Kingdom Principle: To move with grace in the kingdom, you must count every step
Back in November I wrote a post about Mercy and Grace –“Are you aware of what God isn’t giving you” there the focus was mercy – here the focus is grace. You can read that post to fill in some content about Grace & Mercy in the Kingdom of God.
Growing up in church and serving on multiple church staffs, when someone made a mistake or there was an issue of delicate concern – I heard it said over and over – “Let us error on the side of grace”. However, if to err is human & to forgive is divine, then how might we seek to forgive with honesty rather than settling for errors. I believe there is no error in Grace. With the greatest of intentions – this statement has the intent to say – Let us not condemn another for we ourselves know that we are no better and we can fall to sin at any moment…. The problem is that this is not grace, it is defeat. In reading Deitrich Bonhoeffer’s Cost of Discipleship you can begin to understand the costly side of Grace and that we ought to never cheapen grace. In Bonhoeffer’s words:
“cheap grace is the preaching of forgiveness without requiring repentance, baptism without church discipline. Communion without confession. Cheap grace is grace without discipleship, grace without the cross, grace without Jesus Christ.”
Further, we cheapen grace when the gospel preached as follows: “Of course you have sinned, but don’t worry about it, everything is forgiven, so you can stay as you are and enjoy the freedom of forgiveness.” The error of such a proclamation is that it contains no demand for discipleship. In contrast to this is costly grace:
“costly grace confronts us as a gracious call to follow Jesus, it comes as a word of forgiveness to the broken spirit and the contrite heart. It is costly because it compels a man to submit to the yoke of Christ and follow him; it is grace because Jesus says: “My yoke is easy and my burden is light.”
The Cost of Discipleship was written built on the words of Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount, in much the same way Dallas Willard has written Divine Conspiracy based upon the same text expanding our understanding of the calling of Christ to live fully into the Kingdom. A quick quote from Dallas – along the same lines, “A Consumer Christian is one who utilizes the grace of God for forgiveness and the services of the church for special occasions, but does not give his or her life and innermost thoughts over to the kingdom of the heavens.”
There is no Error in Grace – for if grace is given – which it is freely given – the error has already taken place in the life of the one receiving grace not the act of grace. Grace is the means by which salvation and life transformation (sanctification) take place. Mercy is God withholding punishment. Grace is God giving possibilities. Grace is the giving of Discipline, such that growth might take place. Discipline and grace are tied…. the giving of Grace does not require us to grow, but it opens the door to growth. Mercy does not open the door to growth, rather it celebrates what we can not ever grow into or do, but God has done for us. We need Grace (growth) to appreciate Mercy.
In the texts this week – We see the grace given to David – Forgiveness… but there is not Mercy – read on the child dies, and his house is divided. The Grace given to the sick and hungry by Jesus does not move the people to grow, they want more cheap grace. They are asking the right questions, but missing the answers – the answer is grow in grace and you will come to know mercy. The people are saying give us more grace and we won’t need mercy. It is clear the people following Jesus want to direct and dictate the work of Christ, rather than to grow into being His Disciple. When Grace is received – there is no error, but there is growth – that growth is found both in Psalms 51:10-12, and Ephesians 4.
Grace is Free – but it does not lead to Freedom from actions, rather is makes your action all that much more costly. Obedience(Discipline) is the result of Grace, Thanksgiving is the result of Mercy. Compassion is the movement of the Spirit uniting the two.
Do you struggle with others who cheapen grace? (That was David’s response) If you have “mastered” the art of growing in Grace – then grant them Mercy. If not – then it may that God is using their life to bring a new teaching of grace to you. When another cheapens Grace how might you demonstrate the grace which is in you through an expression of mercy. (this the beauty of compassion)
Do you desire to be more disciplined or dedicated to Christ – yet seem to lack motivation or come up short in daily life? Ask for Grace, not Mercy…. If you want to grow, confess where you have fallen short, and the Lord will give you grace – which opens the door to growth. Most often we recognize our weakness and ask for God to lower the bar (mercy). Here I am asking you to recognize your weakness and proclaim it – then asking Jesus to be your personal trainer to increase your discipline. To know go into training with Jesus is to error in being human, but has nothing to do with grace.
What is the difference between Mercy and Grace? (this is simply a review question for you to put mercy and grace in your own words.) Mercy opens the door to Grace. Grace deepens our understanding of Mercy. We don’t deserve mercy, we can’t earn grace. But in receiving grace we grow to demonstrate the mercy of God to others.