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by Jacob Ninan
Many people are confused about grace, taking it to one extreme or the other. A large number of Christians now a days take grace to be a license for sin (Jude.1:4). Hardly anyone will actually admit to this type of approach as a doctrinal statement. But because they think of grace as an unmerited favour from God, they tend to de-link grace from any idea of cause and effect. In other words, they think that since grace is a free gift from God and not connected with their past performance, they need not worry about how they perform now. In practice this becomes a licence for a careless, sinful life.
Now this, of course, is totally wrong. This is a misunderstanding of grace. Think of this. Jesus came expressly for the purpose of saving us from our sins (Mt.1:21). This salvation does not consist merely in forgiveness of sins. Paul recoils from the very idea of continuing in sin after one has received forgiveness of sins (Ro.6:1,2,15). He also explains in another place that grace has come to teach us to deny ungodliness and worldly desires and to live sensibly, righteously and in a godly way (Tit.2:11,12). So grace is not a covering for sin, but it is to deliver us from sin.
The other extreme is to ignore the fact that grace is a free gift from God and something that cannot be earned, and to strive away at somehow qualifying oneself to receive grace. This kind of people cannot ever be sure that God has accepted them, because they keep finding all kinds of sinful things in themselves. When things are going well they think that now they have made it, but very soon they slip up, and get into perplexity and discouragement again. This is also wrong.
There is confusion because while truth is not in this extreme or the other, there is some truth in both positions if it is understood properly. The secret is to know when to apply which part of the truth.
Grace is indeed an unmerited favour from God when it comes to finding acceptance from God. We are accepted freely as a gift by grace (Ro.3:23,24;Ep.2:8,9). There is nothing we can do to earn this, and the worst sinner can be accepted as freely as the 'decent' sinner (if ever there was any decent sinner!) or the backslider. This justification and the resulting acceptance by God are by grace through faith, as we have seen in Ep.2:8,9. This is 'apart from the works of the law" (Ro.3:28). It means that we are not accepted based on whether we have been able to keep the law. Grace is from God's side, and faith from ours.
Faith involves much more than mere belief. There is a recognition of ourselves as sinners who need a Saviour. There is sorrow over our sins and repentance. There is trust in Jesus as the One who loved us and gave Himself for us and died in our place. There is gratitude towards for God, and there is love for God that makes us want to serve Him without any more sin.
Once we know God and His love in this way, it helps us to trust that He will accept us even when we have fallen into sin and go back to Him. We need not wonder if He would reject us or show any more love towards us. Having understood that grace is free from God's part, and that we can never do anything that can ever make us worthy of His acceptance, we find it easier to receive His acceptance.
But the other side of truth that needs to be understood is the one about God's blessing and anointing over us. Many people do not realise that God's blessing is dependent on our faithfulness. They think that they can 'claim it by faith' or get it by fasting or long times of prayer.
Faithfulness involves obeying God even in small things (Lk.16:10). Faithful people choose to please God instead of pleasing themselves (Lk.9:23,24). They seek to honour God even if it means losing something for themselves in the world. They will trust God even when appearances seem to be all against them. Such people receive a blessing and anointing over them that others simply do not know of.
God says that He will honour those who honour Him, and despise those who despise Him (1Sa.2:30). Jesus gave the example of those who received blessings and responsibilities according to how they had been faithful with the talents they had been given (Mt.25:21). He said that those who had been faithful in small things would be entrusted with greater responsibilities (Lk.16:11,12). Have you thought why a righteous man's prayers have much effect (compared to those of someone who has not been so righteous)? (Jas.5:16).
On one side we see how greatly God blessed Abraham when He saw that Abraham was willing to even sacrifice his beloved son Isaac in order to obey God (Ge.22:16-18). This was a supreme level of faithfulness. On the other side we see how God favoured Daniel when he made up his mind not to defile himself with food from the table of the king of Babylon (Da.1:8,9). This was faithfulness in little things. We have many similar examples in the Bible that clearly demonstrate the reward for faithfulness.
Don't think that what I am talking about is not 'grace' but 'works.' It is a simple matter of God putting more trust in a man who has shown himself to be more trustworthy than one who has been playing fast and loose. It says about Jesus that He was anointed more than everybody else because He hated sin and loved righteousness (He.1:9). Does not this also explain why people who had once been anointed mightily seem to lose that anointing?
Let us learn to trust in God and His gracious love towards us, and also to show faithfulness to Him who has loved us like that (2Co.5:14,15).
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