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You can order a copy of Unfiltered Grace: Believing the Whole Grace Message by clicking here.

Chapter One

Grace… Made to Fit

I don’t think I’ve ever met a Christian who did not believe in grace. We depend upon it. We thank God for it.

Congregations sing about it. The hymn “Amazing Grace” is probably the world’s most well-known hymn as it continues to top the lists of Christian favorites. And I imagine most Christians can recite Ephesians 2:8: “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith.”

So we sing about grace and we talk about grace and we know that we are saved by grace.

As I said, I have never met a Christian who did not believe in grace.

But I have met many Christians who wonder if they are worthy or adequate in God’s eyes. They fear they are falling short of measuring up to God’s standards for acceptance. While still believing in grace, they also believe that God’s opinion of them is shaped by their own works and their own righteousness.

I’ve met preachers (and I have been one myself) who preach about grace but then outline what Christians need to do to stay right in the eyes of God. They will declare the wonders of grace, but then in the same sermon exhort their hearers to manage their sin and strive in their own human strength and dedication to please God.

And I have met Christians who feel great guilt about their attempts to live godly lives. They come to church to discover ways to deal with that guilt – even if they are made to feel even more guilt before they leave the church service.

I know of Christians who are serious about the call to holiness. They strive to do all the right things in their desire to please God. Church attendance, daily quiet times, serving on church committees or ministry teams and all the other expected spiritual activities are followed faithfully. They do these things because they want to – but they also do them because they are supposed to. And although they would never admit it (for it is a sin), they become judgmental and condemning of others who are not as serious or as dedicated.

I have also seen people give up because they just can’t do it anymore. They genuinely tried but they can’t live the life they hear commanded and now the struggle has worn them out. They got tired of the whole thing and chose to get off of the spiritual treadmill.

I know people who were excited about their new-found relationship with God, but the rules of religion soon robbed them of the joy. Their initial awareness of God’s acceptance was replaced with a list of expectations necessary to stay in God’s good favor.

I have also seen people walk the aisle again and again to rededicate themselves. This time they are serious. This time they will try harder. And when they walk the aisle a few weeks or a few months later they remake that same commitment. Only this time, they are truly serious!

I have even known people who have been baptized multiple times because the other times evidently did not take. They consistently fell short of what they were supposed to be or to do. They just didn’t live up to the standard and so they got saved and baptized again.

But every last one of them believes in grace.

Why is there this disconnect? How can people love grace but not accept it? How can they speak of grace but not rest in it? How can they believe in it but not apply it?

Part of the reason is the standard message they are hearing in the pew and reading in many Christian books. That standard message has the theme of sin management in which they learn to control and overcome their sin. They hear that it is up to the serious Christian to discover and deliver on what pleases God.

Another part of the problem is that many Christians have a limited understanding of grace. They believe that while grace is the gateway to our salvation, good works are the path we are then called to follow. No conflict is seen between this mixing of grace and works. What do we believe and trust that God expects of us to be saved? Faith in the work of Christ and reliance upon Him. But what do we then say that God expects of us to be pleasing to Him? Works that we accomplish and reliance upon human faithfulness. And there is no conflict or tension sensed between those two ideas.

Jesus saw a conflict. He said the new way and the old way could not be mixed. It would be like putting new wine into old wineskins (Luke 5:37).

The Apostle Paul saw a conflict. He said that the two could not co-exist. They nullified each other.

And if by grace, then it is no longer by works; if it were, grace would no longer be grace. (Romans 11:6)

But the prevalent message being taught and being heard today does not see the conflict. Many Christians believe it is a little of both: God calls us to accept His grace but we must still strive to please him.

This tension between the teachings of grace and the emphasis on good religious works does not create a conflict because many Christians pass everything they hear about grace through the filters of past teachings and personal understandings. Our sermons and hymns and Bible study lessons and Christian “how to” books are so full of the combining of grace and works that people comfortably accept both. We make them fit. We sense no conflict in saying “Grace, but…” or “Grace and…”

I have had people nod their heads as I spoke of the joys of grace living, but then in the very next moment minimize it by mixing it with law. And I have read Christian best sellers that speak of grace as the only way God deals with us, but then on the very next page outline the demands for legalistic works.

How can this be?

This occurs because of those well-established religious filters. The grace message is modified and balanced out so that there is not a conflict. We can nod our heads to grace but still hold onto a works mentality. Grace just has to be filtered down a little. But when it is filtered down, it becomes only a shadow of its whole. The bigger picture is missed.

The full picture of grace cannot be contained in a simple definition. Grace is so much more than the amazing mercy of God extended to us at salvation. Grace is God doing for us what we cannot do ourselves. It is His Godness responding to our humanness. Grace is the way God has chosen to relate to us then, now and forever. It describes the way God viewed us and loved us when we were His enemies in our minds; it is the way God operates in our daily lives and empowers us now; it is the way God judges us and forever looks at us through the perfect righteousness of Christ. Grace is about Jesus. It is about who He is. It is about what He did. It is about His finished work. It is about what He is doing. But it is not just about Jesus. Jesus is Grace.

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 if we didn’t diminish or take away from God’s 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?

We would first have to understand what the Bible says about grace and what it says about law. An understanding of unfiltered grace has to begin there.

You can order a copy of Unfiltered Grace: Believing the Whole Grace Message by clicking here.

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