By Ron Forseth
We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth. - John 1:14b
God's grace freely provides what we have the inability to produce ourselves. Grace elicits the confidence that he will accomplish that which he requires of us—as we cooperate with and obey him. When we preach grace, we motivate our listeners to trust God in confidence rather than shrink from him in fear. "Ungrace," on the other hand, leaves people looking to themselves to produce the very thing they lack—and therefore leaves them burdened and discouraged.
Grace empowers righteous living. Ungrace disables it.
Grace motivates obedience because God has generously given us what we need. Ungrace demands obedience under threat of condemnation if we come up short.
Grace begins with the provision of God and ends with the completeness of the believer. Ungrace begins with the incompleteness of the hearer and ends with the same. Grace leads to freedom and victory. Ungrace leads to bondage and defeat.
Grace looks to God as the source of that which is required—and much is required! Ungrace looks to people to produce what they lack.
Grace is the mark of New Testament preaching and the key to empowering right living.
And yet, some pastors fear that preaching grace can lead to pitfalls. Here are five frequently raised objections to preaching grace:
1. Grace can be mistaken as a license to sin—and the last thing we want to do in our preaching is encourage sin. But for the believing heart, it provides the very motivation to say "No" to sin. It is grace and grace alone that will empower people to overcome sin! The road to victory over sin is paved with grace.
2. Preaching grace will undo sacrificial giving. Actually, for those giving from a confused motive to start with, it may well affect their giving. But if preaching grace decreases your church's giving (which is unlikely over the long run), then better to make do on less money than to elicit more money in a graceless or manipulative manner that leaves people in legalistic bondage. (See Paul’s commentary on the value of legalism in Galatians 5.)
There is nothing like grace, properly understood, to unleash greater giving, because the heart of grace is God’s own incredible sacrificial giving. Sure, manipulation can achieve a short-term and short-lived result. But grace is the path to long-term, sustained results in the hearts of people.
3. It could lead to a drop in attendance. Similar to giving, grace motivates the believer to engage and not pull back. If your church members are coming because you’ve withheld grace or exercised law over them, it’s only a matter of time before they stop coming anyway.
Grace will not rob a preacher of the right to say the hard words or make challenges or ask for commitment. It enables us as preachers to make challenges with the best hope of a lasting result. Preaching grace with power will yield a greater long-term result than will legalistic manipulation.
4. We will be perceived as morally spineless or, worse yet, actually encouraging sin. Grace never has, and properly understood, never will encourage sin. Grace was bought by God at the highest of prices. And grace dispensed from that account will never take sin lightly. But it will address it from a different posture—and actually empower victory over it.
5. Grace may lead to a de-emphasis on truth. Actually, grace emboldens a proclamation of truth because it provides the only appealing path back to truth. The path to truth and holy living is paved not with manipulation but with grace.
To overcome these fears, we remind ourselves that:
Preaching grace does not mean avoiding a confrontation with sin.
Preaching grace does not mean avoiding a call to commitment.
Preaching grace does not mean serving up spiritual mush with no caloric value for the soul.
But here's what it does mean:
Preaching grace always keeps an eye on the incredible forgiving nature of God.
Preaching grace does mean refusing to manipulate your hearers to accomplish an objective in a fleshly, legalistic manner.
Preaching grace does mean loving your hearers in spite of how they respond to your message.
Preaching grace does mean trusting God to accomplish his objectives in his way and in his time.
May God give you, first of all, an unshakeable confidence in his grace for you as his child. And then, may he give you the wisdom and the heart to generously dispense that grace through your preaching.
Freely you have received, freely give. - Matthew 10:8