The Culture of Grace

May 2008

Getting used to new cultures is something most of us have to do at least once or twice in our lifetimes. It may be through international travel or it can involve marriage to someone from a different country or even moving to a new country. Adjusting to living in a different culture can be difficult.

Christians have to adjust to a new culture too. Before knowing God, we live in a culture based on performance. But when we accept Christ as Savior, we move from legalism to grace. We learn of undeserved pardon, a concept foreign to this world. Because legalism is so pervasive, those who practice grace almost seem to be from a different planet, which can make the transition difficult.

Where legalism wants retribution, grace forgives. Where legalism wants everyone to look and think alike, grace gives freedom to be ourselves in Christ. The old culture puts conditions on everything; grace says Jesus met all conditions on the cross. Legalism tries to keep people out; grace finds a place for everyone.

Christ-plus exists in many forms. It’s hard for us to let everything go and see grace for what it really is: a no-strings-attached deal where all that’s required is belief, pure and simple. And even the act of belief comes from the will of God. He is the initiator. He loved us first and he is the one who wants us to come to him. Paul said the carnal mind is enmity against God, so we can’t even believe without him. Out of his unlimited grace, he gives us what we don’t deserve—inclusion in his life.Grace involves death too. When we die physically, we’ll receive the reality of God’s grace in all its fullness. We’ll have new bodies and won’t sin anymore. We’ll have no more fears and no more tears.

But while we’re still alive, we’ll be able to receive and give more grace the more we learn to die to self. Instead of holding on to pride, we can die to it by laying ourselves down for others. Without our awful pride, we can humbly accept God’s underserved forgiveness and also give it to others. Just as we know we don’t deserve grace, so we know others don’t deserve it either. But we all want it.In 1 Corinthians 15:31 (NIV), Paul said: “I die every day—I mean that, brothers—just as surely as I glory over you in Christ Jesus our Lord.” To me, dying daily means giving up myself—my wants, my needs, my pride and my opinions—for the good of someone else. It also means surrendering all of me to God because he is the Lord of the universe and I’m blessed to know him.

Unlearning the culture of legalism and learning the culture of grace is the most important cultural adjustment we’ll ever make. May we all continue to grow in God’s grace.

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