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Beginning
with God

 

7. The Right Motive:

 

Living by Grace

Romans 6:14 'You are not under law, but under grace.'

Acts 20:24 '…the gospel of God's grace.'

Grace: God's 'givingness'

When we talk about 'grace' in a Christian context, we don't mean moving around elegantly, like a ballerina. We're talking about the whole basis upon which God deals with us. So what exactly is grace?

Grace is the love of God in action towards the totally undeserving. It is his help, his provision, his generosity, his 'givingness' to us who, if we deserved anything, deserved only his judgment because of our sin and self-centredness.

Smiley faceGrace is central to God's nature; he is 'the God of all grace' (1 Peter 5:10). That's what we mean when we say God is 'gracious'. He's not the grim god of Judaism or the unsmiling and tyrannical god of Islam. He's a warm-hearted Father, an open-handed and smiling God of grace, who loves to give!

Saved by grace

Suppose an intruder broke into your house and you arrived home to find him sprawled on your settee scoffing the contents of your food-cupboard. You could call the police and have him prosecuted. If you decided instead to let him off with a few strong words, that would be mercy—not giving him what he deserved. If you made him dinner, gave him £100 and some clothes and invited him to call again whenever he was in need, that would be grace—giving him what he did not deserve.

In Christ, we have received both God's mercy and God's grace. He spared us what we deserved: his wrath. And he generously gave us what we didn't deserve: his love and forgiveness.

Salvation simply can't be earned or worked for. It's a free gift of God's grace. It costs us nothing—because it cost Jesus everything:

Ephesians 2:8-9 'It is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast.'

Romans 3:24 'We are justified freely by his grace.'

Hymn 'Amazing Grace', verses 1 and 2John Newton was an 18th century slave trader, making money out of human degradation. When he became a Christian he was so overcome by God's love and forgiveness towards him that he wrote the famous hymn, Amazing Grace.

Sustained by grace

But God's grace doesn't end once we are saved; it continues to flow towards us throughout our lives. In other words, God continues to give to us, the undeserving, what we don't deserve. He remains full of love and forgiveness, provision and generosity.

Even though you're now a Christian, you still can't buy anything from God. He doesn't sell-he only gives. No matter how much you pray, read your Bible, help others, give sacrificially or serve in the church, you won't draw out of God's heart any more of his love and acceptance towards you. Why? Because you have it all already! It's his free, ongoing gift to you for Jesus' sake. It's a limitless reservoir, and he wants us to tap into it daily so that we are sustained by it in our Christian lives:

Acts 13:43 [Paul and Barnabas] 'urged them to continue in the grace of God.'

Drawing on God's grace is so vital that the apostle Paul both begins and ends every one of his letters with a phrase like, 'Grace and peace to you…' (Romans 1:7) or 'The grace of our Lord Jesus be with you' (Romans 16:20).

Hymn 'Amazing Grace', verse 3John Newton understood that grace had saved him—and that it would continue to sustain him, as the third verse of his famous hymn clearly shows.

Grace and law

The opposite of 'grace' is 'law'.

There's a place for law, of course. Without the laws of the land society would lapse into anarchy and chaos. Without the laws of football the game would end up as a brutal free-for-all. But in the Christian faith grace rules supreme. In this it's different from every other religion in the world. All the rest are based on law, with a heavy list of do's and don'ts and penalties for every infringement.

Sadly, even some Christians can slip back into a law-based approach to life. The Galatian believers did this and Paul had to write them a strong letter to put them straight:

Galatians 3:10 'All who rely on observing the law are under a curse, for it is written: "Cursed is everyone who does not continue to do everything written in the Book of the Law."'

Galatians 5:4 'You who are trying to be justified by law have been alienated from Christ; you have fallen away from grace.'

God's grace is to be our motivation in all that we do for him. Take reading your Bible, for example. It's a good thing to do it, but why do you do it? If it's so that you can notch up another Bible-reading session and feel virtuous about it, or if you do your reading at 6 o'clock in the morning because that seems more spiritual than doing it at 7 o'clock, you're back under law. You've lost sight of grace and are tied up with self-imposed rules and regulations.

Grace gives you a completely different approach. You say to yourself, 'God has been amazingly kind to me. Thank you, Lord, for your love. I want to learn more about you, and I want to hear you speak to me, so I'm going to read the Bible for a while.' Whether you do it at 6.00 in the morning or some other time is neither here nor there.God's bottomless grace-chest, open to you!

Living by law is…

Living by grace is…

Approaching the throne

Sometimes you feel utterly weak and useless. You'd like to serve God better but your human weakness gets in the way.

This is where grace comes into its own. You reach the end of your own resources and, in desperation, cry to God to meet your need. He replies, 'My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness' (2 Corinthians 12:8-9)—and he comes up with the goods. That way, of course, God gets all the credit because everyone knows you couldn't have achieved what you did by your own efforts.

The door to God's presence: always openAt such times of need you may feel reluctant to come to the Lord for his help. You'd prefer to do the job yourself. But isn't that foolish when there's an endless supply of grace at your disposal? The Bible says:

Hebrews 4:16  'Let us…approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.'

Because of what Jesus has done, God no longer sits on a throne of judgment as far as you're concerned; he sits on a 'throne of grace'. He's never too busy to receive you, never stingy with his love and provision. He loves to welcome you. So approach his throne 'with confidence'! Learn to appreciate his grace, and let it be your only motivation for living as a Christian.

Gracious like God

Ephesians 5:1 'Be imitators of God…as dearly loved children.'

You will inevitably become like what you worship (Jeremiah 2:5; Psalm 115:4-8). So as you worship the God of grace you'll become gracious yourself. How can you co-operate with God in this happy process?

Romans 5:17 'God's abundant provision of grace…'

Ephesians 1:7-8 '…the riches of God's grace that he lavished on us…'

Proverbs 3:34 'God resists the proud but gives his grace to the humble.'

You humble yourself by saying 'Thank you', by worshipping the Lord, by developing a submissive spirit, by serving and by giving.

Set your stall out to live the whole of your life in the lovely atmosphere of grace!

 

Learn
by heart

2 Corinthians 12:9  'My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.'

Heart

BwG7: Living By Grace
Amazing grace
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