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Do we live out grace?
- Jacob Ninan
We understand grace to be unmerited favour from God. But how does grace affect our practical life? This practical application of grace determines the real depth of our relationship with God.
There are only two ways in which people try to relate with God. The common approach is to try to find acceptance with God because of how good we are or the good things we have done. In this way people try to earn acceptance by strict religious practices, trying to be good more often than bad, to do more good than bad, etc. They expect that somehow the good will outweigh the bad in the end. But they can never be sure if they have succeeded till after they die! This causes a great fear of death because of the uncertainty.
The other way brought by Jesus is to be accepted by God through His grace--unmerited favour--even when we know we are sinners who have no merit. It was because no one could ever be accepted on merit (Ro.3:20) that God made this 'gracious way' of salvation. Jesus came down from heaven and went through death in our place, clearing the way for God to forgive and accept us.
Those who earnestly try to earn their acceptance are always trying harder and yet coming short. Those who have been accepted graciously by God now try to be pleasing to God, not because they want to be accepted but because they are so grateful that they are accepted! This is the difference between working for our salvation which we are hoping to receive, and working out our salvation (Php.2:12) which we have already received through grace. A mark of those who know they have been accepted purely by grace is that they are not in a struggle or uncertainty (He.4:3).
Even many who have accepted the doctrine of grace still show this struggle or uncertainty, demonstrating that this doctrine has not really touched them deeply enough.
For example, if we have been accepted by grace the first time we came to God through faith in Jesus and still fear that now if we fall we might lose this salvation (because God must be angry with us), then we have switched back to living according to our merit before God! If we hold a goal of reaching a state some time where we will not need grace for God's acceptance we are unrealistic and fooling ourselves! The greatest Christian is still imperfect in God's holy eyes (Php.3:12). And God who accepted us by grace when we were His enemies will not stop dealing with us on the same basis after we have become His children (Ro.5:8,9).
Do we think that some sins are far too great for God to forgive? Chances are that we are imagining we are generally OK and need grace only to cover our 'small sins'. When God shows us grace He is giving us something we don't deserve at all. We all deserve hell, and only grace can save us, and all of us, great or small sinners, are saved on the same basis of unmerited favour.
Do we find it hard to forgive others? Then we have not understood what God had to do to forgive us (Mt.18:27,28).