Grace Gone Wild: Embrace the Gift
- Friday, October 07, 2005
God has given all Christians an amazing gift: Grace. But many Christians misunderstand and abuse this gift. And, in the process, they rob themselves of the joy it's intended to bring them. Here's how you can avoid bad grace and embrace good grace in your life:
Rescue the concept of grace from both legalists and libertarians.
Understand that, just as you can't earn your salvation, you can't earn grace. God gives it to you freely, out of love. However, grace doesn't exempt you from your responsibility to obey God. Obeying God is your gift to Him. Realize that your love for God and gratitude for all He does for you should motivate you to obey Him more - not less. Recognize that, although there's nothing you can do to earn God's love, there's plenty you can do to enjoy God's blessings that come with obedience. Know that God's standards of conduct exist for your benefit, not your detriment. Understand that faithfully living in obedience to God's commands will give you a much better life than not doing so. Recognize that you should establish boundaries for other people's behavior toward you rather than allowing them to mistreat you. Seek to live in a way that honors God, remembering that He deserves nothing less. Realize that bad grace leads to death, but good grace leads to life.
Let grace give you a new awareness.
Ask God to make you aware of how desperate your situation was spiritually before you came to Christ. Value the magnitude of God's grace toward you. Understand that pain in your life is a signal that can alert you to sin you need to deal with for good spiritual health.
Let grace give you a new status.
Realize that God's grace has transformed you from being His enemy to being His friend. Now, instead of being a slave, you are a child of God.
Let grace give you a new heart.
Know that your new heart will help you obey God out of genuine desire, rather than fear.
Let grace give you a new master.
Understand that grace frees you not to serve no master, but to serve a new master. Know that all people are slaves to something - whatever controls their lives. But Christians get to choose the only truly worthy master - Jesus Christ. This new master liberates you from sin that will keep you in bondage.
Let grace give you a new location.
Allow grace to lift you out of the graveyard of sin and into a healthy realm of living. Ask yourself, "Even though I can still choose to live in sin, why would I want to?" Understand that responding to God's forgiveness with a decision to sin is like stepping into a grave while you're still alive.
Follow a new law.
Understand that, while grace frees you from God's old law detailed in the Old Testament, it doesn't mean that you're not under any law. Recognize that God's grace is not a license to do what you want, but the liberty to do what you should. Realize that grace provides you a powerful incentive for obedience. Rather than obeying God because you fear His condemnation, let your gratitude for His forgiveness motivate you to obey Him.
Understand the importance of repentance.
Know that, while sin doesn't alter your position in God's family, it does affect your day-to-day relationship with Him. Be willing to continually acknowledge your disobedience and ask for God's forgiveness so sin won't distance you from God. Seek to constantly maintain a close relationship with Him. Have a healthy attitude about sin; don't argue, rationalize, or cover it up. Instead, agree with God that you are in sin when you are, and that you need to do something about it. Then make specific changes in your behavior, as God leads you to do so, so you can head in a healthier direction.
Realize that God rewards those who obey Him.
Understand that heaven won't be the same for all Christians. While you can gain admittance for free by trusting in Christ for your salvation, you won't receive rewards there if you've neglected God's commands. Christians who were obedient on Earth will receive greater rewards than those who weren't.
Let grace guide how you make decisions.
Realize that, in the many gray areas of life where discernment is necessary to make wise decisions, God wants you to look for a higher perspective than just personal preferences. Elevate love above knowledge, the welfare of others above your personal freedom, and God's interests above your desires. When facing a decision, ask yourself: "Is this behavior lawful?", "Is this behavior profitable?" and "Is this behavior helpful?".
Let grace help you forgive.
Know that good grace affirms the necessity of forgiveness, recognizes that forgiveness doesn't erase the natural consequences of offenses, and understands that, although forgiveness can be granted, reconciliation must be earned. Choose to forgive people who have hurt you and work for reconciliation in your relationships with them, but understand that reconciliation will only be possible if they respond to your efforts. No matter what happens, choose to forgive anyway, remembering that God is always willing to forgive you and will help you through the process of forgiving others.
Don't let bad grace hurt your marriage.
Understand that grace doesn't give you license to marry whomever you want. Remember that your mate should be a member of the opposite sex, and a believer, if you want to experience God's blessings in your marriage. Know that grace doesn't give you permission to cheat on your spouse without lasting consequences. Realize that adultery leads to fractured marriages, sexually transmitted diseases, and severely damaged reputations. Even when people genuinely repent from adultery and gain God's forgiveness, they often still experience these consequences. Recognize that divorce and remarriage are biblically allowable only in two specific situations - adultery and desertion. Remember that God intends marriage to be a lifetime commitment, and that divorce should always be a last resort in a troubled marriage.
Let grace guide your church life.
While bad grace says, "I don't need to join a church," good grace says, "God has provided a church for me to join." Know that church provides the instruction you need for your spiritual growth, the accountability you need when you wander, and a more powerful witness to the world than you can have as just a believer on your own. While bad grace says, "I can miss church as often as I want," good grace says, "I should attend as frequently as I can." Understand that your presence in church makes a difference to others, and in your own spiritual development. While bad grace says, "I can give as little as I want," good grace says, "I should give as much as I can." Understand that everything you have belongs to God, you should seek the highest rate of return with God's money by investing in what has eternal value, and a tithe should be the starting place for most Christians. While bad grace says, "I don't have to do anything in the church," good grace says, "God has given me the privilege of serving somewhere in the church." Understand that every Christian has been given a unique spiritual gift or gifts, your spiritual gift(s) are to be used in a local church, and fulfillment comes from using your spiritual gift(s).
Don't use grace as an excuse to avoid necessary church discipline.
Understand that discipline is necessary to restore a Christian who has been overtaken by sin, maintain a church's witness, and sustain the health of the entire congregation. Be willing to confront those in your church when you need to do so. Realize that the degree to which you confront another Christian should be determined by the kind of offense committed. For personal offenses against you and sin that you observe in another believer's life, talk privately with the person involved first. Make sure that you genuinely want to restore your relationship with the person and that you're motivated by a sincere concern for the person's spiritual health, not simply a desire to shame or punish him or her. If the offender is unwilling to repent after a private conversation, take a small group of people with you to talk with him or her. If the person is still unrepentant, report the situation to your church's leaders (or, only if absolutely necessary, the entire congregation). As a last resort, remove the offender from the congregation. Realize that this last step is usually necessary only when someone continues to threaten your church's moral, doctrinal, or emotional health.
Use good grace to help you maintain a healthy balance between freedom and obedience. Resist judging others unnecessarily; keep your focus on your own spiritual walk. Refuse to trust in works for salvation, yet recognize your obligation to obey God.
Adapted from Grace Gone Wild! Getting a Grip on God's Amazing Gift, copyright 2005 by Robert Jeffress. Published by WaterBrook Press, a division of Random House, Inc., Colorado Springs, Co., www.waterbrookpress.com.
Robert Jeffress is pastor of the 9,500-member First Baptist Church of Wichita Falls, Texas, and the Bible teacher on the internationally broadcast television program "Pathway to Victory," seen on more than 1,100 cable systems and television stations. A graduate of Dallas Theological Seminary and Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, Dr. Jeffress is the author of 14 previous books.
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