Free or it is not Grace
Failing to understand grace is one of the biggest pitfalls of the Christian life. It can rob us of so much of the joy of firm salvation. God saves us completely without charge to us. It is not completely without cost as Jesus paid for it on the Cross. But it is given to us freely by God. This is God’s grace. It saves us and can never be earned. We understand this to some extent intellectually. We know in our minds we could not earn that gift and are extremely grateful for Jesus’ work. Yet, often, in our gratitude, we then set out to labor for it. We try to pay God back for what He did. The funny thing is since we can never actually earn God’s grace, this ends up being hopelessly fruitless and endlessly frustrating. We feel like we are always letting God down because we can’t earn what we already have. We forget that grace is freely given by God because of His nature, not our goodness. He is just that wonderful and loving. There is no need to buy grace with good works. If we have to pay for it, it is not grace.
Do we really understand what grace is? I suspect most of us struggle with the concept in our humanity. We instinctually want things to be “fair”. We are trained from childhood to do everything “fair and square”. We are told that nothing is free, everything has a cost. Yet, if we really understand grace, we know that it is neither fair nor earned. It is a vitally important concept to get hold of in a Christian life. After all, the Bible says we are saved by grace through faith. It is at the heart of our salvation.
So what does it mean? Grace simply means unmerited favor. It is God’s giving us something that we did not earn and asking for nothing in return as payment. What could God need from us after all? He wants us to follow Him and be blessed by an abundant life. But He doesn’t need us to pay off our sin tab with Him or pay for what Jesus did on the Cross. Jesus was very clear when He said “It is finished” on the Cross. It really was finished – now and forever. Yet, so many of us are living our Christian lives straining our hardest to pay God. We set out to earn what has already been given to us and is impossible for us to ever earn. This is not why God gives us grace.
The Bible says that we are dead in our sins and trespasses before salvation. Our life of iniquity, both big sins and little, has us trapped. If not for Jesus, we would all stand before the holy and righteous God and be asked to account for every single thought, action, and emotion. We would have to answer for every sin. The creation can do nothing to pay off that sort of debt accumulated in life to the Creator. We just don’t have the right sort of currency. A lifetime of rebellion convicts us with a great guilt that requires punishment. God being perfectly just, cannot just let all those sins go unpunished or He would not be perfectly just. A good judge does not let murderers out of jail just because He feels like it. Our wrongdoing demands a response from God. Yet, instead of simply punishing us, He offers His only Son, Jesus in our place. He does it because He loves us and gives us the results of this sacrifice, salvation, as a gift to those who believe. What an amazing gift, right? Could we ever repay it? Should we try to?
It is like going to a birthday party and bringing a gift that cost us thousands of hard-earned dollars. After it is unwrapped, the recipient then hands us ten cents and says “Thanks, now I have paid you for the gift. I owe you nothing.” The inappropriate attempt at payment would be both hugely insufficient and insulting, right? We never expected to be paid for a gift and ten cents certainly doesn’t cover it! What an insult! The recipient missed the point of the gift and greatly damaged the relationship in the process. The same is true with grace, for it is by GRACE we have been saved not by works.
In reality, God’s gift is so much greater than a mere birthday gift. His gift cost the life of Jesus offered on the Cross. It makes every present ever given look puny and insignificant by comparison. Man is unable to fully comprehend the cost involved to set us free. We can’t ever pay off the debt that was incurred. We certainly could never pay the price that was required like Jesus. It had to be the sinless perfect One given freely for those who don’t deserve it. This is why only grace can set us free. The truth is that the debt is so great that it can only be wiped away by the debt holder, God, giving it away freely.
Are We Living in Grace?
Are we living in the freedom that the understanding of grace gives us? As humans, we tend to try our hardest to take what is free to us and try to pay for it through our hard work, our guilt, or other manifestations of our self. Whether we call it penance, works, confession or baptism, anything we do to try to pay God for what He already freely gave attempts to change the nature of grace. It changes it from a joyous gift to an unbearable burden. Nothing we can ever do can come close to what God did for us. Jesus already paid for the gift in full with His blood on the Cross and His very life. Can we ever conceivably pay any amount similar to what God incarnate paid? Not a chance, so why do we try! It only takes away from the appreciation of the giver if you try to pay for the gift.
God’s grace is a simple and pure gift of eternal life to those who believe in Jesus. It is totally free with no strings attached. We can’t pay for it and should never try. Grace is free…or it is not grace.
If you are struggling under the weight of paying for your worth before God today, hear this message. It is by grace you are set free, now and forever, not by works. Jesus paid for you because you could not and so you did not have to. Rest and rejoice in this truth today!