"Grace" is a term that gets thrown around a lot these days. There's grace for everything; grace for eating food that's "bad for you", grace for poor judgment calls, grace for falling into gossip, so on and so on. Yes, we absolutely should extend grace to others for their mistakes, and to ourselves for ours. However, without a foundation in the grace that can only come from the atoning work of Jesus Christ, any grace we claim for ourselves or others fails. It pales in comparison to the patience, humility, and love that comes from a heart that understands the grace of the Gospel.
So what is the grace of the Gospel?
We are saved by grace alone. This is a gift of God, not a work of man. We are saved by God, not because we've worked hard enough or have been "good enough" to deserve it, but because he has single-handedly saved us from death. (Ephesians 2:1-10) Now, sit on that for a second and think about the enormous freedom that is in this... If we don't have to work to merit God's favor, then we are free in the truest and most complete sense of the word. No longer are we bound to our works and our goodness -- we're bound to Christ's works and Christ's goodness.
This freedom is so highly and completely free from any sense of self-righteousness that some have used it as a license to sin. If we're free from the law, why not do whatever we want? In fact, the grace that Paul teaches in Romans 5 releases Christians from the obligation of the law so much that he finds it necessary to address this very point in the following chapter. In Romans 6:1-2, he explains that those who have died to sin can no longer live in it.
The cost of the grace of God in the finished work of Jesus Christ is far more than we could ever pay, or even attempt to repay. The grace extended to us in the Gospel is not, and never has been, cheap. There is a cost for our sin, and the payment due is death. And yet, by the grace of God, Jesus has paid that very price for everyone who believes in him. A doctrine of cheap grace that preaches a life of sin fails to recognize the cost of sin. We cannot, without trampling underfoot the Son of God, think of the grace of God as cheap.
The grace of God in the finished work of Jesus Christ is something altogether more wonderful, more magnificent, and more joyful than any substitute. It is a costly grace given freely to all who believe. It is the pearl of great price. It's the treasure buried in a field. (Matthew 13:44-46) When we finally have our eyes opened to the grace that God extends in the Gospel, we cannot remain where we are. We forsake our sin in repentance and confession, and we cling to the greatest gift ever given: The Grace of God in Jesus Christ.
Next time you find yourself thinking or saying, "There's grace for that," consider what you're saying. Is the grace you extend shallow and shaky, barely holding onto the sand of a man-made gospel of cheap grace? Or is the grace you extend to your brother or sister in Christ rooted firmly upon the solid rock of Jesus Christ alone?