We have been focusing a lot on “GRACE” lately at The Avenue Church. Really, we always want to be about grace. I mean, it is the most foundational element next to love in the Gospel. But our last sermon series we preached through the book of Titus, and the book drips with grace-filled behavior.
Each time someone says the word “grace” our minds immediately fill with emotions, images, feelings and understandings of what grace is. But what is “GRACE” really?
A few definitions by really smart people:
Grace is God reaching downward to people who are in rebellion against Him. – Jerry Bridges
Rain is grace; rain is the sky descending to the earth; without rain, there would be no life. -John Updike
Grace is unconditional acceptance given to an undeserving person by an un-obligated giver. -Tullian Tchividjian
Grace is sometimes hard for us to “get”. But it is the most important concept in scripture, life and the world. It’s part of the message of the book of Titus. Understanding grace is admittedly hard for us because we live in a world where all our efforts are rewarded based upon merit. For instance, the reason you earn what you earn, live in the home you live in, and drive the car you drive is because you merit a certain income. The condition of your home, it’s cleanliness and beauty are all based upon the work you do to make it look that way. Each morning you work at making yourself presentable. You exercise and, in a sense, you earn or merit your appearance. Millions of trophies are lifted above heads each year because the winner of a competition worked hard to merit such a valuable reward. We are also rewarded for what we do not do. You get cheaper car insurance for not speeding, retirement money for not spending all your earnings. In a sense we live in a reward-based society where you get what you earn and earn what you get. A world where our identity is built upon what you do or don’t do.
Crashing into our reward-based paradigm comes grace from God. Contradictory to most things in life, grace is free. It cannot be earned, nor is it cheap. It is free. There are other free things in this world but nothing will come close to the value of grace. Grace is the most valuable free thing you will ever receive! Grace is the true essence of love.
Paul Zahn puts it like this ;
Grace is love that seeks you out when you have nothing to give in return. Grace is love coming at you that has nothing to do with you. Grace is being loved when you are unlovable…. The cliché definition of grace is “unconditional love.” It is a true cliché, for it is a good description of the thing. Let’s go a little further, though. Grace is a love that has nothing to do with you, the beloved. It has everything and only to do with the lover. Grace is irrational in the sense that it has nothing to do with weights and measures. It has nothing to do with my intrinsic qualities or so-called “gifts” (whatever they may be). It reflects a decision on the part of the giver, the one who loves, in relation to the receiver, the one who is loved, that negates any qualifications the receiver may personally hold…. Grace is one-way love.
Grace is love, yes it is definitely that. It is also a million other things. But maybe it’s best to say that when a believer is being transformed by grace that inward reality finds an outward manifestation. Grace transforms behavior, it enables forgiveness, it releases from debt, it causes reconciliation, it frees addiction, it produces Godliness, it clarifies our vision, it cures, it gives power, it accepts, it heals. And all this grace is available because God came down and died on a tree to provide it freely to us. Your sin was traded for Christ’s perfection at no cost to you. That’s how this grace thing works!