GROUNDED IN GRACE
Rincy V. Cherian
The word 'grace' is so amazing; a song has been written on it, a song which even two hundred years after its composition climbed to No. 1 on the music charts. Somehow we all like 'grace.' Just the sound of it brings such pleasure and comfort to our ears.
Described as the 'last best word' in the English language-all others having lost their original glory and depth of meaning-grace is acknowledged in some measure all across the world. We say grace before meals, have grace marks in examinations, are delighted by graceful dancing, touched by gracious looks and deeds, and are grateful for someone's kindness. Even companies and governments issue grace periods for people to set matters straight!
Understanding God's grace can revolutionise our lives. In fact, the entire Christian life is dependent on the continuous bestowal of God's grace. We are saved by grace, sanctified by grace, and sustained by grace (Eph.2:8; Heb.4:16;13:9; 1Pet.5: 10; 2Pet.3:17-18).
Grace Impacts Relationships
When we really come to know grace in all its truth, it will radically impact the way we relate to God and people. The apostle Paul was so touched and transformed by grace that he devoted his entire life to "testifying to the Gospel of God's grace" (Acts 20:24). He described all his accomplishments as a result of the grace of God working within him (1Cor.15:10). Since grace was the best gift he had received from God (1Tim.1:14), it was the best he could wish and give to others, as indicated by the introduction and conclusion in all his letters.
What does this wonderful word actually mean? It basically denotes the 'favour of God' (2Cor.6:1-2) and 'power of God' (2Cor.12:9). 'Favour' refers to God choosing to be good and kind to us who deserve nothing but condemnation and punishment. Simply put, it describes God's willingness to treat us like His favourites! And 'power' signifies the strength that God gives us to be and do what can never be experienced or achieved in our own natural strength.
Through the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ, fullness of grace has been manifest and the riches of grace have been opened up (Jn.1:17; Tit.2:11). Although grace is available and accessible to all, it needs to be 'received' (Rom.5:17). Each individual needs to 'enter' into this grace which God has abundantly provided (Rom.5:2). This is done solely and wholly through 'faith'-total dependence, reliance, and leaning upon Jesus (Rom.5:2; 11:6; Eph.2:8-9).
Being grounded in the knowledge that God has fully accepted us in Christ will liberate us to live free from a 'performance mentality' or 'guilt syndrome.' There will be no pressure in relating to God; only the pleasure of knowing that "I am God's favourite" and the joy of living in eternal gratitude and reverence before Him. There will be no fear or struggle to get blessed either because of our confidence and security in the Heavenly Father's love and goodness. Even the way we behave with people will be filled with grace. Freely we have received, freely we will give. Kindness and mercy will be showered on people. Gracious will be our words and deeds as we relate to those we come across. And at the same time, we will be unaffected by praises or unfazed by insults that come our way.
The Enemies Of Grace
As we seek to live in grace, we need to beware of two enemies. They are 'legalism' and 'licence.' The first category stands for those who hold on to the law without making any provision for mercy or compassion in the event of failure. The second group presumes on grace and thinks that it is an excuse to live in sin. One is 'strict;' the other is 'sloppy.'
Legalists are concerned only about obeying the letter of the law, and not keeping its spirit. They are adherents of the 'rules of God,' but antagonistic, even afraid, of a personal, intimate 'relationship with God.' 'Performance' is their life-style and extreme emphasis on externals and trivial matters are some of their character traits.
We need to be especially careful of legalism because legalism is subtle, while licence is pretty obvious. Trying to keep rules and regulations to get right or stay right with God will only make us miserable. The solution to sin is not to impose an ever-stricter code of behaviour; it is to know God. As a saint so aptly expressed, "Holiness is not the way to Christ; Christ is the way to holiness!" When we deeply experience God, our hearts and minds will be changed to be and behave like Him.
Rather than living in 'legalism' or 'licence,' we are called to walk in 'liberty.' This is the liberty of the Holy Spirit, the liberty to say 'no' to ungodliness and worldly passions, and 'yes' to righteousness and godliness in this present evil age (Tit.2:12). As we allow Him to guide us and submit to Him daily, the fruit of the Spirit will be naturally formed within us and the power of the Spirit will be experienced by us.