By the grace of God I am what I am, and His grace to me was not without effect. No, I worked harder than all of them—yet not I, but the grace of God that was with me. (1 Cor. 15:10)
This is not a Grammy speech. This is Paul giving us the secret to his success.
Paul was a tough-as-nails church planter. He wrote letters that would shape the world for 2,000 years. How’d he do it? “I didn’t make this happen,” said Paul. “God and I did it together.”
Grace doesn’t make people lazy; it makes them supernaturally fruitful. In contrast with the law that provides no aid to those who trust it, grace makes us soar. A 300-year-old poem from John Bunyan expresses this perfectly:
Run, John, run, the law commands,
But gives us neither feet nor hands.
Far better news the gospel brings:
It bids us fly and gives us wings.
One of the best illustrations of how grace makes us fruitful comes from Tullian Tchividjian’s book One Way Love. Tchividjian tells the story of two friends who applied for college. One was accepted but the other was deferred. In the subsequent months both friends took similar classes and had a similar workload. But the one who had been accepted into college branched out into a number of extracurricular activities. He started a band, got into rock-climbing, and set up a program for under-privileged kids. The other friend also got involved in extra-curricular activities but he did so in the hope of impressing college acceptance boards.
At the end of the semester the student who had been deferred was exhausted while the student who had been accepted was full of energy. Free from the pressure to perform and the need to play it safe, the accepted student wrote papers about topics he was genuinely interested in and attained higher grades. Tchividjian concludes that the fruit of assurance was not laziness but creativity, charity, and fun.
The unconditional love of God gives you wings. It inspires you to take risks and be generous with your life. When you are frolicking in the grace of God, work doesn’t feel like work. It feels like fun.
“Grace is irresponsible for it says we have no responsibility to do anything. We have a duty to serve the Lord.” In the mouth of a mixed-grace preacher, words like responsibility and duty are the cattle-prods of performance-based Christianity. They convey a sense of obligation that leaves you debt-conscious rather than grace-conscious.
Jesus didn’t suffer and die to put you in his debt. He did it to show you how much he loves you. The idea that you are obliged to repay him for his priceless sacrifice is ludicrous. What can you give him in consideration for his grace? There is nothing. The instant you give him anything, it ceases to be grace. Your only “duty” is to say, “Thank you, Jesus!”
In a mixed-grace environment you will feel the pressure to perform and live up to the expectations of others. But walk under pure grace and you find there is no pressure, only the freedom to be who God made you to be. Manmade religion will tell you that you have a responsibility to deliver results for the Lord, but your only responsibility is to shine as a dearly-loved child of God.
Extracted from The Hyper-Grace Gospel, pp.49-51.