Grace is a gift from God to you. It is often defined as God’s unmerited favor. God’s grace demands nothing from you, but to believe and receive how deeply He loves you. Grace, partnering with Truth, is nothing short of revolutionary!
Grace is one of the most misunderstood and misrepresented truths. Grace is not permissiveness about sin—do your own thing, flippantly say I‘m sorry, and then repeat the pattern. Nor do you receive Grace as a result of your own efforts or Christian practices.
“The law was given through Moses, but grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.” — John 1:17, NKJV
If your efforts are not needed, how then do you receive this gift of love, the undeserved favor of God? I hope you are asking this question because the answer is vital to your understanding of Grace.
>> Grace Defined
God sacrificially gave His One and Only Son, Jesus, who had no sin, to pay the price for your sin. Jesus took the punishment for our wrongdoing so you and I can come before God without condemnation.
“All have sinned and come short of the glory of God.” — Romans 3:23, NIV
Paul confirms this truth: For God made Christ, who never sinned, to be the offering for our sin, so that we could be made right with God through Christ (2 Corinthians 5:21, NLT). This is the only way you can enter into the presence of God, for God is holy and just and cannot look upon sin without judgment. He sent His own Son to die upon a cross to bear your rightful punishment, so you could come before Him without blame.
The prophet Isaiah states: There is no other God but me, a just God and a Savior (Isaiah 45:21, NKJV). As Bible teacher Derek Prince once explained:
God’s justice and God’s mercy are like two sides of one coin. On one side is God’s justice and on the other is His mercy. God’s justice is an absolute standard: it is objective, judging everyone impartially; and it is exact, that is, unvarying in its demand for perfect righteousness. God’s perfect justice does not allow for “pretty close” or thinking you are “more righteous” than someone else. God’s justice is unvarying and perfect: you and I do not want God’s justice."
But the other side of the coin is God’s mercy. Because sin entered the world and therefore entered every one of us, God knew we would fall far short of holiness. You and I will never be able to live perfectly, no matter how hard we try. So God Himself provided the solution; in Jesus Christ you have a Savior who has satisfied the perfect standard of God’s justice
“[He] Himself bore our sins in His own body on the tree, that we, having died to sin, might live for righteousness.” — 1 Peter 2: 24, NKJV.
In Him we have mercy. As the scripture says, Mercy and truth have met together; righteousness and peace have kissed (Psalm 85:10, NKJ V). And because Jesus has satisfied his Father’s justice, by taking upon Himself our punishment, we can come boldly unto his throne of grace in time of need. - Hebrews 4:16.
Now that we have defined grace, how do we receive it?
>> Grace Received
Of all the major religions in the world, only Christianity declares that God’s love is unconditional. The Buddhists, Hindus, Jews, and Muslims all offer a way to earn approval. The Bible clearly teaches that God’s grace is unconditional, but it also teaches you that you are responsible for determining how much grace you walk in. In James 4:6, James says, But he gives more grace. Therefore, he says, God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble. The key to walking in Grace is to learn how to humble yourself.
How do you humble yourself? There are many ways you can humble yourself: when you walk gratefully before God, grace flows from your thanksgiving. When you give sacrificially, whether it be your time, talent, or treasure, grace flows from your giving. The third and most difficult way of humbling yourself is to forgive and bless those who have wounded you, including self.
>> First Dimension of Grace
With these truths in place, I want you to reflect on Grace within its two life-giving dimensions: the Grace that does for you that which you cannot do for yourself, and then the grace God gives you to do that which only you can do in response. These are two separate facets, but linked by the initiative of God's great love to you and your love response to Him. You are fully loved and accepted apart from any of your doings, but you are free to choose to love Him back and obey Him.
“As the Father loved Me, I also have loved you; abide in My love. If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love, just as I have kept My Father’s commandments and abide in His love.” — John 15:9, 10 NKJV.
If Jesus gave you His life as expressed by John, This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down His life for us (I John 3:16, NKJV). How could you not love Him back in your obedience? Let your thoughts meditate on this. Just remember it is not love if forced against your will. Therefore, God loves you unconditionally. Yet, He desires that you love Him back. This is also true in your human relationships. You can love others, but you cannot force them to love you back. You can desire their love, but it is important to free them up to love you back in their choosing.
Most of us have been so conditioned to "performance love” that we cannot really embrace the possibility that no matter how I choose to live my life, Grace in the love of God is always present; that He loves me with no strings attached. Because of your conditioning, you become resistant and revert back to trying to earn the love of God or doing something to deserve that love. But that is the good news of the gospel. God does not ask you to change or do anything before He loves you. He does not ask you to change or do anything to keep on loving you. He chooses to love you, His Grace fully capturing you, that then and only then, your response would be to love Him back with the Grace He gives to you.
