Grace. Ah! Don’t you just love this beautiful little word and the freedom and peace it evokes? After all, where would each of us be if not for God’s grace? When I stumble and fall once again, I am so grateful for the grace of God that He continues to extend to me. Is it any wonder that so many sermons are given regarding the simple beauty of grace?
When was the last time that you truly appreciated and responded to the grace that came your way? However, are you aware of the ways that the “church” has distorted the meaning of God’s beautiful gift of grace?
Before I go farther, I am going to be honest and transparent with you. Recently, I have been struggling with some health conditions that have physically drained me of strength as well as the ability to even fulfill the daily duties within our family. With this fatigue has come the emotional struggle to respond joyfully and patiently to the demands of life. As I spent more time in God’s word and began reflecting on His grace in my life, my view of this “beautiful gift” has become broader, as well as my appreciation for it. I also have a greater awareness of how I inaccurately portray grace so many times.
In many ways, we, as Christians, have become intimidated by the world’s accusations. Christians are accused of being judgmental, prejudiced, and narrow. Because of this, we have accepted the wrong philosophy that God’s grace supersedes a life of sin. Rather than recognizing and repenting of the sin in our lives, we have the tendency to think that God’s grace will take care of it. In the same way, when we don’t completely understand grace, we are much more likely take this less controversial path in relating with others.
It is very accurate that God extends His favor to all sinners who do not deserve it. None of us deserve salvation, and we cannot earn grace. However, grace is also NOT just some sort of “blanket” that covers all of our sins. Did you know that God’s grace is conditional? God freely extends it to everyone, yet, not everyone will receive it. Titus 2:11 says, “For the grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men, teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world;” This grace is POTENTIALLY available to everyone, but not everyone claims it.
Recently, someone blessed our family with tickets to see the “Sight and Sound” production of “Noah.” I was challenged with the balanced theme of God’s love as well as His wrath. Why did Noah find “…grace in the eyes of the Lord”? (Titus 2:11) Why was Noah and his family the only ones who were shown grace and saved from the flood? Did God not extend his grace to all the ones who died in the flood? If grace simply overlooks sin and accepts individuals for who they are, why was Noah’s family the only ones who were saved? In the next verse, we see that the grace Noah was shown was conditional. It was because he was being obedient to God and was living a “just” life. Obedience and grace go hand-in-hand. We need to remember that faith without our loving and obedient response to God is actually a dead faith. James 2:24 clearly states, “Ye see then how that by works a man is justified , and not by faith only.”
Do you see how the righteous wrath of God was significant in the story of Noah and the flood? Although God gave everyone a chance to live a life of obedience to Him, only the ones who claimed His grace and walked in obedience were able to be saved. This story portrays an accurate picture of grace since it doesn’t exclude the divine wrath of God that stands in direct contrast of how we often envision grace. God’s wrath is not an emotional or impulsive reaction of our just and loving God, but it is a deliberate response to the ugliness of sin in our lives. Contrary to our anger, God’s wrath is sacred and is just as essential as His grace.
As I have been struggling to respond in a godly way to life’s challenges, I have seen the need of confessing my sin of impatience, ungratefulness, and being less than gentle with my family. My most pressing need was not to focus on God’s grace, but rather to cry out for God’s mercy and repent of my sin. God’s grace is what I can experience only after I have repented and am walking in obedience to God again. I cannot expect to receive grace if I’m not willing to meet God’s CONDITIONS of receiving it.
When we distort God’s grace, we inaccurately portray that God OVERLOOKS sin. This is a false picture of our righteous God. 1 Peter 4:18 asks, “And if the righteous scarcely be saved, where shall the ungodly and the sinner appear?” We can also read in Matthew 7:13-14, “Enter ye in at the strait gate: for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and MANY there be which go in thereat: Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and FEW there be that find it.” If God’s grace is what we often represent it to be, then why are there only a “few” who are on the “straight and narrow” way?
As we share the love of Jesus to the lost and hurting around us, may we not only share His love, compassion, and mercy, but may we also share the conditional side of grace. Grace IS a beautiful thing! God bless you as you lovingly and boldly communicate and exemplify the amazing GRACE of Jesus Christ.
~Cindy (For The Mullett Family)