In his book “What’s so Amazing about Grace?”, Philip Yancy illustrates a point by referring to some German classes he had to take one summer. He wondered what would have happened if the registrar had come up to him and said, “Philip, we want you to study hard, learn German and take the test, but we promise you in advance that you’ll get a passing grade. Your diploma has already been filled out.”
If that was the case, would he have spent every moment of that summer studying German verbs?
Without the threat of a bad grade, how could the registrar expect any students to apply themselves? Knowing how we are, which of us would study diligently if we knew we were going to pass the class anyway?
God has promised us forgiveness. Grace assures us that we will be forgiven and approved, whatever our sins may be, if we repent and ask forgiveness with all our heart.1 Forgiveness is ours after a sincere request.
Exodus 34: 6,7 describes God as “…merciful and gracious, longsuffering, and abundant in goodness and truth, keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin.” A large percentage of what is written in the books in the Pentateuch is dedicated to how we get forgiven by God. He wants to forgive. Every moment of every day, that is His desire.
But…doesn’t that open things up for us to take advantage of grace?
Of course it does! I myself have taken advantage and abused the goodness of God. What else can you expect if He so willing to forgive all the time?
On the other hand, since there is no threat of reaching the limits of God’s grace, how can God expect us to fulfill our duty without taking advantage of and abusing His infinite patience?
Yancey affirms that if there is no threat of a failing grade, very few of us would study as we should. So, what can motivate students to apply themselves sufficiently?
He says they will make the effort to learn German if they fall in love with a German. True love does not need the threat of punishment to motivate a person to do even the most difficult things. I know this is true from personal experience.
After knowing Marisa (and falling head over heels in love with her) I had to go back to California and get a job. It took eight months to earn enough to go back to Spain where she was running a Teen Challenge coffee house.
During this time I had no problem being faithful to her. I wrote her 180 letters in those eight months. (This was long before email). I called her on the phone as often as I could. All of these things- and a few gifts that I sent her, too- did not require any sacrifice on my part. I was in love.
You could say that those letters I wrote her could be compared to our daily time in the Word; it is not a chore to communicate with someone you are in love with. Along the same lines, my phone calls could be compared to our time in prayer. I wanted to be able to talk to Marisa and therefore it was easy for me to write so many letters and call her on the phone. Being faithful was not hard at all, just like it is not hard for a Christian in love to avoid sin. According to 2 Corinthians 5:14, the love of Christ constrains us.
Love fulfills the law.2 His commandments are not grievous.3 His yoke is easy and his burden is light.4 This is so true if we love Him with all our heart, soul, mind and strength.5 This is not just a commandment, it is the key to the Christian life. Loving God and loving your neighbor not only make Christianity possible, they make it easy.
Jude tells us in verse 21 that we need to keep ourselves in the love of God and look for the mercy of Jesus unto eternal life.
1- Matthew 21:31 2- Romans 13:10 3- 1 John 5:3 4- Matthew 11:30 5- Mark 12:30; Luke 10:27