Exploring the positive aspects of grace and why we need it so badly
Some believers abuse God’s grace, using it as a licence for sinning, thinking that the more they sin, God’s grace will abound even more (Jude 4, Romans 6:1).
Such are the inherent dangers in overemphasising grace—when we go overboard on grace and think that God’s favour will forever remain with us, no matter how we live out our lives.
Yet, it does not mean that grace is unimportant or irrelevant in the lives of believers.
The poet Robert Frost penned that “all you really want in the end is mercy.” I think he was spot on there with this one-liner. Undeniably, we all need God’s mercy and grace.
As we look at our own lives, weigh our brownie points against our sin, we will definitely conclude that a fair judgment on God’s part at the end of our lives here on earth would be this—‘guilty’.
For we have all sinned and fall short of God’s standards. If not for God’s grace and mercy, where will we be? (Romans 3:23, Romans 5:8).
As Christians, we are saved by God’s grace, not by our good works, AND stay on in this journey of faith because of His grace.
Like the penitent tax collector in Luke 18:9-14, we are constantly in need of God’s grace and mercy. We, in fact, need lots of His grace and mercy.
To some who were confident of their own righteousness and looked down on everyone else, Jesus told this parable: “Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee stood by himself and prayed: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other people—robbers, evildoers, adulterers—or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.’ “But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, ‘God, have mercy on me, a sinner.’ “I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God. For all those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.” (Luke 18:9-14)
Yes, there is nothing wrong with a teaching that emphasises grace provided …
- it (grace) leads to transformed lives.
- it (grace) is not misused as a licence for sinning.
- personal responsibility is being emphasised to the same degree as grace.
Apart from grace being God’s unmerited favour towards sinners, what are the other positive aspects of grace?
Among other things, there is grace that sustains, grace that empowers, grace that denies self and grace that reflects wisdom in speech and thought.
Firstly, there is a grace that sustains us in times of trials and tribulations. The apostle Paul was afflicted with a thorn in the flesh. When he sought God for its removal, he was told, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness” (2 Corinthians 12:9).
This thorn, a messenger of Satan, was God’s way of keeping him from being too elated over the abundance of revelations he received while he was being transported to heaven.
However, the exact nature of the thorn, whether it was an ailment or persecution, is unclear.
While others would have wallowed in self-pity, Paul remained level-headed and victorious even amid such adverse circumstances—truly a testimony to God’s sustaining grace.
Secondly, God’s grace also empowers us to serve Him and bless the body of believers and even beyond:
- “Having then gifts differing according to the grace that is given to us, let us use them: if prophecy, let us prophesy in proportion to our faith; or ministry, let us use it in our ministering; he who teaches, in teaching; he who exhorts, in exhortation; he who gives, with liberality; he who leads, with diligence; he who shows mercy, with cheerfulness” (Romans 12:6-8).
- “As each one has received a gift, minister it to one another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God. If anyone speaks, let him speak as the oracles of God. If anyone ministers, let him do it as with the ability which God supplies” (1 Peter 4:10-11).
- “But to each one of us grace was given according to the measure of Christ’s gift. And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ” (Ephesians 4:7, 11-12).
Thirdly, the self-effacing aspect of grace is best epitomised in the life of Jesus. It’s a grace that puts the interests of others before self: “For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though He was rich, yet for your sakes He became poor, that you through His poverty might become rich” (2 Corinthians 8:9).
Grace that reflects self-denial is also seen in Jesus’ humility. Though He was God, He gave up all his glory and power to become man. Born in a manger to humble parents, he was obedient to the point of death at the cross (Philippians 2:6-8).
Fourthly, grace is a quality reflected in our speech: “Let your speech always be with grace, seasoned with salt, that you may know how you ought to answer each one” (Colossians 4:6).
Now gracious speech is likely to come from a mind that has been filled with wisdom from above: “The wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, willing to yield, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality and without hypocrisy” (James 3:17).
If we say we believe in grace, then our speech must be gentle and show respect to all, even those who have different viewpoints.
Believing in a gracious God who forgives us of our sins is fine. And we certainly need loads of God’s grace and mercy.
But we also need to discover the reality of grace that sustains and empowers. We need grace to deny ourselves – that which Christ so beautifully epitomised. And, finally, we need to learn how to be gracious in speech, which is indicative of godly wisdom.
As we revisit these positive aspects of grace, we need to ask: “Are we demonstrating all these various facets of grace in our lives?”
ABUSE OF GRACE
When we think the more we sin, the more God’s grace abounds
“What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin so that grace may increase?” (Romans 6:1)
When we pervert God’s grace, using it as a licence for living immoral lives
“I say this because some ungodly people have wormed their way into your churches, saying that God’s marvelous grace allows us to live immoral lives.” (Jude 4)
CORRECT RESPONSE TO GOD’S GRACE
Grace, not an excuse to remain in our sins, but a reason to live righteously
“For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age.” (Titus 2:11-12)
The only way to know God and relate to Him is to embrace Him as He truly is—a God of grace, love and mercy AND a God of justice, righteousness and truth. To just know Him as either the former or latter is to live in complacency and indifference to sin OR guilt and despair over sin. The essence of idolatry is to entertain thoughts about God that misrepresent Him.
Hyper-grace: “The truth is you are saved by grace and you are kept by grace. It’s grace from start to finish! Don’t let anyone frighten you into doing dead works, but rest secure in His finished work. Just as you did nothing to earn salvation, there is nothing you can do to lose it.”
Our lives must show evidence of change in thought and behavior after we have experienced God’s love.
What fate awaits those who sin repeatedly after they have believed?
Note: Dr Lim Poh Ann is a medical practitioner. He was the former editor of Asian Beacon magazine (Dec 2008 – Oct 2011). He can be reached at his Facebook page, www.facebook.com/AskDrLi
SOURCE OF ARTICLE: http://limpohann.blogspot.my/2017/12/why-we-need-grace.html
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Dr Lim Poh Ann