The grace of God is a mine whose treasures can never be exhausted and whose depths can never be reached. As a pastor of 10+ years, a Christian of 20+ years and a soon to be seminary grad I must admit that I often struggle with the idea of grace. It seems too good to be true. But the more I study the Scriptures, the more I find that all of it is one single story; a story of a holy God who loves sinners enough to do something about it. That something is called the gospel and it was lived out by Jesus Christ. His perfect holy life that is credited to all who will believe because of His sinless death in our place; and his bodily resurrection that was a demonstration of His power over sin and death are what the Bible is all about. I could go on for days on this subject (just about my favorite topic in the world), but I will cut to the chase and get to the point of this post.
About a month ago I was teaching Sunday School to a group of kids, that included my own two boys. I was attempting the daunting task of helping them grasp the concept of grace. I wanted them to know that everything we need and want from God: love, acceptance, blessing and sonship have already been provided for us by Christ. And the life that we are called to and desire as believers, a life that seeks to love and glorify God, flows from a position of love and acceptance that is already ours; not as a means to get it. We are loved, accepted, and counted as sons so we glorify God. We don’t glorify God so that we can earn His love, acceptance, and be counted as God’s children.
This is the part, in teaching the kids, where I needed to deal with Christians and their big buts. Anytime we talk about grace, all the big buts come out, “We love grace but, don’t get carried away with it. After all, we are called to be holy, and what God wants most of all is our obedience.” God does want holiness and obedience, and He already received it, perfectly, from Jesus. If God’s ongoing love and acceptance of me relied on my holiness and obedience I would be a spiritual red-headed step-child; on the outside looking in. On my best day, my attempts to be holy and obedient are riddled with my sinfulness; even if they look good on the outside. God doesn’t grade on a curve. There’s no “A’s” for effort – that is, unless your effort is purely an act of worship to the One who actually was holy and obedient in your place.
Sorry! The preacher is preaching again. OK, back to my story. As I was trying to get all this across to the kids in Sunday School, I asked my 7 year-old son Zion a question. I was actually expecting a childish answer because he is a child. I wanted to demonstrate how most of us think the effects of too much grace will play out. I asked him “If you had a bad day at school, and you ‘clipped down’ from green to yellow or red, and then mom and dad picked you up and took you out to ice cream and treated you with only love, what would you do?” Remember, this is supposed to demonstrate what we think will happen from “too much” grace. I fully expected him to say, “Whew! I got off easy.” Instead what he said, blew my mind and brought tears to the eyes of his mom and I, and the two teacher trainees in class that day. He said, “I would never want to have another bad day – ever! Because you loved me like that when I knew I didn’t deserve it.”
That is the work that only grace can do. Don’t fear it! Grace is not license to sin (Rom 6:1 – 2). Grace is God’s attitude toward sinners that truly changes motives (Rom 2:4). When our place with God is secure because of grace, and when I understand the depth of my need even on my holiest day, and understand that it has all been satisfied for me by Christ, I will begin to understand what my 7 year-old understands better than his dad – undeserved love melts hard hearts and motivates them to loving obedience in return.