Some have commented that The Outpost talks an awful lot about grace. Here's why.
Many people think of Christianity as a system of "do's" and "don'ts," a vast structure of rules, a fortress of old-fashioned morality built to withstand the evil of the world by reminding its members once a week to do a better job of arming themselves with goodness and virtue through a more consistent keeping of the 10 Commandments. But if that was all we were, all we stood for, met together for, lived for and died for, it would be an admittedly stark existence. It would be pretty depressing. Why? Because that is a description of a Christianity all about laws-- about rule keeping only. It is a club of 'shoulds,' a group of 'musts,' and a congregation of 'oughts.' I wouldn't blame non-Christians for wanting to stay clear of people like that, and by extension, a God like that.
This is reason #1 why you'll hear us talk a lot about grace here at The Outpost-- because it is the single most important and distinguishing feature of our God from all the other 'gods' and/or all the other religions. Although the God of the Bible undeniably, passionately demands justice, He is more than Just-- He is merciful. He is a God who has showed Himself to be grace-full. Now to be clear, grace is not leniency, God does not wink at sin-- sin must be punished, and the wrath of God satisfied. But our God is gracious in that He inexplicably chose to go beyond what Justice called for when dealing with humanity: the death penalty, swift, comprehensive and immediate-- by allowing that Justice might be accomplished through substitution.
It is this miracle of substitution that sets the context for grace; we do not talk about grace in a vacuum. It's not simply us wanting to be politically correct by not judging others, or that we want to be seen as nice people because Jesus was nice or because we want to make up for all the churches that talk about hell all the time. The #2 reason we talk so much about grace is because Biblically it is the inducer of faith! The sum total of what Jesus did for us is called "the Gospel of God's Grace" (Acts 20:24), and in Romans this Gospel is described as "the power of God for the salvation of all who believe/have faith (Romans 1:16). Grace and Faith go together, or are meant to. We strive to make people aware of the grace of God so that they might be drawn to faith in God! Then, amazingly, when people take that initial step of faith, as well as each subsequent 'faith step,' they automatically qualify to receive additional 'grace support' in all that follows! 'The grace that saves you is the same grace that sanctifies you' (Titus 2:11,12)-- grace induces faith, and as Bill has said, 'Grace is obligated to Faith'-- we are surrounded by grace.
What do we mean by 'grace?' Again, Bill has put it this way-- "Grace is what God does for you, and faith is our response." That's fine, that sounds good, but maybe you're wondering, as Phillip Yancy has asked, "Yeah, but-- 'What's so amazing about grace?'" Consider this-- all other major systems of religion in the world have required that humanity step up and live up to a set of standards. For most of these there is then a time of 'performance review,' a time of judgement after death, to determine whether or not the criteria for goodness have been met by each individual to justify safe passage into eternal bliss with God. Life for adherents of these religious systems is filled with constant doubt and fear regarding their eternal standing-- after all, the weight of responsibility to 'be good' rests on them... and really, how much 'goodness' is enough? Here is where grace shines, where it is shown to be truly amazing. In Christianity, the standard of 'goodness' required by God for salvation is very clear: PERFECTION-- nothing less will suffice. What would happen if you interviewed 1,000 people and asked each one if they considered themselves to be perfect? Most likely all 1,000 would tell you the same thing-- "Nobody's perfect!" This, to be blunt, is the point. God required perfection. Nobody could deliver. So what did God do-- smite everyone? No. He sent a Deliverer.
What distinguishes our God was His recognition that humanity would never be able to fully step up or measure up. In response to this, He stepped down into our shoes, as one of us, and lived-out/up to the required standard of perfection for us, as a substitute. Then-- because there was still the issue of humankind's guilt to be dealt with-- God the Son placated the just wrath of God the Father by accepting our punishment, as a substitute. This is what Jesus did. He stepped down so we could measure up. He delivered so we could be delivered. That is grace. 'Grace is what God does for you, and faith is our response to it.' Why is the gospel described as "the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes?" Because the gospel condensed = GRACE-- grace is that powerful element in the message of the Gospel that, when accepted for the gift it is, finally frees people from God's condemnation and releases people from self-incrimination. Grace induces faith.
Reason #3 we talk about grace is because it threatens the self-righteous. This is a good thing. Self-righteous people, whether they are unsaved and don't think they need a savior, or already saved and prideful-- are threatened by grace because it erases any merit from human comparisons. People actually love to be reminded that 'nobody's perfect' because misery loves company, and because once we grow comfortable with imperfection, standards for greatness revolve around comparing our lives to the lives of other people. No one in this camp would ever admit it, but they are secretly grateful for the Hitlers and Stalins of the world. They allow us to feel so much better about ourselves. Grace, however, does not allow such self-satisfaction. Needing grace forces us to accept the truth about ourselves, that since the standard is absolute perfection rather than comparative goodnes, we need saving just as much as a Saddam Hussein did. That Mother Theresa needed rescuing just as much as Osama Bin Laden does. And this is always painful. But it is also always necessary-- "God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble" (James 4:6).
Finally, the #4 reason we talk a lot about grace is to remind the 'already saved' that since God took the initiative in showing grace to us, we in turn get to take the initiative in showing grace to others: To love unconditionally, to show respect to all because they are created in God's image, to forgive every time, to be just even when we are not shown justice. Our reason to grace others and our ability to grace others both flow from the same source-- the goodness of God shown towards us, "in that, while we were still sinners, Christ died for us" (Romans 5:8). And this is not just another 'ought' that we've got to live up to-- "...for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure" (Phil. 2:13).
And that's why we talk about Grace.
Surrounded By Grace,