It’s a buzzword right now among Christians. Turn on the radio, re-watch Mikado’s multi-generational choir special from yesterday, or browse the shelves at your local Christian bookstore, and there it will be – the word grace.
It’s one of the most common and comforting words in the Christian’s vocabulary, largely because of what it means and what it represents. Spiritual grace has been defined by some smart person some time ago as “God giving us what we DON’T deserve.” Partner this with the definition of mercy (“God NOT giving us what we DO deserve”) and you have quite a fun little outline to help us appreciate what God has done for us and worship Him for it.
And man am I grateful for grace. Those are great definitions. As the old song says, “Were it not for grace, I can tell you where I’d be!” I’ve preached on grace. I’ve preached on how God takes worthless lives and molds them into masterpieces. I’ve preached on how God forgave and used sinful people like Moses, David, and Paul. I’ve preached on how God wants our relationship more than He wants our rules. I even wrote a Mikado Moment on how I’m sick of legalistic Christianity, and I’m choosing instead to bask in God’s grace. But after all of that, I’ve discovered something…grace doesn’t work.
Grace does a lot of things – it forgives sin, it uses sinners, and it identifies us with Christ instead of our behavior. But I found one way that grace doesn’t work. Grace doesn’t work as a free pass for us to live however we want.
Grace is one of the favorite words of Christians, and rightly so. But I’ve found that grace is also one of the favorite words of Christians who aren’t right with God. Carnal Christians use the word grace to justify their choices, giving them liberty to continue in their sin but still talk about God. And it doesn’t work. Sin is fun (for a season), and many Christians view grace as a theme park ticket. They can go into life and do whatever they want, as long as they’ve got God’s grace.
Paul sensed a similar problem in the church of Rome, and so he wrote in Romans 6:1-2 – “What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin, that grace may abound? God forbid. How shall we that are dead to sin, live any longer therein?”
Claiming God’s grace while continuing to live in sin shows a gross misuse of grace and a gross misunderstanding of God. God’s true character is shown in what Jesus said to the woman caught in adultery, “…Neither do I condemn thee: go, and sin no more (Jn. 8:11).” Grace doesn’t just overlook sin, and mercy doesn’t just eliminate consequences. They also demand change.
So a day after two hundred people at Mikado sang about “Grace, grace, God’s grace”; I want to tell you that I’m so thankful for grace, but it doesn’t work. It doesn’t work as a license for sin. So let’s not live how we want and then blame our behavior on God. Let’s be grateful that God showed us grace so that we can now live how He wants.