Even Merriam-Webster's defines grace as effortless beauty, ease of movement, pleasing quality, favor, divine love and protection, virtue, and strength to choose to do all that is required of you. All of these are found in God's Grace. Here are a few examples of embracing the beauty of Grace. May they find their way to your understanding: Grace requires nothing of you but believing truthfully and receiving fully His Grace. I want to remind you that this is the result of God's sacrificial love of His Son that you can welcome this Grace. And then respond back in love with your obedience.
>> The Beauty of Grace
You receive Grace in its effortless beauty like welcoming the morning fresh air on a brisk walk. There is no work involved. There is only breathing deeply the air of His great, eternal love into your lungs and hearts.
You receive Grace in its ease of movement like welcoming a tender, nurturing embrace of a loving mother. There is no work involved. There is only the receiving of all the favor and good in nurture that comes from His affectionate care for your heart.
You receive Grace in all its divine work as the loving kindness and protectiveness of a father watching over his little brood. There is no work involved. There is only you enjoying the protective care and strong, loving arms of Abba God.
Grace in its greater beauty is receiving Christ the Gift, the treasure from The Lord. There is no work involved. There is only believing the truth and receiving the gift of Grace in Christ Jesus in all of His glory that is revealed in your eternal belonging to Him, and being loved by Him.
Grace in all its strength is giving His Grace-sufficiency for your weakness. In this Grace, there is the work of joining His Grace with your will. There is only the beauty of strength in partnering with Grace to do what pleases Him, loving Him back in your obedience. All of these aspects of Grace are what God does for you, without your effort.
>> Second Dimension of Grace
The second dimension of Grace is receiving His Grace to do what only you can do. You choose to respond in obedience, aligning your will with His Grace. To begin this grace relationship, it is imperative that you center yourself from the position of "He is my all-sufficient Grace:” By the grace of God I am what I am (I Corinthians 15:10, NKJV). From this center, you build a strong, personal relationship based on the words and works of Christ. There is nothing of yourself, only what He has done for you.
>> Grace Model
God designed that your first understanding of grace would be within the family structure. The love you receive from your parents, apart from your behavior, would be your first experience of grace to yourself. Family love is to be a representation of God's love and grace to you. The love parents are intended to express to their children is not performance based, but love for the child as a person, a human being. Children believe and receive this love and grow up in this nurturing realm of loving parents. Like the unconditional love of God, there is no fear of loss of that love.
Because of human nature, however, parents’ love is conditional. But by the grace of God, parents still choose to love their children as unconditionally as possible. They offer a grace realm that their children can trust and grow in, believing this grace will always be present, no matter their choices or behaviors. God desires that children would feel loved, valued, secure, safe, accepted, forgiven, and experience trustworthiness within the parent-child relationship. This experience was meant to create a sense of belonging, centering them in grace.
This plan of God is challenged when grace moves from a focus on loving the person to behavior-based love. Children naturally desire to perform, please, perfect, and pretend within their childish imagination. It is worth noting here that your human nature does come with tendencies of selfishness and rebellion. But for my purposes here I want to focus on the problem that occurs when parents do not separate love/acceptance for the child apart from his or her behaviors. Children then move from childhood to adulthood with the perception: “my performance equals my acceptance.” And as a society, within our schools, churches, work places, and other organizations, the pattern of performance continues to be deeply entrenched into adulthood.
Thus the belief system becomes ingrained that "pleasing performance" is required even if I have to pretend and is what provides the love and acceptance desired. The final stage in this process occurs when the child transfers what he or she has learned from his parents to God: “God’s acceptance of me is based on my performance.” This belief is easily accepted: to get God to love me, I must keep on perfecting, performing, pleasing, and pretending. This pattern of thinking directs all of your other relationships as well. Therefore, all of your life experiences are filtered through a ME filter. Being loved and accepted is all about Me perfecting, Me pleasing, Me performing, and Me pretending.
It is imperative for the ME filter to be replaced with the HE LOVES ME Grace filter. All of your experiences and challenges need to be filtered through the truth of “He Loves Me." Remember that this love is centered in God's sacrifice of His Son which has secured for you an intimate relationship with Him. Within this grace relationship, He will redeem and restore you; making you strong, secure, steady, and sure. He gives you grace to believe truthfully, to forgive, to invite Him into every hurt, to grieve your losses, and to daily invite God into your life journey with all the struggles and challenges it brings with it.
Dr. Roselene Coblentz