Grace, Grace…God’s Grace
But Grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ — 2 Peter 2:3
This one word had divided a lot of churches. I realize now that I was really blessed to experience just about every denomination out there. When I really got hungry for more of the Lord, I used to just drive to random churches and see what their services were like. Even though many of them never taught on the subject of grace, I know now how they defined it and what it meant to them. I can have a conversation with another Christian now and know exactly what grace means to them…let me explain.
The first church I regularly attended treated God’s grace as if it were just something that existed. You could tell that God was revered as Holy. Unfortunately, there was just never any real emphasis on knowing Him. There was never any real dependence on Him in everyday life. It was like they were only depending on Jesus for salvation to make it to Heaven. As long as you showed up, believed in Him, and regularly took the elements of communion, His grace was sufficient. God was going to be graceful to me and I was going to make it to Heaven. The only problem that I have with that now is the fact that there was never any GROWING in grace.
After about 10 years of that I went to another church. Grace was defined as “God’s Riches at Christ’s Expense.” Basically, I was taught that I get all of the good stuff God offers because of what Christ did for me. I heard time after time about this grace…and I liked it. God had me no matter what. I never heard anything about “denying myself,” or “in this world, I will have trouble,” but I was saved and that was that. Looking back, this type of teaching gave me a license to sin. I was like the kid asking for a $20, spending it quickly, then asking for another. I would sin, then casually ask for forgiveness, then sin again. It was like I had found the “loophole” that as long as I asked for forgiveness, God was obligated to forgive me.
Then came the Mack truck. The third church made it impossible to be a Christian. I was a backslidden sinner on my way to Hell. If God in my mind used to be a permissive parent…He was now someone who didn’t mind giving you a “whoopin” and certainly didn’t mind holding you by one leg and threatening to drop you into the fiery flames of Hell. Let me tell you…this made me up my game. I tried so much harder to be a Christian. The only problem was that I was trying to be this particular denomination’s brand of Christian. There was grace, but it was conditional grace. I had to earn it by my righteous living. Lord knows I tried, but I just felt like I came up short every time.
So, when I thought that grace was so freely given, I sinned freely. When I thought that grace was earned through perfection, I found out that I couldn’t live up to it. Before you think that I’m bashing particular denominations, I’m not. I’m only trying to tell you how my childhood and teenaged mind comprehended what was going on. I understand grace now. But, I got my understanding by reading the gospels for myself and seeing how Jesus Christ treated people. He didn’t stone the woman “caught in the act” of adultery. He gave her a chance. He didn’t give me what I deserved in my late teens to early twenties…He gave me grace. Best of all, He allowed me to grow in grace.
I ended up adding a lot of things to the GRACE acronym. It also became God’s Righteousness At Christ’s Expense. It became God’s Redemption At Christ’s Expense. It became so much more. As I have grown in grace over the years, I have gone through quite a transition. At first, grace allowed me to “control” and maintain my sinful life. Then, I tried to earn grace through righteous living…I just couldn’t earn it no matter how hard I tried or how bad I wanted to. But, there was the problem…I was HAVING to live it. No wonder God allowed me to be so frustrated…He didn’t want me HAVING to live it, He wanted me WANTING to live it.
Therein lies the difference. People who really understand grace and have grown in it WANT to live right. John 14:15 says “if you love me you will obey my commands.” I understand now that this means that people who really love Him WANT to obey Him…not have to. Why do so many flip that verse around and attempt to obey His commands to get God to love them?
If you really look at all of the world religions. They all say “DO THIS” and it will ultimately work out well for you. Christianity is the only one that breaks this trend. Christianity says “DONE FOR YOU!” Yes, while we were yet sinners, Jesus Christ did all of the work to make it possible for us to be free from sin and live with Him forever.