July 2015
From Pastor to Pasture

Grace is Like Grits

I am pretty sure the only people who do not like grits are those who have only had the lumpy, unsalted ones served to tourists as they pass through the South. If they ever tasted "real" grits with plenty of butter, enough salt, a little black pepper and just a little bit of bacon grease, they would go home telling everybody about them. Throw in a little sharp cheddar cheese and they are hooked for life! Serve them with country ham, redeye gravy, cathead biscuits and a couple of fried eggs, hot coffee and a cold glass of milk, and the South would soon be overpopulated. Never again would they ask, "What is a grit?"

I once heard a country preacher say, "Grace is like grits … and grits ain’t never hurt nobody." To me, that made perfect sense. He, like me, assumed everybody ate grits and everybody liked them. We surely never heard of anyone being hurt by grits. If people we knew and grew up with did not like grits, they probably went hungry a lot of days because we had them for breakfast and sometimes we had breakfast for supper. We even cook’em sometimes for a fish fry. It is not uncommon now to even see "souped-up" grits served at fancy weddings or other receptions!

While the analogy for grits only works if you are from the South and are a diehard grits fan like me, what the preacher said about grace is absolutely true. Everybody likes grace. Everybody needs grace and grace never hurt nobody! If it were not for God’s grace in our lives, if we lived at all, we would be completely and utterly helpless, hopeless and doomed for condemnation. If it were not for God’s grace in our lives, we could never show grace to anyone else and no one could ever show grace toward us. If it were not for grace, there could never be forgiveness or reconciliation to God or to one another – everyone would be alienated from God and from everyone else. Without grace, we could not even live with ourselves and have any semblance of hope and peace in our lives.

What does grace mean? Grace has been described in many ways. Many theologians describe grace as God’s unmerited or undeserved favor to us who are under condemnation. God’s love is action towards men who merited the opposite of love. Grace is God moving heaven and earth to save sinners who could not lift a finger to save themselves. Grace is God sending His son Jesus to suffer and die in our place, for our sin so that we can be forgiven and we could receive life eternal. Grace is Jesus giving His life to pay a debt He did not owe, because we owed a debt we could not pay. Others make the distinction that showing kindness to a stranger is "unmerited favor"; doing good to your enemy is more like the spirit of grace.

Whatever the definition used, it is important to note that grace is more than a divine attribute of God or the character of God, but it is the wholly generous "act" of God toward us. Because He loves us, He sent His son Jesus to suffer and die in our place, taking our sin and punishment upon Himself so we could be set free from both the punishment and the power of sin. But, even before Jesus came into the world to do for us what we could not do for ourselves, God was extending His grace to us.

God reaches out to us in grace before we have faith to make us aware of our sin and our need for God. This grace is the divine love of God that surrounds all humanity whether they know it or not. This is the action of God taking the initiative to pursue a relationship with us and urging us to turn toward God (repent) so we may be justified and delivered from the bondage of sin and death. We need God’s initiative, because our human state prevents us from being able to turn to God on our own.

At the moment of salvation, an unjust sinner is justified or made right in the sight of a just and Holy God. Christ’s righteousness is imputed to us as a result of our exercise of faith in Christ. Faith itself is a gift of God (Ephesians 2:8-9). In justification, we turn to participate in God’s ways and are, through faith alone, forgiven and restored to God’s favor through the action and example of Jesus Christ. Justifying grace puts us "in line" with God. Accepting the gift of God’s grace leads to new birth in the Holy Spirit which enables us to live a Godly life.

Through the action of the Holy Spirit, God continues to nurture our growth in grace in a continual journey toward "having the mind of Christ and walking as He walked." God’s grace continues throughout life to change us and leads us to increase our faith, leading to good works and the pursuit of holiness.

If we do not see ourselves as sinners, guilty and separated from a Holy God as the Bible teaches, then grace may not seem like much to us. If we do not believe that each of us will spend eternity in either a place called Heaven or a place called Hell as the Bible teaches, then grace may not mean much to us. In comparison, if we do not believe in the law of gravity, then a parachute would not seem like much but I dare you to jump out of an airplane without one! Choosing not to believe the truth does not change the truth, nor does it remove the consequences of us violating the truth.

Grace is not justice. Justice is getting exactly what we deserve (in our case, death – for all of us have sinned and fallen short [Romans 3:23], and the wages of sin is death [Romans 6:23]). Grace is not mercy. Mercy is not getting the bad we deserve (in our case, again death) but grace is God acting on our behalf by sending His Son as our sacrifice to forgive us and offer us salvation and eternal life that we do not deserve and cannot purchase or earn. Grace means the penalty of our sinfulness is paid by the blood of Jesus, and we are given or we inherit Sonship and eternal life when we put our faith in Him.

God’s grace is free and undeserved; however, it is a gift that has to be accepted with gratitude, a sense of brokenness over our sin and with a heart of repentance – meaning we choose, with the help of the Holy Spirit, to turn from our sinfulness and to strive to live our lives in ways pleasing to and obedient to Him. Grace does not mean that we have a license to sin but it does mean that when we put our faith in the substitutionary and atoning work of Christ and we do sin, grace has us covered.

So you see, that country preacher was right. Grace is a lot like grits. Grace is good and it ain’t never hurt anybody!

Glenn Crumpler is is president of Cattle for Christ International, Inc. He can be contacted at 334-393-4700 (home), 333-4400 (mobile) or www.CattleforChrist.com.