Several weeks ago my wife and I participated in our neighborhood yard sale. We had high aspirations for the day, anticipating to make a few extra dollars and unload some trash to be recycled as someone elses treasure.
Before the day officially began, my wife Jessica had an amazing idea to lure in the yard sale shoppers. She suggested that we offer miscellaneous “free” items and place them in a basket towards the end of all of our items. What she had in mind was attracting anyone who came by as if these free items were bloody steaks and the customers were carnivorous animals (well, the latter may be true in certain parts of the state).
Anyways, to make a long story short, no one picked-up one free item! At this my wife was dumbfounded, “How could one item not be picked-up?” “How did the ‘bait’ fail to lure in and snag our prey?”
I said something along the following lines to my wife, “Items without cost are items without value.”
So I went back inside and made a sign that read, “ALL items 25 cents.” And go figure, nearly all of the items that were in the basket were snatched up and paid for within an hour, whereas no items were picked-up for free in the previous 3 hours!
In the same way that yard sale items are not valued without cost, so too…
is grace not valued without cost.
What is grace
Within Christendom grace is commonly known as “God’s unmerited favor.” However, this view of grace is just one side of a two sided coin. Yes, grace is “God’s unmerited favor” in reaching down to all of us who are “helpless, trapped in sin and incapable of pleasing God or winning his favor” (Encyclopedia of Bible Words, 320) in His Son Jesus Christ. But grace is a way of life.
For instance, we read in TItus 2.11-12, “For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all men, instructing us to deny ungodliness and worldly desires and to live sensibly, righteously, and godly in the present age.” What we see is that God’s grace not only “brings salvation,” but it also instructs us to do two different things: Deny ungodliness and live godly.
Grace instructs empowers us to say “No” to ungodliness and “Yes” to godliness as instructed ultimately in Jesus Christ. Basically, grace empowers us to get rid of our old, stinky, sin laden ways of life towarsd living a new life in Jesus Christ (see Ephesians 4.22-24). In his book, Disciplines of Grace, Jerry Bridges provided this analogy to help us better understand this dynamic of grace as two blades of a pair of scissors,
We readily recognize that a single scissors blade is useless as far as doing the job for which it was designed. The two blades must be joined together at the pivot point and must work in conjunction wiht each other to be effective. The scissors illustrates a spiritual principle. We must work simultaneously at putting off the characteristics of our old selves and putting on the characteristics of the new selves. One without the other is not effective (pg. 85).
God’s grace cannot be separated from our pursuit to live for Christ as His disciple by getting rid of our old ways and doing what pleases Him. In quoting Jerry Bridges once again,
Another truth we see in TItus 2.11-12 is that salvation and spiritual discipline are inseparable. The grace that brings salvation to us also disciplines us. It does not do the one without the other. That is, God never saves people and leaves them alone to continue in their immaturity and sinful lifestyle. Those whom He saves, He disciplines (ibid., 80, bold mine. Also see Philippians 1.6 and 2.12-13).
If there is anything that you live with from this little blurb about grace, take this last thought with you,
Grace is a way of life. Relying totally on Jesus to work within us, we experience God’s own unlimited power, vitalizing us and enabling us to live truly good lives (Encyclopedia of Bible Words, 320).
Cheap grace versus costly grace
After reading through this sobering truth about grace, would you say that have a “cheap” view of grace, in that you only trusted in Jesus for the forgiveness of your sins, yet you have not gotten rid of your old lifestyle and began practices that Jesus Christ taught us to obey (see Matthew 28.18-20)? Or do you have a “costly” view of grace, in that you not only believed in Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, but God’s grace has empowered you to live a new way of life, a life that follows hard after Jesus no matter the cost, no what your friends say or no matter what your boyfriend or girlfriend says.
How much do you value the grace of God? Cheap or costly? Either way, do you know the price that was paid in providing for its availability?
The price paid for the availability of grace was no small fee, purchased at a discounted price, or layaway. Its availability is not stored away in some undisclosed bank in the sky or from the works of our family. The cost that was paid in providing for the availability of grace was the voluntary sacrifice of the life of Jesus Christ upon a cross. An understanding of grace that overlooks Jesus, His pain, His agony, the blood that He poured out, and the cross is grace that is none other than CHEAP (Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Cost of Discipleship, 47)!
Cheap grace is comparable to a gift that one receives and heeds it no attention or appreciation because they have so many other things, so it is simply stuffed in the closest or under the bed. Cheap grace is comparable to a priceless item that is sold in a storefront in the mall at break-neck reduced prices. Cheap grace is comparable to an infinite amount of money that can be withdrawn at any time without limits, boundaries, or effort (repharsing of Bonhoeffer, 45). This is grace without appreciation, value, limits, and most importantly of all, price. In quoting Bonhoeffer,
Grace without price; grace without cost (ibid., 45)
If God’s grace has brought you “salvation,” yet does not empower you to continually put off sinful practices and incorporate the ways of God in your life as found in His written Word, the Bible, then you need to ask yourself, “Have I really ‘believed’ in Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of my sins?” “Have I devaluted God’s grace?” “Do I live my life with a cheap notion of grace?” If so, then you need to humbly and prayerfully seek the LORD and ask that He would forgive you, and empower you to live a life of continually repentance.
In the end…
It’s amazing to think that God could have taught me so much about His grace by simply having a yard sale in WV. Who would have ever “thunk?”