If you want to see a religious person talk really fast, chat with them them about grace. Start a timer when the conversation turns to the fact that we are forgiven of everything we’ve ever done and everything we will do, not because of our actions but because of the sacrifice of Jesus. Stop the timer when the religious person says something like “Now I’m not saying we can go around sinning all we want. It’s still important to be righteous.”
I bet you wouldn’t make it sixty seconds, and that’s being generous. I know when I talk about grace on air, I typically only make it about thirty seconds or less before I start making sure people don’t take my celebration of grace as an invitation to misbehave.
And the tricky part is, it’s all true. There’s a lot in the Bible about how we’re supposed to act, and it’s not there just so we know what we’re being forgiven for. At the same time, the very definition of grace means I can go around breaking every one of those rules and Jesus will still forgive me. The amount of work I put into being good has nothing to do with the percentage of my sins that get forgiven.
Ultimately, I think the problem is that I have a limited view of grace. I tend to look at it through the narrowest lenses: I’ve done some awful stuff, but because of the sacrifice of Jesus, God will let me into Heaven.
That’s a pretty incredible statement, but what if grace was even bigger than that?
For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age. (Titus 2:11-12, ESV. Emphasis added.)
Paul is saying here that if you truly grasp God’s grace, you don’t need a fast-talking religious person to remind you not to sin. The grace of God actually teaches us to live righteously.
Grace isn’t just an industrial strength eraser for the permanent records of sinners. In fact, if all God did was remove the eternal consequences for our sin, the argument could be made that he was actually pouring out wrath, not lavishing us with grace. I talked last week about the passage in Romans that says God’s wrath is simply to let humanity keep sinning.
Sin is an incredibly destructive force, and for God’s grace to really be grace, it has to be more than something he holds onto and finally grants us after we die.
God’s grace is so much bigger than the practice of letting sinners into Heaven. God’s grace extends to us today, before we even approach his throne, as somehow he teaches a sinful and broken people to live the way Jesus did.