The topic of grace is discussed 150 times in the new testament alone. But did you know that 133 of those times it was brought up by the Apostle Paul? Isn’t that interesting? He is one of those guys in the Bible who received the gift of grace even though he deserve it the least. After all, he was a mass murderer! He was responsible for killing many in the church and yet God called him to be one of the most prominent figures of the New Testament!
"I thank Christ Jesus our Lord, who has strengthened me, because He considered me faithful, putting me into service, even though I was formerly a blasphemer and a persecutor and a violent aggressor. Yet I was shown mercy because I acted ignorantly in unbelief; and the grace of our Lord was more than abundant, with the faith and love which are found in Christ Jesus. It is a trustworthy statement, deserving full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, among whom I am foremost of all. Yet for this reason I found mercy, so that in me as the foremost, Jesus Christ might demonstrate His perfect patience as an example for those who would believe in Him for eternal life." 1 Timothy 1:12-16 (NASB)
Grace is so difficult for the carnal mind to grasp. Therefore, the natural tendency of the church is to “keep things neat and tidy” by instituting religious rules and policies. The fear is that grace will become “greasy” and messy. The fear is that there will be compromise. But, the truth is Jesus wasn't afraid to get messy. In fact, when he was accused of associating too closely with the outcasts and sinners his response was to say that this was exactly the purpose of the Gospel. It was designed to be in the middle of the messes. Ministry is simply going to be messy because people we're called to reach are messy! Imagine a church where perfection was not the aim - grace was. Imagine a place where everyone is welcomed and accepted. Where no perfect people are allowed.
Dr. Timothy Keller made this audacious statement in his book Prodigal God, “The kind of outsiders Jesus attracted are not attracted to contemporary churches, even our most avant-garde ones. We tend to draw conservative, buttoned-down, moralistic people. The licentious and liberated or the broken and marginal avoid church. That can only mean one thing. If the preaching of our ministers and the practice of our parishioners do not have the same effect on people that Jesus had, then we must not be declaring the same message that Jesus did.”
Are we preaching the same message as Jesus? Prostitutes, tax collectors, zealots and rebels, and other sorts of outcasts were attracted to Jesus. Can you say that about your ministry? Can I say this about mine?
I think it all comes down to how we view grace. Do we view grace as tolerance? Compromise? Or do we view grace as love, acceptance, and forgiveness?
Questions: How do you see grace? Are you thankful that as undeserving as you are, God has given you this free gift? Isn’t that amazing? “It is not merely a free gift, but a free gift to those who deserve the exact opposite...”