I have recently been pondering the word Christians throw around all the time - "grace". By definition, grace is the unmerited favor of God. He gives us something we are undeserving of. I am so thankful for His grace!
But as we read in 2 Peter and Jude, one of the great pressures in the end times will come from false teachers within the Church.
For certain men have crept in unnoticed...ungodly men, who turn the grace of our God into lewdness and deny...our Lord Jesus Christ. (Jude 1:4)
I believe one of the most common areas of false teaching that we need to be aware of as believers is that which perverts biblical understanding of the grace of God. These false teachers pervert God's grace by reducing its message to receiving forgiveness without repentance and seeking to make people comfortable with God while continuing in their sin. They present grace as an insurance policy while we continue to sin.
The difference between grace and mercy
Mercy extends God's forgiveness and grace imparts God's enabling power to our inner man. Mercy is NOT receiving what we deserve. We escape something negative - God's wrath.
16 Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need. (Hebrews 4:16)
Grace IS receiving what you do not deserve. His grace imparts something positive - God's power that enables us to walk in righteousness and to function in ministry. Grace is the power and the enabling to deny sin.
My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness. (2 Corinthians 12:9)
14 For sin shall not have dominion over you, for you are not under law but under grace. 15 What then? Shall we sin because we are...under grace? Certainly not...19 So now present your members as slaves of righteousness for holiness. (Romans 6:14-19)
Grace is more than forgiveness - it is the power to live in right standing with God. If we live in a close relationship with the Holy Spirit, we will experience that grace. We don't sin more to get more grace, as Paul said in Romans 6. Grace produces a power and zeal for righteousness.
But as Jesus told us in Matthew 5-7, there is a tearing of the heart that occurs with righteousness and holiness. It is costly. I am not referring to achieving sinless perfection but rather quickly returning to the Lord after compromise and continually warring against the sin that we have recently stumbled in. There is a contingency for the flesh in God's grace for those who continue to war against their lust. Grace gives us confidence that God enjoys us when we stumble (and subsequently repent) and empowers us to be wholehearted, rather than making us comfortable in compromise and passivity.
12 Turn to Me with all your heart, with fasting, with weeping, and with mourning. 13 So rend (tear) your heart, and not your garments; return to the LORD your God. (Joel 2:12-13)
I believe much of the western church (myself included) has little understanding of repentance that tears the heart. This can be called "spiritual violence" (Matthew 11:12) or "pressing in for the prize" (Philippians 3:13) or "cutting off our right hand" or "plucking out our eye" (Matthew 5:29-30).
I've realized that to come to God with the true doctrine of grace is essential because the power of grace in the Christian life is only experienced in consistently pursuing 100-fold obedience. This is the only place where the power regularly touches our spirit. And we must remember that this pursuit is different than attainment!
My prayer is that we would be pursuing 100-fold obedience in our lives - having lifestyles of repentance - so that we may fully experience the grace of God available to us!