What do you think about when you hear the word grace? Well I can easily define it as unmerited favor. But is that what I think of first when I hear the word grace? No, and I doubt that is what you think of first. Perhaps you think of a hostess gliding around a packed party with a smile on her face, gleefully handing out food and drink. Maybe you think of a kind-hearted or courteous person. Then again you could think of someone with great diplomatic skills or one who seemingly endures many insults from others while never returning insults. The word grace could mean any of these things. But none of this things should be the first thing we think of when we think of grace.
Grace Is the Essence of God’s Being
The setting I want you to consider is Exodus 34. We are on Mt. Sinai – again. Moses is getting the tablets with the 10 Commandments replaced. He had shattered the original ones because of his anger towards Israel for worshipping a golden calf while he was getting the first set of tablets from God. Moses, following God’s orders, made a couple more tablets and quietly ascended Mt. Sinai to present himself to God so that God would write again His Law for Israel.
The Lord descended in the cloud and stood there with him as he called upon the name of theLord. Then the Lord passed by in front of him and proclaimed, “TheLord, the Lord God, compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in lovingkindness and truth; Exodus 34:5-6 NASB
So God is going to explain to Moses just who He is. Do you notice the second adjective God uses here? Yep, there it is: gracious. The root word in Hebrew means to bow down. The idea is to bow down to those below Him. This shows God’s willingness to reach with affection and care down to the poeple of Israel who do not deserve that affection or care. Israel could make no claim on God – they had just been sternly rebuked for worshippinga golden calf. They had demonstrated in no uncertain terms their depravity. And yet God, in revealing Himself to Moses, basically said “I stoop to them to show them kindness, affecton and care.” Wow. But is doesn’t end there.
who keeps lovingkindness for thousands, who forgives iniquity, transgression and sin; Exodus 34:7a NASB
Take a look at how God illustrates HIs graciousness: He forgives iniquity, transgression, and sin. NOw God is granting these things to a people who have demonstrated time after time that they don’t deserve these things.
Before we go any farther, let me state unequivocally that God establishes the same attitude in the New Testament
After you have suffered for a little while, the God of all grace, who called you to His eternal glory in Christ, will Himselfperfect, confirm, strengthen and establish you. 1 Peter 5:10 NASB
It is God who will sustain us after suffering, according to Peter. Now notice how Peter refers to God her: God os ALL grace. That means that God has an inexhasutible amount of grace from which to draw on. You see, grace isn’t something God has. It is who He is. This is the nature of God. (To be sure there are other attributes that God has that are equally important and equally present. We’ll discuss those another time)
God give great and wonderful gifts without strings attached. He gives them without us earning them or deserving them. When we stand before Him at the end of time to be judges, our salvatio is not an issue. No, our reward is the only thing at issue. Now think about this. The works we have done will be tested as with fire. The ones we performed with wrong motives or just within our own power will be burned up. Regardless of what others may have thought about the work, to God it is worthless if done in our own strength.
The works that survive the fire of His judgement are the ones that will las. These are the ones that we performed by the power of His Holy Spirit – God dwelling in us. Now here is the good stuff. God, Who empowers us to do good, and in fact is the only reason we can do good, rewards us for the good work He accomplishes through us. Now THAT is gracious!
Grace is a difficult concept for us to understand because it is so unlike the way we human beings operate.
We were placed on this earth for God’s glory, not our own. So when we fulfill that purpose He is pleased. This doesn’t mean that life will be easy for us. It doesn’t mean we will always have an abundance of material possessions. What it does mean is that as God works on me and you – as He purifies us, forgives, sanctifies, and makes us holy through the trials and tribulations of life, our attitude, our very being should glorify Him. We shouldn’t wait to be in a big house with fancy rooms to say God is good. We should not rejoice only when life is comfortable. In fact the best rejoicing we can do is when we have a lack – at least a perceived lack – in material things. When we do that, we give glory to God and put on disply His graciousness to us. For if He wasn’t gracious to us, we would have nothing.
My family and I live in a 1200 square foot rancher style house. There are nine of us stuffed in there. Soon we will have another so there will be ten of us living in 1200 square feet. We eat, sleep, do schoolwork and (sometimes) have friends over. We live in close quarters, that is for sure. There are times I have to do some work at home but I don’t have a dedicated home office. So I work in my bedroom or in the living room. Our house is loud most of the time – that happens with nine people living in a small space. But we have no plans on moving. We have no plans to upsize our home. We would rather downsize our possessions. Why? Because God is good. All the time. And since He is good all the time, we would rather save the extra cost of doubling our house size by buying another home by being more efficient in our current one. If we can do that, then we will have extra money to spend on things that really matter rather than on things that just make us more comfortable.
When we mess us and sin, He is gracious not to cast us aside. He isn’t waiting to slap us down or make us feel downcast. No, He has said in 1 John that when we sin we need to confess it (agree we are sinners) and He is righteous and just and will forgive us and cleanse us. He does this not because of us. No, He does this because of Him. He is gracious to us. He gives us, the undeserving rebels we are, His love, compasson, and kindness.
So if we have a lack – be that lack is in space, stuff, or other more important things – we will always seek to glorify God where we are. Because where we are is a good – no, great – place to be. We are the recipients of God’s radical grace. Grace that stoops down to us and shows us love and compassion. Grace that forgives our sin, heals our bodies, mends our broken hearts. He doesn’t have to do these things, but He simply chooses to do these things.
That is the way He is.