Thursday, March 6, 2014

Free But Costly Grace

Who is not familiar with sayings like "Nothing is free in this life," "If it is free then it is cheap," and "You get what you pay for"? All of us, Christians and non-Christians, are aware that we have to pay for many things. Yet we rightly treasure the precious and comforting teaching that God's grace is totally free to us and totally independent of any merit or worthiness on our part. That is what makes it amazing! Yet there is one important element of the teaching of God's free grace that many in the Christian community seem to widely misunderstand or miss altogether. Guess?

What Issue is At Stake?

I think we all, in and out of the Christian community, know that what is free usually is considered cheap or inferior. Also, for example, many free services expand their services if you "upgrade" and pay for "premium" or "pro" features. This is certainly true online, where you can use many services free of charge, but these features will be quite limited unless you "go pro" to get maximum benefit for their services. This unwritten law is part of our culture. We take for granted that if we pay for something, it will deliver more benefit for us. Brothers and sisters in Christ, we know that none of those earthly rules apply to our understanding of God's grace. His ways are not our ways, in this or in any of HIs dealings with us. Yes, we get it right when we believe and proclaim to others that God's grace is free and that His grace is the same as "unmerited favor," 100 percent independent of anything we can add to what He did for us in coming to this Earth, living a perfect human life, and dying a horrible death in our place (to rise again). Yet when we leave out what this free grace cost God in Christ and what it costs us in the Christ-following lives we are called to live, we miss important truth.

How Can A Free Gift Be Costly?

The principle of a free gift being costly may be foreign to this culture. It should not be a novel idea to us Christians if we really read and study God's Word. Yes, I'm fully aware that many of us Christians have had it drilled into us, from childhood on, to fear God but not to love Him. To operate on law rather than grace. When I was growing up in Missouri, I had zero concept of God's grace being free let alone being costly also. Many of us struggle to "get it" that God's grace is free. Yet Scripture asks us to grasp that grace is BOTH free and costly. Yes, I know that all of us are aware that grace is costly because it cost God in Christ everything. His heavenly riches. His comfort. His unveiling of His glory. His reputation. His very life. Even from most pastoral pulpits and according to most teachings that confuse free grace with cheap grace, this truth of God giving up ALL for us is proclaimed. What is being missed, then? What is not being taught from many pulpits and in by Christian leaders is the uncomfortable truth that if we accept God's grace, it is costly to us, too!

How is Free Grace Costly To us?

If we read and study our Bibles even casually, we should grasp that accepting God's grace is not free to us. Jesus made it clear when He declared that if anyone wants to identify with Him, we MUST deny ourselves, take up our crosses, and THEN follow Him. It is a lifetime process to grasp this seeming condradiction between free but costly, and to live accordingly. You better believe it is! Accepting Christ and His grace mean that we must deal with HIs demands that we do all things on HIS terms, not OURS. A cross is not a pretty emblem but, in Jesus' day, was an instrument of death. What are we to put to death? We are to put to death our sins, including those things in our thoughts, words and deeds that we may not initially identify as sinful. For each of us, this will be different. But always, the matter of living as the Scripture calls us to is not easy, but is downright tough! So how is free grace even free to us, after all? It is free to us because we can in no way do a things to add to what God has done for us in Christ. But it is not cheap for us to accept this free grace, because it means that we MUST do all things on God's terms and in His way. Come to think of it, isn't this the case with any so-called free services we may benefit from in this world? We must do things on the providers terms, "read the fine print," or else forfeit our rights!

Praise be to God for His free and costly grace!

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