Grace: Enabler or Empowerer?
The world believes that grace enables. Most of the Church believes that grace enables. The common vein of thought in our culture is that to give a gift to someone who has clearly made poor decisions and choices in life will only enable them to have the resources to continue to make poor decisions in life. In other words, grace enables. To tangibly help someone who has a track record of squandering that which they have will facilitate the same kind of behavior. This kind of anti-gospel philosophy which believes that grace enables is deeply rooted into the American psyche. However, the gospel speaks a different word to us. The gospel proclaims that grace does not enable, but rather it empowers. Paul states in Titus 2:11 that it is grace that saves and grace that instructs.
If we want to see lives transformed and people affected by the glorious truth of the gospel, then it only makes sense that we would pattern our behavior after God’s own behavior and dispense grace to those, who like ourselves, do not deserve it. The Bible nowhere teaches that a good work ethic and sound choices throughout life bring salvation or instruction for godly living. Grace does this. The simple message of the gospel is that we have all fallen infinitely short of deserving God’s blessings and love, but that in Christ Jesus we have received the gift of salvation and infinite blessing. How is it then that this truth is so radically misrepresented in the lives of so many ‘hard working’ Christians?
If the Church is going to be effective in the world on the disciple making mission Christ has called us to, then we must let the gospel be more than our ticket to heaven. The gospel must shape the very core of who we are and the manner in which we think about every aspect of life. The gospel of undeserved and immense blessing must determine our actions towards those around us, especially those in need. Pouring out undeserved help to those who are in need (including those whose poor choices are directly responsible for their situation) is a powerful testimony to the truth of the gospel and a means of dispensing grace. And it is grace that saves not good choices. It is grace that instructs not a wise budget. It is grace that must instruct the heart to make wise, gospel centered choices and decisions. However, lacking this grace is not grounds for us to withhold this grace, but is all the more reason to dispense it.
In closing, the gospel must shape who we are. We must let the gospel categorically reorient everything about us as people. As followers of Christ and children of God, we have one purpose in this world: to proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called us out of darkness into His marvelous light (1 Peter 2:9). One very tangible way to proclaim His excellencies is by considering the opportunity to mimic God in dispensing grace as vastly more valuable than holding onto our possessions, money or time. Remember that grace has saved and instructed you. Battle against the empty deception and worldly philosophy that says grace enables. Finally, take time to examine your life and ask yourself whether or not it has been radically reoriented around Christ and His gospel.