Most of you know I am Swedish! One of the stereotypes of Swedes is that we are frugal. Some folks say we are cheap. I say I am careful. I just want to get the most bang for my buck. I hear the Scotch, Germans, and even those pesky Norwegians are careful too.
Well, a few years ago, I was seeing my jeweler friend. A big anniversary was coming up. I wanted to give my wife a gift to tell her of my love and gratitude for the years. My “carefulness” made me ask my jeweler about cubic zirconia, the synthetic diamond. After thinking about going on “the cheap,” I rejected the false and fake ornament. I bought the true diamond.
But that started me thinking about false and fake doctrine. John 8:44 speaks of the devil this way: “When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies.” Satan uses counterfeits and clever copies to lead people down perilous pathways, These paths lead people to heresy, folly, rebellion, and sin. To prevent spiritual demise, it is vital that we know the real from the cheap imitations.
These days, Christians are rediscovering the very important doctrine and joyous truth of God’s grace. But there is a new trend that is cheapening and devaluing of grace. With some, grace is becoming the new and deceptive way to continue in sin. They say “God gives me grace so I am free to live as I please.” Well, that is the old antinomianism, that old Gnosticism, and that is from the old devil! Years ago, we got rid most aspects of legalism in evangelical Christianity. But we got a new problem. It is what Dietrich Bonhoeffer called “cheap grace.”
This week, I want to remind us all as to what grace is truly is. Here are ten clarifications about true grace to help us walk with God:
1. True grace is initiated by God. God made the first move. 1 John 4:19 says: “… He first loved us.” If you study the Bible from Genesis to Revelation, you will see that God is the one who initiates every act of love, mercy, and miracles. While humans are corrupted by the effects of original sin, God’s prevenient grace allows us to respond to God’s salvation by grace by placing faith Jesus Christ or to reject His grace. We are not saved by our good works and human effort. Romans 9:16 says: “It (God’s love) does not, therefore, depend on man’s desire or effort, but on God’s mercy.” God’s grace is in uninitiated, underserved, and unbelievable. You can’t earn what God gives freely to anyone who asks!
2. True grace is shown in Jesus Christ. God voluntarily sent His Son. Jesus willingly went to the cross, took our punishment, and rose from the dead to give us new life. John 3:16 says: “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life.” All that is necessary to receive God’s grace is to: “… confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead” and Romans 10:9 says, “you will be saved.”
3. True grace is about salvation. Theologians distinguish between salvific grace and common grace. God’s common grace is about His blessings, creation, goodness, love, and the loving-kindness that He gives to mankind. But salvific grace is the grace by which God saves and redeems people from their sin. Titus 3:5-6 says: “He saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of His mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, whom He poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Savior…” You have been saved by grace, you are being saved by grace, and one day, you will be saved for eternity by grace!
3. True grace is connected with repentance. In Bible, the call to salvation is also a call to repentance. That call of God is a call to free grace but not cheap grace. That is why Peter in his Pentecost sermon said “Repent and be baptized ….” The word repent means change, make a U-turn, or alter the way you live. That’s why Jesus told the woman at the well to “Go and sin no more” (John 8:11). That’s why Paul told the thief in Ephesians (4:28): “Let him who stole steal no longer…” Ray Ortland put it this way: “A morally sloppy life, claiming God's grace as its excuse, despises union with Christ.” People in union with Christ have repented and left their former life. Grace is the reason that I repent!
When people truly experience grace, they repent. They leave their hurts, habits, and hang-ups! That means in repentance, people of grace leave their greed, homosexuality, anger, addictions, or whatever their previous “master” was. In repentance, they live for a new Master, the Lord Jesus.
I know homosexuals, adulterers, prostitutes, thieves, molesters, alcoholics, drug addicts, and generic sinners like me who accepted God’s grace. Then out of gratitude to the wonderful grace of Jesus, these people repented, left their old life, and went on live the new life in Christ. If you haven’t repented, you do not know true grace.
4. True grace is rooted in discipleship. When people are enjoying the authentic grace of God, they develop an allegiance to Christ. True grace shows itself in following Christ with commitment and submission for life. Rick Warren said: “Spiritual maturity is a gradual, progressive development that will take the rest of your life.” Tim Keller said: “God invites us to come as we are, not to stay as we are” If you are really a recipient of God’s grace, you do as Jesus said (Matthew 16:24), you “deny self, take up your cross, and follow Him”
5. True grace is about God’s forgiveness. Burk Parsons put this way: “There's a big difference between resting in God's grace and presuming upon God's grace.” When people are living in true grace and are truly forgiven, they don’t want to go back to sin. They love the Lord Jesus so much that they see no allure, no benefit, and have no interest in going back to their former life. They are so grateful for God’s forgiveness that they don’t want to take God’s grace for granted. I am so thankful for the truths of Ephesians 1:7: “In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace.” Why would I want to turn God’s forgiveness when He has given me His grace?
