I walked into our car insurance agent’s office to see her shaking her head in disbelief. I asked if she was OK and she mumbled something about where people’s brains are, and then told me this story: Parents of a just-turned 16 year old girl bought her a very used Ford Mustang car for her birthday (legal driving age for most of the US is 16).
The car had over 100,000 miles on it, and within 2 months the girl got distracted while driving, ran off the side of the road, ran over a fence and mailbox, and came to a stop uninjured, but the car was totaled.
So the parents bought her another car, another Ford Mustang, but this one newer with only 60,000 miles on it. Their thinking, the insurance agent explained, was that blessed with greater responsibility, their daughter would ‘step up’ in maturity and become more careful while driving. Can you guess what happened?
Yep, she totaled it. So…they bought her a brand new Ford Mustang, making her the envy of her friends. Their thinking was that if she didn’t appreciate the grace they gave her with the old, 100,000 mile car, and didn’t appreciate their continued giving with the 60,000 mile car, surely she would appreciate the brand new car and grow in maturity and responsibility!
Wrong again. She totaled the brand new Mustang too! Destroyed another fence, mailboxes, landscaping before coming to a stop as she hit a small tree. The insurance company was canceling her policy, and her parent’s policies too! The girl not only didn’t grow, she had no concept how her actions affected her whole family. The agent told me the parents were desperate because they had shopped around and no insurance company would take her daughter.
Two Sides of God’s Grace
Most of us know grace from the above girl’s point of view – unmerited favor, grace upon grace though we don’t deserve it. But consider grace from the parent’s point of view for a moment.
They extended their daughter grace in the hopes she would understand what favor she was receiving, and use that favor as a means to climb the ladder of maturity. Because they loved her they kept extending more and more opportunities for her to rise to the next level – but she never did. Grace is most certainly unmerited favor, but it is also empowerment, the path to greater maturity.
What the Girl Didn’t Know
The girl used her driver’s license and her parents’ grace similarly to people who use God’s grace as a license for staying in immaturity and even justifying sin. Jude 4 says: “…who pervert the grace of God into a license for immorality, denying the only Lord God and our Lord Jesus Christ.”The Greek word for “license for immorality” means ‘absence of restraint’ and ‘excess’ and is often translated ‘lasciviousness’.
But of more interest is the fact Jude says of those who turn the grace of God into a license for sin “deny the only Lord God and our Lord Jesus Christ.”
What the 16 year old girl didn’t realize, is that when she was abusing her parent’s grace she was denying their love for her – she twisted their love into a license for her continued carelessness as she drove on about life solely and wholly by their good grace.
Her parents gave their love for her in the hope she would become more adult; more like them. They were hoping to enter into a deeper, more adult relationship with their daughter as they guided her through life. If she stepped up in maturity they three would enter into a still deeper relationship and friendship on an adult level. Her actions were acts of denying her parent’s love, denying her parents their desires for her.
Her refusal to become responsible and mature was a slap in the face of their love for her. In Jude 4 in the Amplified Bible it says these people ‘disown and deny our sole Master and Lord…” This girl was in effect, disowning her parent’s love and grace, actively abusing such favor until finally her denial led to multiple insurance companies denying her and her mom and dad!
Intended Use of Grace
Just as years ago people took teachings of the ‘Shepherding’ and ‘Word of Faith’ movements to extremes, so too are they today taking the ‘Grace teaching’ to an extreme.
I’ve heard of churches where pastors and leaders teach and practice sexual ‘freedoms’ justified by grace. I’ve heard people say we don’t have to repent of our sin because it’s already been forgiven to there isn’t any need to repent. I’ve heard people say all people who ever lived will one day be reconciled to God and in heaven, just to name a few excesses of the grace teaching.
However, grace actually teaches us to deny such sins and false doctrine. Titus 2:11-14 says;
“For the grace of God (His unmerited favor and blessing) has appeared, that offers salvation to all people. It teaches us to say ‘No’ to ungodly and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age, while we wait for the blessed hope – the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ, who gave Himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for Himself a people that are His very own, eager to do what is good.”
Grace IS favor, but it is also empowerment, and teaching, and opportunity to greater maturity in Christ. We cannot be like that 16 year old girl abusing grace, but rather use grace as intended; a teaching tool to learn how to step up into greater maturity. Grace is a great teacher!
A turning point in my life came when I let grace teach me. When I learned to resist sin not because it was a temptation and I knew I was to resist it, but rather because I loved the grace and presence of the Father’s Spirit I felt in my spirit so much, and hated that grievance I felt when I sinned, that I began resisting sin from a perspective of protecting that Presence – and that made temptation’s pull fade into nothingness very quickly. Grace taught me to deny ungodly lusts and worldliness – and I began loving that grace and protecting it!
Heart Established with Grace
Hebrews 13:9 says “For it is a good thing the heart is established with grace”. The heart isn’t established with abusing grace any more than the 16 year old driver became a better driver and more mature person with each totaled car. The heart isn’t established with legalism and a set of rules and regulations. The heart isn’t established with sacrifices and duties and filling one’s schedule as one sacrifices for God.
The heart is established with grace! II Timothy 1:9 says of the Father: “Who has saved us and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works, but according to His own purpose and grace, which was given to us in Christ Jesus before times eternal.”
The Father saved us with a holy calling, according to His purpose and grace. Know this about grace – it is always connected to ‘purpose’. Grace never stands alone, there is always a purpose attached to it. Noah received grace when he was told of the flood – the purpose for that grace was to build a boat to save himself and as many would come.
Moses received grace at the burning bush, but the purpose was to become Israel’s deliverer. God so loved the world that He gave His only Son – that’s grace – that all who believed on Him would have eternal life – that is the purpose.
Grace is not a license to continue in immaturity or sin, which only deny the Lord Jesus and His sacrifice for us. Rather it is an opportunity to learn how to live Godly lives, to find the purpose in today’s grace, to be empowered to step up into a more adult walk with the Father and our Lord Jesus Christ.
Love the Presence in your spirit you feel – protect, nurture, fellowship with the Father and our Lord – don’t use their love as an excuse to crash your ‘car’ yet another time!
Some thoughts today, blessings,