n the movie Talladega Nights, Rick Bobby, who is played by Will Ferrell, is gifted a quote by his non-present dad at a young age. The quote was, “If you are not first, your last!” This phrase becomes an anthem for Ricky Bobby in the movie. In fact, he makes all of his decisions based on this catchy phrase. It is only later in life when Ricky Bobby’s dad shows up unexpectedly does Ricky find out the tragic truth that his absent Dad had no recollection of saying the phrase. In fact, he begins to challenge him on the logic behind the words.
“That doesn’t make sense! You can be second, third!” Ricky’s dad responded back to him.
Devastated by the words of his father, Ricky desperately tells his dad, “I lived my whole life by that!”
This funny scene in the movie is the perfect introduction to describe the subject of God’s grace in The Bible and in our churches today. It is the phrase that everyone has heard of, but does fully understand. If we are not careful, we will become like Ricky Bobby and live our entire life on an untrue statement that will erode the life God designed us to live.
I can think of no better person, outside of Paul in the Bible, to break down the subject of grace than Dietrich Bonhoeffer. He was a German pastor, theologian, and spy during the time of Hitler in the first world war. His preaching, writing, and passion are world renown and carefully crafted in his book, The Cost of Discipleship. In this book, he displays his profound understanding of grace in the following quotes.
“The essence of grace, we suppose, is that the account has been paid in advance; and, because it has been paid, everything can be had for nothing..”
It is from this statement that Bonhoeffer outlines the two types of grace in the church: cheap grace, and costly grace. Bonhoeffer has this to say on the subject of cheap grace.
“Cheap grace means grace as a doctrine, a principle, a system. It means forgiveness of sins proclaimed as a general truth, the love of God taught as the Christian’ conception’ of God. An intellectual assent to that idea is held to be of itself sufficient to secure remission of sins…. In such a Church the world finds a cheap covering for its sins; no contrition is required, still less any real desire to be delivered from sin. Cheap grace therefore amounts to a denial of the living Word of God, in fact, a denial of the Incarnation of the Word of God.
Cheap grace means the justification of sin without the justification of the sinner. Grace alone does everything they say, and so everything can remain as it was before. ‘All for sin could not atone.’ Well, then, let the Christian live like the rest of the world, let him model himself on the world’s standards in every sphere of life, and not presumptuously aspire to live a different life under grace from his old life under sin….”
If you take Bonehoeffers assessment seriously and examine yourself, do you find yourself prescribing to this version of grace? One that is build on principle with no cost attached? This is providing theme I’d like to establish as we move into what Scripture teaches us on the subject of grace.
Grace That Changes
“What then? Are we to sin because we are not under the law but under grace? By no means!” (Romans 6:15)
In this Scripture, Paul interjected the subject of grace with power and established this one vital truth. Grace is only grace when it truly changes us!
Grace is only grace when it truly changes us!
If you are under grace, but your life still looks the same as before you had, you are prescribed to the Ricky Bobby version of grace and not the Holy Spirits!
“For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.” (Ephesians 2:8-9)
Grace is the undeserved gift of God that enables our lives to live from a place of resource. However, as many of us can sadly testify to, we use grace to excuse our choices, instead of allowing it to enable them.
The Apostle Paul knew the power of grace so much that could boast in his own weakness.
“But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me” (2 Corinthians 2:9)
Did you catch that? Paul would not even allow the weakness in his life to become an excuse not to live a life radically transformed by grace. Today, it’s time to allow grace to change the way you live.
For grace to change the way we live, we have to allow it to penetrate these areas in our lives.
- Our Desires
- Our Decisions
- Our Destiny
Grace That Changes Our Desires
“For from his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace.” (John 1:16)
This Scripture teaches us that grace is a by-product of the fullness of God. It is a complete, unlocking resources from God. It is from this fullness that our desires are to be anchored and developed in.
The Apostle Steven demonstrated what it looked like to live from a place of resource from grace.
“And Stephan, full of grace and power, was doing great wonders and signs among the people.” (Acts 6:8)
Stephen allowed the grace of God to be a resource for his desires and a wellspring for his ministry. Not only did Stephen allow grace to become a resource, but the first apostles did as well.
