I remember being a new Christian and hearing people talk about grace. I really didn’t understand what they meant because when I heard the word grace I always thought of it in accordance with the word graceful. Like, “the dancer was so graceful as she moved across the room”. The other option was to think of grace as the prayer we would say before dinner at my home. My Dad would fold his hands and say “let’s say grace” and we would all begin to recite our memorized meal prayer.
Maybe you've never really been taught about grace either, the biblical meaning of it anyway. I want to teach you about that now. Grace is sometimes referred to as “God’s unmerited favor”. Hmmm, what exactly does that mean? Well, I like to break it down this way, grace is when you get something good that you don’t deserve and didn’t earn.
This is a perfect time to add another word/definition to your understanding and that is mercy. While grace is getting something good that you don’t deserve, I define mercy as not getting something bad that you do deserve. So you can see in one scenario you get something wonderfully extra that you don’t deserve and in the other scenario you are spared from something horrible that you do indeed deserve. This is why these words are often used interchangeably even though they have slightly different meanings.
When we look to the Bible to see the meaning and impact of these words we realize very quickly that it is only through the redemptive work of Jesus dying on the cross for our sins that we can experience the grace and mercy of God. In fact, while we do see examples of God’s grace and mercy throughout the Old Testament, I believe the biggest illustration of God’s grace and mercy toward us is found at the Cross. As Christians we can never stray too far from the cross. Everything we believe as Christians hinges on the truth of what took place on the cross.
When Jesus decided to pay the penalty for our sins, and He decided to take on the death that we deserved and give us the eternal life reconciled to God that HE deserved, he showed us grace and mercy. He showed us grace because we didn’t deserve reconciliation with a Holy God and eternal life, but He gave it to us anyway! He showed us mercy because we did deserve death and eternal separation from God but instead He spared us of that consequence.
The Hebrews verse above tells us that we “can approach the throne of grace with confidence to receive grace and mercy in our time of need”. Wow- I just want to put about a million exclamation points after that verse!
How many times have you made a mistake, said the wrong thing or flat out just screwed up big time and spent the next hours or days (for some, even years!) beating yourself up over it or replaying the facts in your mind? We've all been there so you’re not alone.
How we deal with that feeling, though, is of utmost importance. And this is why I wanted to put a million exclamation points behind the above verse. God, in all His love for us and in His ability to know and predict everything about us, knew that we would fail. He knew it and He set up a system through Jesus to restore us. Not just to restore us once, but to continually restore us whenever we need it!
These verses in Hebrews tell us that Christ understands us. He gets it. He knows what we are going through because while He never sinned, He did live here on Earth and He came up against all the same challenges that we do. So He feels for us. He doesn’t look down on us because we've tripped up, He has compassion on us. He doesn’t try to distance Himself from us, instead He tries to draw us near to Himself. These verses say that we can come confidently to Him to receive grace and mercy in our time of need!
Before knowing and receiving Christ, I was such a sinner. I mean, we all are, but I really was very messed up. To find out that grace and mercy were available to me was just mind blowing. I mean, surely it couldn’t be that easy. Surely I had to somehow earn it. I understood that I didn’t have to be perfect but certainly I must have had to get a little better in my behavior and actions before I try to ask for grace or mercy, right? Wrong.
Here’s another way I like to explain it. Let’s say that you run out of milk at home. You need milk but you’ve run out. So you’d probably do what most people would do and go to the store and buy some milk. It wouldn’t be that big of a deal. You wouldn’t spend an hour crying at home, you wouldn’t lock yourself in your room and think about how stupid you are that you ran out of milk, and you certainly wouldn’t take to social media posting what a “loser” you are because you have no milk. The reason you wouldn’t do any of that is because you know that the store sells milk. In fact, the store goes through a lot of forethought and preparation to make sure they have milk there when you (and others) run out. So there’s no panic. You need milk, they have it already waiting for you, so you just go get it. And you go confidently, knowing it will be there!
God’s word says that we “can approach the throne of grace with confidence to receive grace and mercy in our time of need”. (I imagine you can already see where I’m going with this but let’s walk through it together anyway.)
Hebrews is basically telling us that we will have a “time of need” at some point. And during that time of need, we will need “grace” and “mercy”. And when we need that grace and mercy, we can approach God confidently to receive it. It’s like God is the store, he has a full, never ending stock of grace and mercy, (it is stocked because He already knew we would need it!) and we can go to Him confidently when we are in need. This is fantastic and life changing news if you can take hold of it!
Grace and mercy are just a part of God’s perfect love for us. And the fact that it comes to us freely is why so many never stop singing of His Amazing Grace!
As you take hold of this truth in your own life and you begin to allow yourself to receive these gifts from God you will be transformed. Your confidence will begin to grow and you will fall deeper and deeper in love with God. You will feel the practical application of God’s love in your life and you will indeed begin to feel fully loved and accepted. This is what many of you are longing for- a deep and real knowing and feeling that you are loved! You don’t have to do anything, you don’t have to earn anything, you most certainly do not have to try to be perfect…you simply need to receive God’s love, His grace and mercy, and let it envelop you.
The beautiful thing is that this transformation in the deeper parts of the “inner you” will soon manifest itself in the “outer you”. In other words, when you realize how beautiful and extraordinary it is to receive God’s grace and mercy, you will begin to extend this same grace and mercy to others.