Refresh: Begin with prayer. Ask for the Holy Spirit to open your heart to new understanding and for God’s character to be revealed.
Read: Romans 6:15-23 in the English Standard Version (ESV). Note 1–3 insights or questions.
Reflect: My first attempt at college didn’t go so well. My freshman year was spent at an Adventist college doing all the things parents dread their children will do as freshmen in college. Ultimately, I was asked not to be there anymore. I had no reason to stay since I wasn’t attending classes or doing any homework, so I left and started work back in my hometown.
It was only after I got married that I started to get serious about my education, so I enrolled at Seattle Pacific University as a history and biblical studies major. It was in a medieval history class that I met Michael, a 21-year-old fellow student who aspired to be a professional baseball player. He was also a history major, so we ended up sitting next to each other and becoming friends. He was quite a character. I once saw him jump over a desk and throw a punch at another student during an in-class debate over the merits of the theology of double predestination.
One day Michael asked me “what kind” of Christian I was. I told him I was a Seventh-day Adventist. He looked at me and said, “Huh. Never heard of it.”
I asked him in turn what kind of Christian he was, and he answered, “Oh, I’m a Roman Catholic, and I love it.”
“What do you love about it?” I asked.
“It’s a great Sunday car wash!” he exclaimed. “I can go out on Saturday night and get on-my-lips drunk, party it up and barely remember what I’ve done by the time I wake up on Sunday. All I have to do on Sunday is go to mass, jump into a confessional, say a couple of Hail Marys and Our Fathers and—bam!—I’m as clean as a whistle!”
Now, I’m pretty sure that if Michael’s priest had been sitting next to us in the classroom he would have corrected this explanation of how confession works, but this was Michael’s honest belief about grace. It gave him a license to sin.
As I understand it, grace isn’t a license to sin. Rather, it’s a vehicle to deliver us from sin and its ugly consequences. Grace isn’t applied so that we can be more debauched, hateful, greedy, lustful, and angry; grace is the part of our conversion experience that delivers us from those things so that we can become more beautiful, loving, generous, respectful, and kind.
That’s what makes God’s grace so amazing—it delivers us from death into a resurrection life.
I’ll leave you today with this quote from Dietrich Bonhoeffer: “Cheap grace is the grace we bestow on ourselves. Cheap grace is the preaching of forgiveness without requiring repentance, baptism without church discipline, communion without confession. . . . Cheap grace is grace without discipleship, grace without the cross, grace without Jesus Christ, living and incarnate.”
Recalibrate: Have you ever used the phrase, “It’s better to ask forgiveness than permission?” Have you ever done this with God?
Respond: Take some time and honestly assess your motives when you choose to sin. Are you using God’s goodness and grace as an excuse to do what you know He doesn’t want you to do?
Research: Read more of Bonhoeffer’s thoughts on grace.
Remember: “For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 6:23, ESV).
Mark Witas is the lead pastor at Pacific Union College Church in Angwin, CA. Originally from the Pacific Northwest, Mark has served as a youth pastor, Bible teacher, college and academy chaplain, and lead pastor in the United States and Canada for the last 33 years. He has also authored four books: Born Chosen, Live Out Loud, Portals, and Just Jesus.
As your child develops and begins to walk, talk, and do all kinds of other things, your list of rules will most likely develop as well. Your rules aren’t intended to squash their fun but to keep them safe. As your list of rules grows, your grace will grow as well. Each and every day you will make choices about how you will raise your kids. Read over this section of scripture through the lens of a parent/child relationship, with you being the child and God being the parent. Will your kids live under the law in your parenting, or will they live under grace? As your child develops and begins to walk, talk, and do all kinds of other things, your list of rules will most likely develop as well. Your rules aren’t intended to squash their fun but to keep them safe. As your list of rules grows, your grace will grow as well.
What usually happens when you do something that your parents told you not to do? Has there ever been a time when you were supposed to get in trouble, but your parents showed you grace? What do you think grace means? The Bible says that we are no longer under the “law” because we are under “grace,” but the Bible also says that doesn’t mean we should just do whatever we want and break all the rules! Why do you think it is important to have rules? Why do you think it is important to have grace?
Last week I was at the barber shop and had an interesting conversation. The barber found out I was a pastor and suddenly we started talking about the Bible and Jesus. A few minutes into the conversation, I realized we had some different opinions on grace. He exclaimed, “I’m a New Testament Christian; I don’t need the law—I’m all good!” He believes that the Old Testament is done and God’s law does not matter anymore. We are “free” to do whatever we want. I agree that the law does not save us, but why might it be hard to be a Jesus follower and not follow His laws? How have the laws in the Bible moved you closer to Jesus?