Grace For All

By: Peter Youngren
From: March 2010
Found in: The Gospel of Grace
All religions seek to please a deity. Is it the same way with Christianity? Must we please God to achieve His favor? Let’s look at the difference between religions and the Gospel.

The whole world, mostly without knowing it, is crying out for grace. A common picture of God or gods is that of a deity towering omnipotent, unapproachable, indifferent towards human suffering, and in constant need of appeasement. Such gods usually exist in a different sphere, separated from us, preoccupied with themselves and with limited interest in human affairs, unless there is something to be gained for the deity itself.

Pleasing God

In addition to pleasing those around us, many feel obligated to please the almighty. The concept of a displeased deity is inherent to religion. In fact, without this it is difficult to see how religion as we know it can survive. The Gospel story stands in stark contrast to all the gods that the human mind has imagined. The God of grace is not a taker, but a giver; there is no self-centeredness in Him. The mere concept of an untouchable deity is anathema to the Gospel. God, who so loved that He gave Christ, is determined to bless us with abundant life; wanting no separation between the mortal and the divine. In the face of the Gospel, why are so many still pre-occupied with trying to please a supposed displeased God?

In the face of the Gospel, why are so many still pre-occupied with trying to please a supposed displeased God?

The answer always entails some human deficiency, some area where we feel we did not measure up to the expectations that were set before us. The devout Muslim feels guilty when in the middle of Ramadan, the fasting month, hunger gets the best of him and he grabs some food before the sun goes down. Allah is displeased.
The Buddhist feels guilty for not meditating, or being available when the monks came by for the weekly collection. The Hindu worries about the displeasure of the gods when temple worship and prescribed prayers are neglected. Will he incur the wrath of the gods?
The Christian is haunted by failure, wondering if God is not answering prayer because of that secret sin. Oh, he tried to repent, and even received prayer from a well-known pastor. Still, the temptation is there. Surely God can’t be pleased.

There are numerous ways to seek relief - pretension for one. Just act like everything is OK. If others think we are good, then that makes it so, while if those around us disapprove, we too feel guilty. Best to put on a good face, and talk the Christian jargon - Praise the Lord, Hallelujah, and everything is OK. Yet, another guilt relief is constant religious activity in search for a remedy - confess sins and repent daily or preferably several times per day. Search your heart continually for some hidden transgression, then try to root it out, and promise to never touch it again.

Everything I have described so far can be put under one headline – LAW.

Thirty-six and a half of the books of the Old Testament are written from the time period of the Law.The only exceptions are Job, Genesis, and half of Exodus. Why does the Bible give so much attention to law and legalism? Could it be, because all are tempted to rely on self-effort and performance-based legalistic religion rather than grace? Legalistic religion is not unique to the Jews; it is the essence of any religion.

The Business Model of Religion

In fact, the business model of religion rests on these two concepts: a displeased deity and a guilty conscience.

In fact, the business model of religion rests on these two concepts: a displeased deity and a guilty conscience.  Any rabbi, pastor, mullah, priest or monk worth his salt must know how to reinforce the idea of a displeased deity and fuel the anguish of a guilty conscience. That’s how people stay hooked on religion. Of course, Jesus has blown the business model of religion into a thousand pieces. By one sacrifice, once for all, He did away with the displeasure of God, putting away sins by the sacrifice of Himself.
Religion literally means “to bind up” and it binds you in a system of pretence and condemnation towards your self and the world around you. For those who are weaker in their emotions, this leads to a life of self-loathing and never feeling good enough. The thoughts that plague the mind are: “if only I could…,” “I should have…;” “I need to try harder to….” Meanwhile those with a stronger psyche, while knowing their own inconsistencies and failures, still see themselves as stronger than others. No matter what failure they see in their own souls, they take courage in the fact that they are not as sinful as others. The logic may sound like this: “I’m not what I should be, but thank God I’m not like…” or “No one is trying as hard as me; no one is as committed.”

Religion sooner or later leads to blaming God

Religion sooner or later leads to blaming God: “I just can’t understand why God doesn’t answer my prayers. I’ve done everything I know to do: repent, fast, go to church. I just don’t understand.”
The purpose of the law is to make us thirsty for something better. Only when we come to the end of our own ability, exhausted, frustrated and worn out by our inadequacies, are we suddenly ready to receive grace.
Here is an invitation to the world: All who are worn out by your own inadequacy - Hindus, Muslims, Buddhists and Christians of all kinds - there is a better way. God, the Creator, has given undeserved, unmerited, unearned favor to you. That’s right - you get something from God for nothing; it’s totally free. Why? Because Jesus has already paid for it. No further payment is needed.

Who is giving to whom?

Salvation is not that we give our life to Christ.

Those, who receive this gift of grace, notice a dramatic change called salvation. Salvation is not that we give our life to Christ.  No, it’s much greater—it is Christ giving His life to us. It’s amazing how we have made even salvation legalistic: “I prayed the sinner’s prayer,” “I gave me life to Christ,” etc. God doesn’t want your life, and what could He possibly do with it? No, the miracle is that Christ’s life comes into you, and now He lives in you. Your holiness, righteousness, and new life are entirely dependent on Christ living through you. Look at these scriptures:
“But of Him you are in Christ Jesus, who became for us wisdom from God—and righteousness and sanctification and redemption” (1 Cor. 1:30).

Your holiness, righteousness, and new life are entirely dependent on Christ living through you.

“For you died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God” (Col. 3:3).

“I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me” (Gal. 2:20).

Christ Living in You

Christ is now our life. Yes, we are still in our flesh, but hidden in Him, favored by Him, and energized by His faith in us.
How did this happen?
By grace.
Undeserved: Simply put, you don’t deserve God’s goodness, and could never deserve it. The only way to receive it is as a gift of grace from God.
Unmerited: There is nothing in us that merits or obligates God to bless us. What seems like merits to us - our hard work, good intentions, dedication - are not merits at all.
Unearned: You have heard it said, “Nothing is for free.” There is a lot of truth to that statement, except when it comes to God, because with God everything is free, since Jesus’ all-inclusive sacrifice has already paid for it.
This is the word of reconciliation. Once you believe it, you can never be the same. Look how it affected Paul:
“But none of these things move me; nor do I count my life dear to myself, so that I may finish my race with joy, and the ministry which I received from the Lord Jesus,
to testify to the gospel of the grace of God” (Acts 20:24).

By: Peter Youngren

As founder of World Impact Ministries, Celebration Bible College, Way of Peace and the Celebration Churches in Toronto, Hamilton and Niagara, Canada, Peter is committed to equipping believers to fulfill their purpose before the return of Jesus Christ.

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