In one of my classes at Hillsdale Free Will Baptist College we were assigned to read a book by Chuck Swindoll called, Improving Your Serve. Overall this was a pretty good book, but there was one quote that was absolutely phenomenal. It was something that stood out to me then and one that I still think about years later. More than any other quote I’ve seen this sums up what many people in our day want from God. It goes like this,
“I would like to buy $3 worth of God, please, not enough to explode my soul or disturb my sleep, but just enough to equal a warm cup of milk, or a snooze in the sunshine. I don’t want enough of Him to make me love a black man or pick beets with a migrant. I want ecstasy, not transformation; I want the warmth of the womb, not a new birth. I want a pound of the Eternal in a paper sack. I would like to buy $3 worth of God, please”
Chuck Swindoll goes on to say about this, “That’s it. Our inner ‘self’ doesn’t want to dump God entirely, just keep Him at a comfortable distance. Three dollars of Him is sufficient. A sack full, nothing more. Just enough to keep my guilt level below the threshold of pain, just enough to guarantee escape from eternal flames. But certainly not enough to make me nervous…to start pushing around my prejudices or nit-picking at my lifestyle. Enough is enough!”
As preposterous as that sounds, I believe it accurately reflects what many people in the church today feel that grace is. Grace is enough of God to keep us from being punished for our sins but not enough to turn us into fanatics. Grace is for those who aren’t into the whole deny yourself, take up your cross and follow Jesus thing. Grace means my sins are forgiven and I’m free to live however I want.
I’m sure most would affirm that grace doesn’t free us to live grossly immoral lives. Yet many would probably say that as long as we don’t live grossly immoral lives we are free to do whatever else we want. We are free to live for ourselves while making nominal gestures of service and devotion to God.
This is why teaching about being righteous, doing righteous, being pure in heart, faith without works being dead and taking up our cross to follow Jesus is often so hard for people to swallow. In their minds these teachings are opposed to grace. But are they really? Or is this idea of grace flawed?
Many times when we speak of grace we mean something different than the Bible does. Many times when we speak of grace we are talking about a quality of something that is beautiful or joyful. Sometimes when we speak of grace we are talking about a favor that one might extend to a friend without expecting anything in return. However when the early Christians looked at what God had done for mankind and then spoke of God’s grace they meant something far different.
“For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men,” Titus 2:11 (NKJV)
The grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men. This doesn’t mean that all men, or all people, have been saved through the grace of God. Instead it means that because of the grace of God all people can be saved. God’s grace has provided an opportunity for every person that has ever lived to receive the salvation that He offers. I’m sure we are all familiar with this, but what we need to be reminded of is what it means that God’s grace made salvation possible for all people.
What it means is that through grace God will save the person who is living in rebellion against Him. Through grace God will save the person who curses Him. Through grace God will save the person who actively opposes Him. Through grace God will save the person who willingly sins against Him. Through grace God will save the lonely, the empty, the ungodly and those drifting through life without purpose or meaning.
To fully appreciate the kind of people that God will save through grace we have to remember how the Bible describes us before we were saved by Gods grace. In Romans 5:6 we are told that we were ungodly people without the strength to save ourselves. In Romans 5:8 we are described as sinners, meaning in part that we were actively rebelling against God. Then in Romans 5:10 we are given a description of ourselves that makes God’s grace toward us most amazing. In Romans 5:10 we are called God’s enemies. In all of these verses are also reminded that Jesus died for us as ungodly sinners, enemies of God who were unable to do anything to change this situation on their own.
It is at this point that we recognize how amazing God’s grace really is. This is what sets God’s grace apart from man’s grace. While we may at times do favors for our friends, God has done the unimaginable. He has willingly sacrificed His own Son to die for His enemies that He might save them and bring them into a life changing relationship with Him. We could stop here and say we now recognize that God’s grace is not $3 worth of God. Instead of stopping, I’m going to spend this week blogging about what God’s grace does in our lives.