Christianity is a religion of grace. We understand that salvation is "not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy....” (Titus 3:5) We know “by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing.” (Ephesians 2:8-9) In Romans 5, the Apostle Paul teaches us that Christ died for us “while we were sinners” (i.e., undeserving), “while we were without strength,” (i.e., incapable of saving ourselves), and “while we were enemies” (i.e., unwilling to surrender). Truly, salvation is of the Lord. (Jonah 2:9)
Our claim as recipients of this saving grace should impact the way we live. However, not everyone who upholds the doctrine of salvation by grace lives it out in their daily lives. How can we know that we have truly grasped this amazing grace? What does it look like when a person lives by the same grace that saved them?
1. When our lives are Christ-centered.
Grace is not anything we receive apart from God himself. Receiving Christ is receiving grace. There is no grace without Jesus. Therefore, we express an understanding of grace when our lives are oriented around him. A person who truly comprehends God’s grace has been captivated not so much with the gift as the Giver.
2. When we actively pursue holiness.
Those who perceive grace as a license to sin have yet to be transformed by it. The notion that we can freely sin because God is glorified by forgiving it greatly distorts the grace of God. In fact, the Bible says that people who think this way are justly condemned (see Romans 3:8). The New Testament clearly teaches that those who have experienced God’s grace seek to please him by daily obedience. Pursuing holiness is never a means of grace but always a product of it.
Those who perceive grace as a license to sin have yet to be transformed by it.
3. When we treat others with grace.
The grace of God humbles us without degrading us and exalts us without inflating us. It means there is no place for pride in our lives, ever. Only those who have genuinely received grace are able to extend it to others. Don’t misunderstand: people can be outwardly gracious and kind to others without any knowledge or experience of God’s grace. The difference is their motivation. Unbelievers do good because they inwardly perceive themselves as good. Pride always serves out of self-interest while grace serves out of humility. This means at least three things:
We forgive everyone. Knowing that God “for Christ’s sake has forgiven you” we are free to forgive all. If there is any bitterness or unforgiveness in your heart toward anyone, you are not living by grace. I’m not saying forgiveness is always easy. You may have been sorely wounded by someone and feel justified in your anger toward them. But when we truly grasp the grace we have received from God, we’re free to forgive. We’re free from the torture of an unforgiving spirit (see Matthew 18:23-35).
We judge no one. When we fully comprehend God’s grace we will never sit in judgment on others. Why? Because we know that God’s grace is sovereign. Therefore, we will never think of anyone as beyond the reach of grace. Considering his intense hatred of Christianity, people may well have considered Saul of Tarsus was beyond saving. Yet he came to say that God saved him to be an example of God’s grace (1 Timothy 1:16). Because salvation is by grace there is hope for anyone!
We force no one. You’ve heard the old saying, “You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make him drink.” Similarly, we understand that people cannot be manipulated into God’s kingdom. There is no arguing or cajoling them to faith in Christ. Knowing salvation is a work of grace alone we leave their salvation to God. This doesn’t mean we shouldn’t love them, pray for them, and share the gospel with them. We certainly should! It only means that God does the saving, and we know that we cannot force anyone into receiving Christ. Knowing this only serves to motivate our efforts to lead them to Jesus.
Even though you were saved by grace, are you living by grace? Is your whole life oriented around Christ? Are you personally seeking to please him in daily obedience? And do you extend to others the same grace you have received?