It doesn’t matter what version of Christianity you believe in or what denomination you subscribe to. Grace is an important issue to the Christian community. We talk a lot about grace. We insist on how we need to give each other more grace. We even insist on how people ought to give us more grace. We might even tell ourselves that we ought to give ourselves more grace. But is it possible we missed the point of grace? Maybe we got grace wrong.
It’s possible those with a more legalistic point-of-view or those who feel that the Church has cheapened grace will be excited, anticipating that I will be offering something along those lines as well. I’m sorry to disappoint, but I’m not. You see, we have so often done legalism wrong because it was all about what we felt was right. We, like the pharisees, have sought legalism to declare ourselves righteous. We have so often used legalism to impose righteous standards on others in order to make ourselves feel pious. Even when we don’t measure up ourselves, we insist that we deserve grace. When doing so we ruin the gift of God by demanding it to conform to our desire or rules. There is no room for grace in the heart of those who are self-righteous. What if in our self-centeredness many of us in the church have never truly experienced God’s grace??
For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the faith God has distributed to each of you. (Romans 12:3)
In the Scriptures lately I have noticed something rather astonishing. Grace only ever comes from God. He is the author of grace. Every gift of grace comes from Him. He is the originator of grace. He invented it. He created grace. He thought it up and put it into practice. In some ways He has copyrighted it. You see, grace is not something that can be used to one-up someone else. Grace is a free gift from God. You and I cannot have grace apart from Him. We cannot have it to justify what we desire. We cannot abuse it to give us license to do what we want. It is a gift from God alone for those who desperately beg for it.
But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace toward me was not in vain… (1 Corinthians 15:10)
For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. (Ephesians 2:8-9)
There is not one of us who deserves grace or who can demand it. Yet we try to demand it, don’t we? “Give me a break, I deserve it!” We attempt to prevent others from judging us harshly without grace. “You have no right to judge me!” On some level, that’s true, but that doesn’t justify us. It is only God who justifies or condemns. Grace demanded is no grace at all. If you or I demand grace we nullify it. Grace is useless to those who insist on it. We can request grace as the thief on the cross did. It is only Jesus who can grant you or I the grace we so desire and so desperately need. It is true that grace is free. The church cannot sell grace. The origin of grace is with God so it is He alone who can give it out or pass it along in measure. Grace destined for self is no grace at all because by nature grace is designed by nature for someone else.
Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others, faithfully administering God’s grace in its various forms. If anyone speaks, he should do it as one speaking the very words of God. If anyone serves, he should do it with the strength God provides, so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ. To him be the glory and the power for ever and ever. Amen. (1 Peter 4:10–11)
You see we are each stewards of God’s grace. We can pass it along for the good of someone else. It cannot be used to let ourselves off the hook. Grace cannot be hoarded or held onto. It must be given away to another who needs it. God has made us stewards of His grace. We are to pass this grace on to others. God has not given us grace that we can brag. We are to give His grace because it cannot be used selfishly. Grace vanishes when there are ulterior motives. Grace and self-centered agendas cannot co-exist.