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True grace is a dangerous doctrine!
- Jacob Ninan
It's dangerous not because it isn't true, but because it's incredibly attractive and blatantly open to misuse. Perhaps this danger prevents many preachers from proclaiming it as it is, not wanting to be responsible for unwittingly leading their hearers into error. But it also causes many of God's people from experiencing its full blessings.
This fear is justified. Many, in fact quite a lot of God's people, are already into the error of taking the grace of God cheaply by taking sin lightly (Ro.6:15;He.10:29). We tend to be careless in temptation when we know there is forgiveness. Paul's question was, "Can we take sin lightly because grace gives us forgiveness and free acceptance?" He answers it himself with a resounding, "God forbid!"
Under the law we try to keep up with God's standards hoping to get His blessings or avoid His wrath. But what do we do now when our acceptance is not based on our performance at all (Ro.3:28) but is a free gift from God (Ep.2:8,9)? If He showed mercy to us when we were sinners, how much more when we are His children (He.8:12)! Now He will never forsake us (He.13:5). Yet it doesn't mean that we can sin with impunity. Sin is still sin for which God's righteousness demands death, and the only way it can be forgiven is through the blood of Jesus. We can confess our sins and He will forgive us (1Jn.1:9), but it is not something that we can take for granted because if we go on sinning wilfully we will ultimately reach a point of no return (He.10:26).
On one hand grace is so free, generous and wide that we don't need to be worried about our acceptance with God. On the other hand it is not as if sin doesn't really matter for us, because it did cost God the death of His Son. On one hand we aren't trying to appease God by trying to be good, but on the other hand we try our best to be pleasing to God because we love Him (Jn.14:15). It is only in this balance that grace ceases to be dangerous and becomes the greatest blessing that God has given us. If we lose this balance we go wrong and suffer the consequence of losing out on true grace.
We can test ourselves to see if we have understood true grace and experienced it in our life. Just see how confident we are about God's acceptance of us. Any hesitation to approach God in prayer because we feel we aren't fit enough for it shows that we haven't understood what true grace is. On the other hand if we are hard towards the faults we see in others and find it difficult to to overlook them it is clear that we haven't actually 'experienced' this grace in our personal life even if we agree with the doctrine.
God's grace is not just about unmerited favour towards us even though this is what we see first and what changes our entire life. Grace also refers to the 'enabling power' that God gives us in life's situations to behave in a godly manner. He.4:16 refers to grace as 'help' in our time of need. When we say, "By God's grace," we refer both to His favour and His help, and acknowledge our helplessness without Him.