There’s nothing sweeter than listening to your child rocking a car seat concert as she’s belting out “Your grace is enough,” along with the Veggie Tales. It’s a precious moment to absorb her unconditional love of God as she’s squealing through the verses. I am consumed with her child-like faith, and I’m pondering what grace really means.
As the song draws to an end… Bob the Tomato and Larry the Cucumber are talking when Bob announces “grace means unmerited favor.”
No offense to Bob the Tomato as I do believe God’s grace is enough, but his declaration seems off. A check in my spirit tells me that definition was not right, but sadly I didn’t understand why.
It wasn’t long after this drive I sat in some healing training from a well-known west coast pastor. I was taking in every word, and he blew my mind when he declared, “When we are born again, we are made brand new.” Yes! That lit me up!
He continued comparing believers to top-of-the-line Mclaren bikes proclaiming “we are not re-furbished models when born again.” It made sense to me – everything from the past, present and future was wiped clean. We are now spotless and righteous. Perfect in God’s eyes. Yes! I was now out of my seat!
But then he continued. He said there were no generational iniquity, no curses and no strongholds affecting our lives because we were born again. He said all of this had been taken care of on the cross. And I thought to myself… this is clearly unmerited favor. This must be grace.
A month or so later, I was teaching a group of women about healing when I literally felt a punch to my gut. One question went through my mind… If what that man said is true, then why are we in need of healing?
I’ve been a sold out, hard core follower of Jesus Christ for nearly the last decade. But this “new model” battled with high blood pressure, infertility, recurrent miscarriage, massive female problems including PMDD. I also dealt with bouts of insomnia, a blood clotting disorder, acid reflux, serious stomach problems, chronic sinus infections as well as bone issues that had led to two major surgeries in five years.
How was this possible if I was a “new model” when I gave my life to Jesus?
September 2014 was a real low for me. Instead of traveling to Japan on my first mission trip, I ended up in surgery to repair a badly damaged left foot and ankle. My arch fell, tendons shredded and my ankle was nearly out of its socket. I had spent the better part of a year praying for a miracle – living with chronic pain – determined that this “Mclaren bike” would be healed. I would see that unmerited favor and have my healing miracle.
Instead I sat on my couch for the next six months mad as a hornet. Where was my unmerited favor? Where was my new foot? Why did I now have metal screws and a fake arch in my body?
It became a mathematical equation I just couldn’t solve. A plus B just never added up to C. I was no longer buying what Bob the Tomato (or that pastor) was selling.
Unmerited favor. That’s a great concept in theory, but Satan, the father of lies, has done an excellent job penetrating into the church body at large a misconception that is leading many to perish to due a lack of knowledge.
Here’s why: If grace is automatically given to me when I accepted Christ, and if God showers me with favor no matter what I do, then it stands to reason that I do not have to do anything to receive it. I do not have to read the Word. I do not have to pray. I do not have to follow God’s laws. I do not have to rid the sinful patterns in my life. I do not have to do anything more than raise my hand in church and declare Jesus is my savior to be guaranteed a one-way ticket to eternal life.
I realized sitting on my couch that I expected a lot from God. This idea of grace being unmerited favor had warped my understanding to the point that I was pulling a Janet Jackson with God… constantly asking him “what have you done for me lately?” Not literally… but deep down… that’s exactly what I was doing. I wanted His portion of the Covenant, but I had no real idea of what my part of the equation was supposed to be.
By the end of 2014, my life was spinning out of control. My health, my marriage and my finances were all a mess. I was struggling in my church chasing after emotional experiences. I felt like my world was collapsing around me. I knew something had to change and so did God.
A family friend suggested my husband and I visit Son Rise Church and Ministries. There we met a pastor who would begin to open my eyes to the true Gospel and what was missing in my life.
I was gently shown how Satan had me convinced I was not bound by Jesus’ teaching (repent and sin no more). It was okay to fudge the rules – because God was full of grace! This lie was undermining all that Jesus did for me on the cross. I, without knowing, was belittling the sacrifice God made because I assumed we are not guilty no matter what. I tried to be a good person, but I was in no way living a life of repentance.
See, this hyper-grace message, being taught all over the world, emphasizes the grace of God with the exclusion of vital components such as confession of and turning away from sin. Because we have been forgiven, there is no need for a believer to ever confess sin. This warped concept says, “When God looks at us, He sees only as a holy and righteous people.” It completely leave out the truth that our choice to sin opens the door to the enemy and places us under his law.
This hyper-grace lie blinds many just like me to the damage of generational iniquities and curses in their lives. This lie tells believers they are not responsible for sin, and sets up what we are dealing with today – A world full of supposed legalism. Even worse, a day and age when to stand up for your religious beliefs turns you into a hater. It is causing a generation of God’s children to say, “If I live my life how I want but am a good person, surely I will go to Heaven.”