6. True grace is driven by the Holy Spirit. 2 Corinthians 3:6: “… for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life.” When people know true grace, they don’t need a long list of taboos and legalistic prohibitions. People of true grace just know how God wants them to live because they are walking in the Spirit. In John 16:13, Jesus said: “But when He, the Spirit of truth, comes, He will guide you into all truth.” If you are sensitive to the Holy Spirit, He will tell you far better than some human list. When people have true grace, it is verified by the “fruit of the spirit” in their life (see Galatians 5:22-23). You can see cheap grace in the “fruit of the flesh” (see Galatians 5:18-21). I want the fruit of the Spirit, don’t you? Well, then, we have to live in true grace!
6. True grace is demonstrated throughout the Bible. Cheap grace people like the books of Galatians and Romans to the exclusion of most of the Old Testament. These 39 books are still in the Bible and just as inspired as the Pauline epistles. We can’t exclude certain books to the emphasis on others just because they fit better with our world-view. That’s what liberals do when where they like certain verses to the exclusion of others. 2 Timothy 3:16 says “All Scripture is God-breathed …” This verse doesn’t say some Scripture. It says “all.” So, develop your theology and lifestyle of true grace from the entire Bible, all 66 books from cover to cover.
7. True grace is shown in liberty. If you read all 6 chapters of Galatians, you will understand true grace. Galatians teaches that grace is above law. But it also teaches that our liberty in Christ is not a license to live the world’s values again. We have liberty in the United States but that does not give us the right to drive drunk. We have grace but that does not give us the right to keep on sinning.
Many people forget what Jesus said in Matthew (5:17): "Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them.” Jesus didn’t come to abolish the law but to fulfill it.
Grace is not a “get out of jail” card for doing anything that we want. Some people try to o justify their sinful behavior using the language of grace, but this is a perversion of the concept of grace. Grace doesn’t just deal with what we do, but why we do it. When a person is gripped by grace, they receive God’s wonder-working power to break the cycle of their sin. Grace-based people leave their trespasses and sin to follow Christ!
7. True grace is confirmed in obedience. Some people think that grace allows them to opt-out of the mandates of Scripture. Grace does not take away the things that God wants us to do as we follow Him:
Many people quote Ephesians 2:8-9: “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith — and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God — not by works, so that no one can boast.” These people like to revel in that they don’t have to do a thing. And yes, it is true that we don’t have to earn our salvation. But they rarely quote the next verse, Ephesians 2:10: “For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works …” So, we can’t earn our salvation. But once God gives us salvation, He wants us to do good works. God wants obedient, faithful, loyal, committed people. His grace should propel us to obey Him more!
8. True grace is demonstrated in holiness. Holiness is conformity to the character of God and obedience to the will of God. Titus 2:11-12 says: “For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men. It teaches us to say ‘No’ to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age …” When grace is authentic, it inspires to us live closer to God, more Spirit-controlled, and less worldly. Colossians 3:12: “Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.”
Francis Schaeffer said: “If we stress the love of God without the holiness of God, it turns out only to be compromise.” So, we have to be set aside for the Master’s use. If we have been saved by grace through faith, then our lives will be separated from the world, sanctified by Christ, and surrendered to God. Folks, true grace does not lead to hedonism. True grace leads to live a holy life!
10. True grace is substantiated by brokenness. Sin is cosmic treason against God. If sin were nothing, God would not have sent His only begotten Son. When people have a low view of sin, they have a low and cheap view of grace too. So, we can’t treat sin as no big deal when it is a big deal to God. Burk Parsons put it so well: “True grace leads to humility not haughtiness.” If you read Psalm 32 and Psalm 51, you see the brokenness in David over his sin. When people know true grace, you have a transparency about your r sin. There is remorse and regret about sin. There is a sadness that you broke God’s heart. When we realize the heinousness of your sin and the supreme sacrifice of Jesus, it is then that you will see God’s authentic grace, which will moves you from brokenness to joy!
Keith and Krystyn Getty, the Irish songwriters, have been speaking to my heart with their music lately. There is one song that really describes true grace. It is sung to the tune of Londonderry Air, the old Irish tune of “Oh, Danny Boy.” The lyrics go like this:
What grace is mine that He who dwells in endless light
Called through the night to find my distant soul
And from His scars poured mercy that would plead for me
That I might live and in His name be known.
So, I will go wherever He is calling me
I lose my life to find my life in Him
I give my all to gain the hope that never dies
I bow my heart, take up my cross and follow Him.
What grace is mine to know His breath alive in me
Beneath His wings my wakened soul may soar
All fear can flee for death's dark night is overcome
My Savior lives and reigns forevermore.
It is the true grace of God that we announce in all our ministries at East Hills Church. As we anticipate calling a new pastor, let us also seek the true grace of Jesus that changes lives and changes us.
I love being your pastor!
Pastor Mark Platt