I was talking with a good friend of mine recently about grace. As we discussed our marriages, or kids, our jobs, and other mysteries of our lives, it seemed the topic of grace became a major undertone. I directed the conversation towards grace and asked some questions…
What is Grace? What does Grace look like in the our lives as fathers and husbands? How do we interact with Grace in our lives?
My friend let me know pretty quick that these were NOT easy questions for him to answer. We went on to talk about other things for the rest of our time together. I asked him to think about grace and these questions and send me an email with his answers.
Maybe I am getting lazy… just posting other people’s emails in this blog… but I loved his response! He has agreed to let me post his thoughts and his heart below. Enjoy!
What do I know of grace? This was a question I knew for sure, for quite some time until heard some talk about it. This topic came up, probably bi-weekly, for around 9-10 months from various people. I knew God was trying to tell me to do a study on grace, but I kept putting it off. I kept meaning to get around to it, after I finished this book, or that book, or meeting with this guy. I finally sat down one day and looked into the matter. What is grace? According to a website definition, grace is special favor, or the unmerited favor of God. What is merit? According to another definition, it is the quality of being particularly good or worthy. What does this mean? It means there is nothing we can do to be particularly good or worthy of the favor of God. In the letter of Paul to the Ephesians, he states it is only by grace that we are saved through faith. This does not have a bearing on anything we can do or achieve of ourselves. It is purely a gift given to us by God. This is so nobody can go around boasting and say, “look how much better I am than you are at getting saved.” This, I knew. I had no problems with this. My deeds are like nasty dirty nasty nasty dirty, nasty, rags. So, I become a Christian based on the work that Christ has accomplished and not on the work that I have accomplished.Aaaaaaand then it stops.I learned that I wasn’t good enough to please people, so I tried harder. When I would try really hard, I would find the favor of people. I learned to associate this approval with good deeds in my day to day life. Grace was something that we needed to come to a saving faith of Jesus while justice was what we needed to keep people in line with their “lack of living the Christian life like their supposed to.” I began to link the effects of my good deeds in my day to day life to how I view my Heavenly Creator.So what did this create? It created a false view of the abundant love of God, post conversion. Talk about destructive in a marriage relationship, whew, you have no idea. I could love my wife when she was trying hard enough, and I could love her when she wasn’t trying hard enough, but I had to show her justice in the times she didn’t try so hard. This was so she could be worthy of MY love. Well, that didn’t work out very well and I didn’t know that’s what I was doing. I showed my kids I loved them MORE when they brought home good grades, and they got punished for bringing home bad grades. I was teaching them that to receive MY love they had to prove themselves worthy. This is not grace.Grace does not stop when someone professes Christ with their lips and believes in their heart. Today, I am in no less need of God’s grace than the person shooting up drugs in the crack house. I can do nothing on my own merit now, or before I came to a saving faith in Christ. It doesn’t matter how much I try to prove myself to God for Him to love me. He just loves me. It also doesn’t matter how little I try, He STILL loves me. I don’t do spiritual disciplines, like read the bible, to get Gods love. I can’t. So why do I have spiritual disciplines if nothing I can do will allow God to love me more or less? I do them BECAUSE God loves me, not FOR Gods love. Its like if someone were to give me a new car. I would bring them cookies to show them how much I love them, not to get another car. This is the same as God’s grace for us. Do want my kids to do their best in school? Sure I do. But now I tell them it doesn’t matter how many F’s or A’s they bring home, I just love them, then we work on extra homework. We do the homework not to receive my love, but to do with all their might whatever their hands find to do. There’s a story similar to this in regards to Gods grace. In a college classroom there were the slackers who would come in 15 min after class started, sit in the back, sleep, and rush out after class. They would turn in half their assignments and applied themselves to parties and not papers. Then there were the students that would show up 15 min early, sit in the front, and stay after to ask the professor to expound on his lecture. These students sacrificed their social lives to make the grade. When the end of the semester came, the students crowded around the cork board to see what they got for their final grade. To the studious students amazement they noticed they received an A, but they also noticed the bad students received an A as well. They became irate and nearly rioted outside the professors office. How on earth were the bad kids able to make an A when they put in half the amount of work? The professor replied, Isn’t it my grade to give as I see fit? The “bad” students aren’t worthy of an A. But neither are the “good” students. They both receive a reward, not based on their merit, but based on being in the class.Now, with grace and love, grace and works, there’s also grace and freedom. Legalism – law, liberty, love – license. Let me explain. We have grace. We have grace with love, liberty and the law. Because of Grace, we have love in law, and love in liberty. Because of Grace we have liberty in love, and liberty in law, and law in love and law in liberty. This is all in balance and all because of grace. When grace is skewed we go to an extreme. On the right there is “license.” We say, because of grace I have the license to do whatever I want (so that grace may abound even more.) And on the other side we have Legalism. You have to wear a suit and tie on Sundays or you are required to read the bible every day, if not then you’re sinning and Jesus won’t love you. When grace is in balance we have what is called, freedom. Because of grace, I can be free to disagree with people. Because of grace, I can be free to not have sexual addictions. Because of grace, I can be free to be there for my children if they go down a wrong path. I don’t condemn these people because of grace. I can’t learn to love, and I mean actually love, until I learn grace. To sum up what Jerry Bridges says, it wasn’t Christ died so that we could have grace, rather, because of grace Christ died.So what is grace to me now? Well, in a nutshell, grace is something I need on a daily basis. I am not worthy on my own. Nothing I could ever do could ever come close enough to have God love me more or less than what He does. I work to show myself worthy of the calling with which He has called me. I work, BECAUSE of the love He loved me with, not for it. I love my wife because of the love that God has for her, not what she is doing or how she is doing it. And I love my children, not because of what they can do, but because I have freedom,with grace, to demonstrate this love of God to them.Honestly, I don’t know if I could ever explain the full concept of grace. But this I know, grace has changed my post conversion life in a way that I would never have expected.It’s not about winning and losing.It’s just grace.