Sadly, this unmerited favor idea of grace is nothing more than the fulfillment of the prophecy in Jude 1:4 that said, “For certain individuals whose condemnation was written about long ago have secretly slipped in among you. They are ungodly people, who pervert the grace of our God into a license for immorality and deny Jesus Christ our only Sovereign and Lord.”
The Bible also warns us against this messed up idea of grace. Romans 6:23 says, the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.
“What then? Shall we sin because we are not under the law but under grace? By no means! Don’t you know that when you offer yourselves to someone as obedient slaves, you are slaves of the one you obey—whether you are slaves to sin, which leads to death, or to obedience, which leads to righteousness?” (Romans 6)
But if grace is not unmerited favor, then what is it?
The Word does teach us that it is by grace we are saved. But Paul also said that it was by faith that we were saved. Ephesians 2:8-9 tells us “for by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast.”
Grace, as un-deserved favor of God, rests in the truth of Colossians 1:27 which says “Christ in us. The hope of glory.”
True New Testament grace is not unmerited favor. It is someone (Jesus Christ) or something (Holy Spirit) that provides help – That someone or something that gives you a reason for hoping. It is through Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit living in us that we can do that which, in our own strength, we would not be able to do.
Merrium-Webster defines grace as unmerited divine assistance given humans for their sanctification – a state of sanctification enjoyed through divine grace.
Grace is the power of God working in us giving us the ability to turn from sin, to defeat iniquity and strongholds and to courageously defeat the enemy. In our own strength, our flesh has no ability to overcome sin. But the grace of God, that is His Son Jesus Christ, found us not guilty, paved a way for us to be with the Father, provided an inheritance for us full of riches and fruit and restored the ability for us to live a Garden of Eden life.
Paul explains this gift of grace, as the ultimate sacrifice of His Son, Jesus Christ, which reconciled us to God. Jesus did not cancel the laws His Father wrote. He did not say go and live an immoral, wretched life while tasting and eating my good fruit. Rather He gave us the Holy Spirit, by way of His Son, so that we could keep His Commandments – ultimately defeating the sin that is destroying so many of our lives.
Grace is the vehicle by which God strengthens the church. Our job is to seek at all times to become like Christ, having faith that while our works can produce nothing, the Power of God working in us will help us attain the stature which belongs to the fullness of Christ. On a daily basis grace conforms us more and more to the image of Jesus.
This sanctification requires Christians, as Paul commands, to “work out your own salvation with fear and trembling” (Phil 2:12). And Romans 6 tells us how. We are not to let sin reign in our mortal bodies or to be tempted to evil desires.
“Do not offer any part of yourself to sin as an instrument of wickedness, but rather offer yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life; and offer every part of yourself to Him as an instrument of righteousness. For sin shall no longer be your master, because you are not under the law, but under grace” (Romans 6:12-14).
God is the one who does the work of making us more like Christ. We participate in that work by continually turning away from sin and demonstrating faith by obeying God’s commands. The Holy Spirit plays a vital role because as we walk in the power of the Spirit we “will not gratify the desires of the flesh” (Gal 5:16).
Having my eyes opened to this truth made the Bible and especially the Gospel come alive in my life. For the first time, the equation had an answer that added up to something amazing – summarized in Galatians 2:20.
“I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me.”
The more faith I had in dealing with my mess and the deeper I delved into daily practice of repentance, the more I was able to rid the bitterness, anger, accusation and fear from my life. For the first time in my life, I found true freedom. When I got out of my own way, took up my cross and began to follow Jesus rather than chase an emotional experience, miracles sprang forth in every area of my life.
I’ve been healed of everything I listed earlier in this blog. I lost 40 pounds as I shed the weight of carrying around the shame in my life. My relationships with my daughter and key family members improved drastically and my marriage… well let’s just say that a couple on the brink of divorce, both of whom would admit that there was no love left, are acting like newly weds. The fighting in my home is gone and in its place is joy and peace.
I am honestly blown away at the work the Lord has done in my life. Both my spouse and I have seen major increase in provision. I’ve grown in ministry and seen some incredible miracles spring forth in the lives of those around me.
The more I repent, rebuke and resist sin, the more I am willing to stand up to the enemy and say, “No, you have no claim on me or my family,” the more I am seeing the blessing of Abraham manifest in my life and in my family’s lives. This is the true product of grace.
If you are struggling in any area of your life – in your spirit, soul and body, in the work of your hands or in your relationships – I urge you to ask yourself one important question. Are you seeking repentance on a regular basis? If not, I invite you to seek God and give it a try. If what you are currently doing is not working, step aside and allow grace to finally come in and work on your behalf. I promise you won’t be sorry.
Pray and Ponder:
- What are some areas you are currently struggling with? Ask God for forgiveness and watch Him go to work on your behalf. If you are not sure what true repentance looks like, click and listen to Pastor John Aldridge’s Eight R’s to Freedom teaching.
- Have you been operating under the idea of hyper-grace? If so, ask God what true grace is and let Him speak to you.
- Do you need healing or freedom in any area of your life? Click and listen to parts 1 and 2 of Biblical Foundations for Healing.