True grace has to be pure grace. It cannot be mixed with human effort because human effort is the very reason we need grace. If grace means unmerited favor, then we no longer have true grace if we start adding conditions of merit. When we add any element of human merit, grace is no longer pure grace.
Grace is God’s working in our lives to do what we cannot do ourselves. We could not save ourselves from the penalty of sin. So God did it. By His grace. We cannot deserve forgiveness. So God gave it. By His grace. We cannot live a godly life in our own power. So God gives us His power. By His grace. We cannot draw forth the strength to handle all the difficult times throughout the various stages of our lives. So God handles them. By His grace.
The religious leaders of Jesus’ day said, “Live for God.” Jesus said, “I am God come to live in you.” And they missed it.
I talk a lot about the Sin Management approach to the Christian life. Actually, I talk a lot against the Sin Management approach. This approach says that I am responsible to manage and control the sin in my life. It sounds responsible; it sounds logical; and it is desirable because it allows me to retain a sense of control. But it doesn’t work consistently. The Grace/Spirit Life approach says that God alone has the power to give me a new nature, a new heart and a new mind. I am to depend upon His power alone for victory over sin. And there is one other none too subtle difference. The Grace/Spirit Life approach does work.
Our response to the sins of others is significantly affected by our own view of grace. If we feel that the main emphasis of the Christian life is to manage and control sin, then we will expect others to do a better job of managing their sin. If we are striving to achieve righteousness, then we will demand that others demonstrate righteousness. If however, we realize our immense need for God’s grace and forgiveness – and if the Holy Spirit is producing the fruit of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control into our lives – then our response will be quite different.
There often is no tension in combining the Biblical teachings on grace with an emphasis on our own good religious works because we pass everything we hear through the filters of past teachings and personal understandings. We comfortably mix grace and works and sense no contradiction in saying “Grace, but…” or “Grace and…”
Grace just has to be filtered down a little. But when it is filtered down, it becomes only a shadow of its whole.
What would happen if we allowed grace to be grace? What if we removed all the religious and man-created filters and considered the truth of God’s pure grace? What would happen if we accepted the Biblical teachings about grace at their face value? What if we were to believe the whole Grace Message?