The Relationship of Grace1
Look after each other so that none of you fails to receive the grace of God. – Hebrews 12:15 (NLT)
What a tragedy it would be for us…the people who talk and sing about the grace of God…to miss out on experiencing it. When grace gets missed, things turn toxic in a hurry. We see the evidence of this all around us…and sometimes even in the church.
What do you call knowing God without grace? Religion.
You may not expect to read this from a pastor, but I don’t like religion. So much so that it bothers me to call the experience I have with God “religion.” It bothers me when a survey asks, “What religion are you?” Religion is what’s left when you take grace out of the “God and humanity” equation. It’s man’s attempt to earn God’s favor by adhering to rules. It becomes a routine of doing good in hope of pleasing God enough that he’ll let you into heaven when you die.
But you won’t find that in the Bible. Here’s what you’ll find instead…
Yes, Adam’s one sin brings condemnation for everyone, but Christ’s one act of righteousness brings a right relationship with God and new life for everyone.
– Romans 5:18 (NLT)
There’s a night and day difference between religion and grace.
For one, the foundation is different. Religion is founded on rules while grace is founded on relationship.
Religion says that God will love us more if we are really good at keeping the rules. But he will leave us when we break them. So we focus on the rules…because we all want God to love us!
But relationship tells us God is our Father. A good father is consistent in his love and is always there. He doesn’t leave when we mess up. His love compels him to stick with us.
Another big difference is motivation. People trapped in religion are motivated by shame. But the motivation of grace is gratitude.
You might have grown up in a family where shame was used to keep you on the straight and narrow. They may have thought that if you felt bad enough about something, you wouldn’t do it again. But I’ve learned over the years that shame never set anyone free from the wrong things we do. It makes us want to hide them. All shame does is produce secrets.
But grace produces gratitude. It becomes the driving force for someone whose past has been forgiven, whose life is being transformed, and who’s future is filled with hope. When you come to know God’s grace, it leads you into freedom and fulfillment that can’t be found in mere religion.
Now that you know the difference, which of these sounds more like your connection with God…religion or grace? Do you view God as a Father who’s always there to love, help and guide? Or as someone who’s very hard to please and every time you don’t…he leaves?
What motivates you to do good? Is it the shame of not wanting to get caught? Or is it the wonderful plan he’s working in your life through his grace?
Today is a good day to let go of your religion and everything that goes with it…and embrace the grace that God has for you. I don’t want you to miss out!