“And with great power the apostles were giving their testimony to the resurrections of the Lord Jesus, and great grace was upon them.” (Acts 4:33)
The disciples of Jesus lived from the desire of grace and allowed it to rest upon them and to enable them to live upright and Godly lives. Like Stephen and the first disciples, are you allowing the fullness of God’s grace to rest upon you and saturate your life in such a way that you walk in unlimited resource?
Grace That Changes Our Decisions
When we do not allow grace to shape our decisions, we live from a place of lack and not abundance. A great example of this is found in the story of Noah. Of course, we have all heard the story of the Ark, but have you looked deeper into the story of the man behind the Ark. For most of us, God’s grace in the Bible starts in the new testament, but it didn’t for Noah. Grace empowered his decisions, and ultimately provided a release of the favor of God for him and his family.
“But Noah found grace in the eyes of God.” (Genesis 6:8)
Like Noah, all of us have found grace in the eyes of God, but what are we doing that grace? Are we allowing it to propel us into a life of unmerited favor with good works? Although we have the same grace as Noah did (thanks to Jesus Christ), are we allowing it to shape our decisions?
I think the most important thing to understand about this passage is not that Noah found grace, but it’s about what Noah did when he found the grace.
What did he do? He built an ark! Think about it. The grace of God enabled his decision making over the next one hundred years! Grace moved him, not the many threats of the people. Grace moved him to accomplish the impossible task of building the Ark. Grace takes us from the realm of impossibility to possibility!
Grace will not become a resource for us until we allow it to shape our decisions. You may have it all your life, but if you are not permitting it impact your decisions, then you are just walking in the “cheap” version of grace and following ungodliness and worldly passions.
Grace will not become a resource for us until we allow it to shape our decisions.
“For if, because of one’s man trespass, death reigned through that one man, much more will those who receive the abundance of grace and the free gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man Jesus Christ.” (Romans 5:17)
When we allow grace to shape our decisions, we gain access to the unlimited resources of heaven, which allows us to reign in life!
Did you know that Jesus was full of grace?
“We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.” (John 1:14)
“For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.” (John 1:17)
You see, grace enables us to live the life truth calls us into. It is a gift of God and allows us to live self controlled and upright. Truth always has our destiny in mind.
Grace That Changes Our Destiny
“Through whom we have received grace and apostleship to bring about the obedience of faith for the sake of his name among all the nations..” (Romans 1:5)
Notice, Paul says they have received grace to bring the mighty name of Christ to all the nations! Grace is the road to our destiny. The Apostle Paul gave the blessings of grace in his introductions to his letters in the New Testament twenty-six times. He also converted many Jews to follow Jesus because he revealed to them the power of grace through his radical testimony.
“…many of the Jews and devout converts to Judaism followed Paul and Barnabas, who talked with them and urged them to continue in the grace of God.” (Acts 13:43)
Paul urged those to continue in the grace of God. Wow!
Grace is the road to our destiny.
Think about it, Paul was a murderer of the church until he allowed the grace of God to change his destiny! When grace get’s a hold of us, it changes our destiny and allows us to walk controlled upright and Godly. We know, because of sin, we require grace to change the outcome of our life. Romans 3:23 teaches us, “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God”. The good news is that when grace gets a hold of us, it changes everything!
Titus, Paul’s understudy, knew the power that grace can have on a person’s destiny.
“For the grace of God has been revealed, bringing salvation to all people.” (Titus 2:1)
When the grace of God is revealed, it releases the power of salvation over all people. Grace and knowledge are the reward for those who totally commit to following Jesus.
In conclusion, what is God’s grace in the Bible? It’s the kind of grace that changes the way we think, live, and what we will become. But it has to cost us something. That cost should be displayed in your desires, decision, and in your destiny.
“Costly grace is the gospel which must be sought again and again and again, the gift which must be asked for, the door at which a man must knock. Such grace is costly because it calls us to follow, and it is grace because it calls us to follow Jesus Christ.” – Deitrich Bonehoffer”