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Good-Grace Spirituality

When they cried to You in the time of their distress, You heard from heaven, and according to Your great compassion You gave them deliverers. . . . But as soon as they had rest, they did evil again before You.
–Nehemiah 9:27-28

Søren Kierkegaard told this fairy tale: Once upon a time, there was a king who was unsurpassed in his power. Yet for some inexplicable reason, he chose to love a peasant girl. How could he communicate his love to her? If he ordered her brought to the palace, she would not be able to refuse–but would she secretly long for the old life she left behind? How would the king know if the maiden truly loved him? Then he had an idea. If he could not elevate the maiden without overpowering her, then he would meet her on her own level. He would renounce his throne and approach the maiden’s cottage as a beggar in order to win her hand.

That is a great story, but I have an even better story for you–and it happens to be a true one. Paul told this story in Philippians 2:5-8: “Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.”

The King of the universe loved you so much, He renounced His rights and came to earth as a human being, humbling Himself to the point of death on a cross. Why did He do it? There is only one reason: grace, God’s undeserved burst of generosity. Yet amazingly, we who have been the recipients of God’s undeserved generosity have used that grace as a weapon against our King.

Let me explain what I mean by adding an epilogue to Kierkegaard’s fairy tale: The king renounces his title and announces his love to the maiden. She says, “That is wonderful! But before we enter into this marriage, I want a prenup that guarantees I get half your wealth should I ever be unfaithful to you.” Then as soon as her share of the king’s wealth is secure, she takes a lover to occupy her while her husband is away on business.

That is what we have done with God. Because we have been assured of our inheritance in heaven, we use grace as an excuse to sin against the King. That is the essence of what I call “bad grace.” Good grace always leads us toward God, but bad grace alienates us from God.


Today’s devotion is excerpted from “Good-Grace Spirituality” by Dr. Robert Jeffress, 2020.

Adapted from Søren Kierkegaard, as paraphrased in Philip Yancey, “Disappointment with God: Three Questions No One Asks Aloud” (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1988), 103-4.

Scripture quotations taken from the (NASB®) New American Standard Bible®, Copyright © 1960, 1971, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission. All rights reserved.


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