out the debt and you don’t have to pay it.
If you are caught speeding, you have broken the law. But a police officer may extend grace by giving you a warning or even giving you a fine but not giving you points against your insurance.
These are all examples of grace.
Essentially, grace is only given to those who are law-breakers and guilty. When you keep the law (drive the speed limit), pay on time, don’t hurt others, you don’t need grace.
But do you always do everything right? Do you never hurt another person? Do y ou never steal, judge others or even think about these things? Do you always drive under the speed limit? Do you never lose your temper? Do you never say something out of anger or hurt?
Probably not. We all do things wrong. Therefore, we are all in need of grace.
We all need to be cut a break or given a pass from time to time. Now when we say it like that, it seems so simple. It seems like what we do are just little thingsthat really aren’t very big or harmful.
But the bible tells a different story. It would seem like just an innocent little thing for Eve to eat a piece of fruit she wasn’t suppose to. I mean if kids go into the cookie jar and take a cookie they weren’t suppose to, most of us would just laugh. We would say how cute it was. We probably wouldn’t give a big speech or hand down a heavy punishment.
But as you know, God took this pretty seriously. He threw them out of the Garden. And according to the bible, this began an avalanche of sin, disobedience and rebellion on earth.
Now I am not suggesting that we hand down severe punishments to our kids and others every time they do the least little thing wrong. Get the point here. In the Garden – in the hearts of Adam and Eve – just like in our hearts, there is something bigger going on.
It has to do with wanting our way rather than wanting to do things God’s way. As we turn inward, we turn away from God – little by little (not overnight!). You see this with teenagers all the time. It begins with wanting more independence… not wanting to study… thinking they know better than teachers and parents… wanting to hang out with cool friends (translation: the wrong kids)… church is not cool anymore… doing the wrong thing is more fun and attractive… It is slow downward spiral.
And it happens to all of us. We begin to have our thinking influenced by the wrong people and wrong sources. Then our hearts begin to change. Then we begin to exchange God’s truth for lies and we begin to worship the created rather than the Creator (our compass becomes the latest trends…Hollywood…what the cool people are saying…money begins to rule our hearts…self becomes more important than serving others…)
We become entangled in bad relationships…hang out with people who have wrong agendas and motives. Our minds and hearts become polluted. In attempting to meet our own needs, we become blind to God and others. We become self-serving and self-absorbed. We become our own masters. We hurt others by stepping on them and over them to get what we want… to announce our own importance.
And you see, that is only your story. The problem is, that is everyone’s story. As you read through the bible from Genesis to Revelation, you see one person, one group of people, one nation after another, owning this same story. It has become the whole world’s story!
So, we are back to where God was when He came to Abraham – He had a big mess on his hands. And remember what He said to Abraham, “I am making a promise to you, to make your name great…to make you into a great nation…to bless all people through Him…”
And this is where this last part of the promise is fulfilled. This is where the grace of God comes in. Rather than giving us what we deserve – punishment – He has decided to send His Son Jesus to take that punishment for us.
So, the question is often asked, “Why did Jesus have to suffer and die?” We probably can’t possibly comprehend God’s full purposes, but here is what the bible teaches.
He didn’t just come to forgive sins. You and I will forgive someone else’s sin. In other words, when someone offends us, hurts us or does harm to us, we have the power and choice to forgive another person. Think of a time when someone did or said something to you that hurt you. It could have been a friend…co-worker…spouse…parent…but you worked through the process and forgave them and held nothing against them nor tried to get even. That is forgiving another person. You are able to do that, but you didn’t have to die to do that. So why for God to forgive did He have to have His Son die?
Here is why according to the writers of the NT…
1. God isn’t just loving (sometimes we think soft), but He is also holy and righteous.
2. He created a world and people in His image (remember we talked about that earlier in this series) to be holy and righteous, just as He is.
3. Because of that, He takes sin far more seriously than we do. Think about it, we sin and say, “well that doesn’t matter”…”well at least I didn’t do so and so”… or “at least I’m not as bad as him…” You see, we minimize our sin. We compare ourselves to others and come out favorable in our own eyes.
But up against God’s holy standard, we all come up short.
You may want to stop and read: Romans 3:10-20
You see, God didn’t just freely forgive sin, rather He had to put everything right in the universe. He had to balance things. We look around in our world and see everything that is wrong… how people get away with things… how so many things seem unfair. Sometimes we forget that we ourselves have contributed to what God needs to put right.
Christ came and willing died to set things right. Unrighteousness had to be replaced with righteousness. You see, even when we forgive a wrong done to us, we absorb that loss. But we don’t have to put everything right. But God does!
Stop here and read: Romans 3:25-28
What is this saying? That Jesus died for everyone and every sin. But only those who trust Him in by faith benefit from what He did.
Read what it says in 2 Corinthians 5:21
This is the ultimate definition of GRACE. Christ took the punishment that we deserve so that we could receive the righteousness that we didn’t earn or deserve.
So here is the really good news – Here is the ultimate and most awesome message in the bible – Are you ready to receive it?
That when you accept by faith what Christ did for you on the cross, He fills you with His righteousness. And so when God looks at you, He doesn’t see your sins, He sees you covered in the righteousness of Christ.
It is through Christ that you have a new status – Forgiven!
Through Christ you have a new relationship with God– as a son or daughter of God!
And you have a new eternal destiny – To filled with eternal life and to live in the presence of God forever beginning right now!
So here is the bottom line when someone asks you why you are going to heaven? What is your answer?
- I go to church…
- I am a good person…
- I am better than ________
NO! There is only one answer the bible gives – because I believe what Jesus did for me on the cross has forgiven my sin and given me a righteousness that I didn’t earn or deserve. That is what the bible calls GRACE!
And here is the question: Are you still trying to earn points with God and hoping one day you will be good enough that He will accept you, or have you received His gift of salvation through His offer of GRACE?
Questions to reflect upon…
- What do I think of the concept of grace presented in the bible?
- Have I ever accepted God’s gift of salvation that He wants to give me by his grace?