April 4, 2015
Since this month begins with the Passion Week, I thought it would be appropriate to write about God’s mercy and grace, and remind us of both the enormous sacrifice and the great victory we celebrate over the Easter Weekend.
I frequently hear the term “cheap grace” thrown out by individuals concerned that the modern preaching of the gospel has been diluted, and lacks a call to personal holiness, self-denial and righteous living.
I hate the term “cheap grace.” I cringe every time I hear it used, whether the concerns of the one using it are legitimate or not. Why? Because, in truth “cheap grace” is an oxymoron. Like “jumbo shrimp,” the words simply don’t belong together.
Grace is defined as the free and unmerited favor of God, as manifested in the salvation of sinners and the bestowal of blessings. “Grace” is often incorrectly used interchangeably with “mercy.” Although they are both bestowed upon us by the work of Christ, they are actually two sides of the same coin called: “redemption.”
- Mercy is God not imparting to us the punishment we have earned.
- Grace is God imparting to us His favor, which we have not earned.
The great price for our sin was still paid; it was simply paid by another – Jesus Christ. In other words, the mercy and grace, which we have received from God, was paid for through the sacrificed life of His own Son. You see why the words “cheap” and “grace” cannot be sandwiched together? God’s grace was the most expensive gift ever given.
I understand that God’s mercy and grace are constantly abused. There are many who receive salvation and proceed to live a selfish life, pursuing personal gratification, giving little regard for the great sacrifice that was made on their behalf. Like the prodigal son, they grab their inheritance and wonder off, squandering their precious liberty gratifying the sinful nature. Yet our heavenly Father stands, scanning the horizon in search of the wayward son’s return. And when the son comes to his senses and realizes how better it would be, even as a slave in his father’s house, than to wallow in sin, he crawls back to the father, who rejoices at his return. Rather than being disowned, as he deserves, the son is welcomed back with celebration, embraced as family as if he’d never left.
This is the gospel of grace. It is not cheap. It has never been cheap, and it cannot be made cheap. We cannot take anything away from God’s grace by our disobedience, any more than we can add anything to grace by our obedience. Grace is God’s work, God’s gift, and God’s act, and although it is free for all who will receive it… it is never cheap!