Sometimes, those of us who herald the message of grace are accused of using it as a get-out-of-jail-free card to excuse all sorts of rotten behavior. Nothing could be further from the truth. At the risk of sounding harsh, I’ve got to say that those who equate grace with the license to sin do not understand grace at all.
A lover wants nothing more than to bring delight to the object of his or her affection. Think about it: my love for my husband drives me to find out what he likes and then do it; why wouldn’t my love for God drive me to find out what pleases Him and then do it?
Living by grace doesn’t cancel out living righteously—in fact, it makes it possible in the first place. Love for grace increases one’s desire for purity because, after all, Jesus the Grace-Giver is holiness itself. I was created to be like Jesus, and thus I want to braid my soul with His; I want to look like Him. I know He loves me no matter how ugly I’m behaving at the moment, but that’s not the real me. The real me extends mercy to all, loves the broken, is full of joy, and walks in holiness. The Vicki who behaves selfishly is unfinished—totally loved by God, but incomplete and groaning for completion.
Salvation and God’s will are both played out day by day, but too often we live as though salvation were a five-minute event that happened at some point in our past, and as though God’s will is “out there” in our future somewhere. Both are disconnected from our present; we remember one and wait for the other—but in reality, we are to be actively and responsibly enjoying our salvation and walking in God’s immediate will . . right here, right now.
Day by day, I am being saved: increasing in maturity, in my love for people, in my capacity for joy, in the fruit of patience. If someone asks, “When were you saved?” I should be able to answer, “Today.” If they ask, “What is God’s will for your life?” I should be able to answer, “I am standing in it, right here, right now.”
To do so is to find deep contentment.
Most Christians would agree that God has established boundaries for His children in many areas: entertainment, sex, relationships, finances, etc. Yet how many would agree that the same is true regarding food? We American Christians seem to believe that that’s the one area in which He deserves no jurisdiction—that we have free rein to eat what we want when we want as often as we want it. For anyone to suggest that He has given us guidelines is to suggest that we are “under the law.”
We’ve become so reckless and desensitized that we’ve made a habit of engaging in gluttony together. It’s one thing to recognize a hearty meal with friends as a gift from God, but it’s another to disregard all boundaries and then brag about it (“If I eat one more bite you’re gonna have to roll me out of here”). Are we those of whom it is written, “Their god is their belly”?
God is a personal God, and He’ll draw your boundaries according to what you need. To some, sugar is poison; to others, it’s not. Some fortunate individuals need few boundaries beyond “avoid gluttony,” while those who are recovering from food compulsion need plenty of specifics.
“A moderate religion is as good as no religion at all—and more amusing.” –The Screwtape Letters