Wednesday, June 10, 2015

The Transformative Call of Grace: Costly Grace or Cheap Grace

Romans 6 (NIV)
Believers Are Dead to Sin, Alive to God
 1 What shall we say, then? Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase? 2 By no means! We are those who have died to sin; how can we live in it any longer? 3 Or don’t you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? 4 We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life.
 5 For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we will certainly also be united with him in a resurrection like his. 6 For we know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body ruled by sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin— 7 because anyone who has died has been set free from sin.
 8 Now if we died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. 9 For we know that since Christ was raised from the dead, he cannot die again; death no longer has mastery over him. 10 The death he died, he died to sin once for all; but the life he lives, he lives to God.

The call of grace in our lives reveals an interesting paradox. On the one hand we believe that grace is a free gift that God has given us through Christ. On the other, it seems that there is something more to our justification than just belief in a free gift of grace. I am not talking about works, but rather, the difference between what complacency has defined as cheap grace, and what Christ calls us to as costly grace.

The difference is simple but rather robust. Cheap grace allows us to pay lip service to God and allows us to live in a make believe world of simple penance and shallow fear. We should not forget that just as God is love, He is also just, and he will judge even those who believe. Cheap grace allows for us to live our lives with no difference in the way we act, live or speak. It is inclusive and individualistic and on the verge of being a prideful catastrophe. It is the kind of grace that the enemy wants to spread because it never transforms humanity. In our post-modern world the constant focus is on our individual happiness and “come as you are,” ideals. We then make the mistake of making grace about us as our free gift without realizing the responsibility that comes with the true understanding of that free gift.

Costly grace calls us not to simply believe in who Christ is or what he has done. This is the foundation, but if this foundation never grows from your mind to your heart to your whole being, then the question must be asked if you truly believe in who Christ is and exactly the depth of consequence for humanity what He has in fact done. This grace calls us to partake in the acts of Christ himself. It is not simply enough that we just believe. If belief were enough then why would grace not cover our continual sinning so that grace could increase? It calls for transformation! If we go on living as if grace will cover us without a cost of our own we are surely mistaken. The cost without the true grace of Christ is our eternal death and separation from God. True grace calls us to be transformed into Christ. It calls us to die with him. It forces us to reject sin and be dead to it. To accept the cost of free grace means that we are willing to sacrifice our whole being to Him. Not just our minds, or our words and shallow prayers nor our works and merit. Grace calls us to come and believe, but after belief, it calls us to come and be transformed so that we may go and make disciples (Mt. 28:19).

Grace affects our hearts so that as we live our lives we are better husbands, fathers, friends, community leaders and servants because we are living through Christ alive, and no longer enslaved by sin. When we offer ourselves, we empower God to transform us, and then in return, He empowers us to go and love in His name and be extensions of free grace. By the transforming power of grace, our lives reflect the true cost of free grace. We become living sacrifices to God (Rom. 12:1-2) and we are salt and light by action rather than just by word. Our ethics will change. Our opinions and attitudes will reflect Christ and the sin that we once were held under will no longer be what controls us. The greatest tragedy of simple belief is the apathy of accepting grace without allowing it to transform you.

The choice is asking yourself whether or not you have allowed the transformative power of grace to really sink in enough to make the commitment to die with Christ so that you may live through Him. Have we allowed our circumstances, experiences, immunity to sin and small temptations, or even our past relationship with the church muddle our consciences? Do our jobs, studies, art, careers, friends, or romantic relationships cause us to live with a cheap outlook on grace? Have we allowed the enemy to tempt us into thinking that grace is easy to accept? The paradox of grace is not for the faint of heart and that is why Christ beckons us by His grace to have our hearts. It is more costly than anything we could ever fathom. It cost God his son, it cost Christ his life and it will cost us ours as well. The acceptance of true costly grace does indeed cost everything but it will surely transform everything in its wake as long as you make it a daily decision to choose the costly grace over the cheap grace.

Reflection and Prayer:

O to grace how great a debtor
                  daily I'm constrained to be!
                  Let thy goodness, like a fetter,
                  bind my wandering heart to thee.
                  Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it,
                  prone to leave the God I love;
                  here's my heart, O take and seal it,

                  seal it for thy courts above.

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