Grace

An undeserved gift

We are made right with God by placing our faith in Jesus Christ. And this is true for everyone who believes, no matter who we are. For everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God’s glorious standard.24 Yet God freely and graciously declares that we are righteous. He did this through Christ Jesus when he freed us from the penalty for our sins.”
Romans 3:23-25 (NLT)

The doctrine of grace is not just a core belief at Hope, but massively impacts how we live as a church. Grace comes from the Greek word charis, which means “A favour done without expectation of return; the absolutely free expression of the loving kindness of God to men finding its only motive in the bounty and benevolence of the Giver; unearned and unmerited favour.” The Bible is clear that we do not have the capacity (or even the inclination) to make restitution to God for our sins against him. Instead, restoration of our relationship with God comes through faith in the sacrifice of Jesus, faith that is itself a gift from God. God has set the standard, we cannot reach the standard, Jesus has reached the standard for us and offers us the free gift of his righteousness when we hand over our lives to him.

Practically, the effect that this has is that we are freed from having to live lives of religion in order to win God’s favour. Jesus has already won God’s favour for us. We are freed from living lives that are dogged by shame about our sin and failure, because Jesus has freed us from the penalty of our sin, and God now sees us as righteous (morally perfect and acceptable).

Paul says in Ephesians 2, “…it is by grace you have been saved, through faith, and this is not of yourselves, it is the gift of God, not by works so that no-one can boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.” So often the church has slipped into an “earn-it” mentality, whereas Paul is really clear that we are not saved BY good works, we are saved FOR good works which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them. When we understand the free gift of God in grace, our lives become not an effort to earn it, but an overspill of gratitude. We belong to him having been bought by the blood of Jesus, and so we want to live in way that demonstrates him to be the gracious God that he is.
In the same way as we have been shown grace by God, we begin to live in a way that demonstrates this same free undeserved love and favour to others. Our life together as his church is one that should be permeated by grace. Lives that genuinely understand grace pour out grace to others. But also, lives that understand grace understand the cost of grace. Paul says to the Romans, “

Where sin increased, grace abounded all the more, so that as sin reigned in death, grace might also reign through righteousness leading to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.” Aware that this might lead some people to treat grace cheaply and continue in lives of habitual sin, abusing the grace they’d been shown, he goes on to say: “What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it?” (Romans 6:1,2)

One author describes the effect of grace on corporate relationships like this:
A culture of grace says everyone’s accountable but no one is perfect. A culture of grace says that you don’t have to hide your mistakes, this is a place you can share them. A culture of grace says I am going to believe the best and be proven wrong. A culture of grace says I know you are going to struggle; I know you are going to fail; I know you are going let me down…but I’m not going anywhere. We are in this together. A culture of grace values transparency over rule keeping and honesty over perfection.
A culture of grace provides freedom that trying to keep the rules will never bring. A culture of grace brings out a desire in each of us to want to be worthy of the grace we are being offered rather than scared of the mistakes that might be exposed. A culture of grace brings a desire to live in the light rather than hiding in darkness.