Summary: Having gratefully received the gift of God’s grace, we can’t repay it or hoard it, but pass it on to others.
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, it is relatively easy to accept grace but it seems rather challenging to live a life of grace.
I say it is relatively easy to accept grace, because we human beings have the tendency to earn it first. Do a trick – get a cookie! A doctor told a story about an elderly woman he met as he was walking through a shopping mall. Because she appeared in pain and obvious distress, he introduced himself as a medical doctor and asked what was wrong.
“Oh, doctor,” the woman said, “how sweet of you to stop and care for a complete stranger. My arthritis is killing me, I have terrible cramps in my legs, pains in my chest and a migraine headache.” The doctor urged her to seek immediate medical attention.
But the lady answered, “Oh, doctor, I can’t do that now. I’ll see my doctor when I’m feeling better.” Physicians tell us that this is not uncommon. People want to wait until they get better before they seek medical help. It doesn’t make much sense, does it?
Neither does it make much sense when people resist grace because they want to earn it first. It doesn’t work that way! Grace cannot be earned. If grace could be earned, it wouldn’t be grace anymore. Grace is an undeserved gift. It’s like receiving a birthday gift two months before, or a Valentine in July.
The gift of God’s grace in Christ Jesus is much more precious that any other gift we will ever receive. It is a gift of forgiveness, cleansing, new identity as children of God, a new life here on earth and eternal life in heaven.
God’s gift of grace comes to us out of His overwhelming love for us, that’s all. We cannot earn it, we don’t deserve it, we can only gratefully accept it by faith. The Bible teaches in Ephesians 2: 8 and 9, For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith – and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God – not by works, so that no one can boast.
It is by faith that we recognize the enormous value of God’s grace. When we believe in Jesus as the very essence of grace, then we receive what God so lovingly offers to us.
The Apostle Paul captured the meaning of grace in Romans 5:6 At the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. The gift of grace is totally undeserved.
The good news of God’s loving grace is summarized in the great promise our Lord Jesus shares in the 3rd chapter of John: For God so loved the world that He gave His only Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world but to save the world through Him.
That’s pure grace, 100% solid grace. Nothing deserved, nothing earned. Everything according to God’s own initiative – love for Jesus’ sake.
Now, having received this precious gift of grace, what do we do with it? How do we live a life inspired by the undeserved gift of grace? There are two main challenges we face, two extremes: we either want to repay it, or we want to hoard it.
The desire to repay it, to give something back for it, again stems from a misunderstanding of what grace is or isn’t. The desire to reciprocate is common among human beings. You do something nice for me, I do something nice for you. Somebody gives us a present and we feel obligated to return the favor.
Many years ago a friend called me up just before Christmas saying he had a present for me. It was a good size box, covered with a very attractive Christmas wrapping paper and a nice bow. It came as a complete surprise, and I placed it under our Christmas tree. I was not expecting anything from him. I was so pleased, that I went out looking for a suitable present for him. I found it in a bookstore. Since my friend was a Jewish Christian, I thought he would enjoy a nice picture book about Jerusalem. I wrapped it up in the best paper I could find, put a bow on it, and delivered it to his place.
I was a bit puzzled as to why he was so reluctant to accept my gift at first. On Christmas Eve, when time came to open our presents, I understood. When I opened that box, I discovered that the supposed present was a book of carpet samples that I had left in my friend’s house and failed to pick up even after he told me about it. It was his way of returning them to me.