At age 14, like many other teenagers, I was fascinated by my father’s motorcycle and everything related to it. I asked him daily to teach me how to ride it. He finally agreed. He would take me to a grass field outside the city and show me how to ride it, then have me do it. He always made me promise never to take the bike out alone.
One day, while my father was at work, I kept looking at the motorcycle in the garage. Then I took it outside to just sit on it, and then I took it to the gate. Maybe I will ride it for only one block, I thought. But when it felt so good to ride it, I decided to have fun and go as fast as possible. Right after a curve, I was going so fast that I had no time to brake and crashed right into a concrete wall. I ruined the bike and hurt myself pretty badly.
I pushed the motorcycle all the way back home, and then I hid it in the back of the garage under a tarp. Instantly, I decided to do all types of chores. When Dad came home, Mom said to him, “Pavel was a really good kid today; he helped me as never before.”
Dad turned and looked at me. “What have you done?” he asked. “Did you take the bike out?”
I was quiet. My dad went to the garage and found the bike. It took a few seconds for him to take it all in—then he came back. I did not know what to expect. My Dad looked at me—came over—and gave me a hug. I couldn’t believe it. “I’m so glad you are alive!“ he said. “What you did was wrong—but I forgive you. And I’m also giving you a gift—this bike is yours. It’s broken now, but you will work with me and make some money. I’ll match the money you earn and together we’ll fix the bike.”
“I don’t deserve it,” I said in amazement.
“It is grace, Son,” he replied. “It’s all out of grace.”
“Why would you show me grace?” I asked.
Back came the reply. “Because I love you.”
God’s undeserved gifts
God has given us many undeserved gifts—natural talents, spiritual gifts, salvation, forgiveness, and transformation—all favors based on His infinite love, compassion, and mercy. We cannot earn these on our own—we cannot pay for them, neither do we deserve them; all are based on infinite, amazing, incredible grace. “But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up together, and made us sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, that in the ages to come He might show the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast” (Eph. 2:4–9, NKJV).
Yet, we are all far from being like God, so how do we show grace, especially when someone does not deserve it? Where does grace start? “In the heart renewed by divine grace, love is the ruling principle of action. It modifies the character, governs the impulses, controls the passions, and ennobles the affections. This love, cherished in the soul, sweetens the life and sheds a refining influence on all around.”1
How is love involved?
An attribute of God listed in Ephesians 2 is “love.” God is love. And because He loves us, He shows us grace. And we are called to love God and to love our neighbor. If you are a Christian and you say you love God but do not love your neighbor, then you lie and the love of God is not in you (1 John 4:20). You may be a pastor, you may know a lot of theology, you may even think you love God, but if you do not love your neighbor, you may not actually know God. You, then, lack the transforming relationship with Him and, therefore, cannot share grace with others.
The more we experience God’s presence, understand His grace, and partake of His love, the more we are transformed into His image. His grace is contagious. If there is no transformation, no love, and no grace shown to others, then Christianity is not an experience, just a theory. To the degree that you love the person you like least and show them the grace God shows you, to that same degree, you love God. The real power that transforms your life is God’s grace manifested in so many ways toward you. The more you receive and appreciate it, the more you will share it.
As pastors, we stand on the podium week after week, talking about grace manifested in forgive- ness, transformation, and salvation, and lifting up God’s wonderful promises. Our goal is to save souls for Christ, yet only God’s presence in us, with His love and grace, can bring true transformation that shines out to our parishioners.
Submersion in the presence of God should be the desire and focus of our lives, what we seek daily and thirst for continually. “Christian workers who succeed in their efforts must know Christ; and in order to know Him, they must know His love. In heaven their fitness as workers is measured by their ability to love as Christ loved and to work as He worked.”2 You cannot give what you do not have. God’s presence makes God’s kingdom of grace real inside of us now and His kingdom of glory real at His second coming.
How do you extend grace?
God “demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Rom. 5:8, NIV). He has shown us forgiveness, compassion, He has offered us salvation, transformation, eternity. He is blessing us daily. All undeserved grace. As “faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms” (1 Pet. 4:10, NIV), we are called to do the same in all areas of life. “Freely you have received; freely give” (Matt. 10:8, NIV).
How do we share or extend grace to others? The more you take time to fully investigate His grace and try to understand a drop of that magnificent, complete, unconditional grace, the more you are filled with it. When you naturally share it, it flows through you; it radiates from you. That is the single power that transforms you and others around you. You cannot be any other way but gracious, kind, and compassionate. Only the one who experiences grace can extend grace.
Paying back grace?
To explain a little of how God’s grace works in different situations, let’s look to the parable in Matthew 18:21–34. A servant owes 10,000 talents of gold. One talent in our actual measurements would be about 30 kilograms—or about 66 pounds of gold. One talent was wages for about 6,000 workdays—roughly 16.4 years’ wages if the debtor worked every day and put all of the earnings toward the debt. So 10,000 talents was about 60 million (60,000,000) workdays’ wages, over 164,000 years’ wages or, to be more specific, over 164,383 years’ wages if he worked seven days a week.
Let’s put this in today’s context, which includes inflation over the years. If we say that an average wage today is US$100 a day, considering that one talent at that time was 6,000 workdays’ wages, then one talent in our day would be about US $600,000 or about 1,644 years wages. So, 10,000 talents would be equivalent today to about six billion US dollars (6,000,000,000)—or more than 16 million years’ wages, more specifically, 16,438,356 years’ wages. If a person worked 80 years straight in a lifetime, then, with today’s inflation, it would take about 205,479 lifetimes to pay back that debt.
Very interestingly, the servant asks for forgiveness and promises to pay the debt back. He does not seem to understand the enormity of his debt and the fact that he cannot pay it back. Forgiving his debt is an act of grace. Clearly, if his debt is forgiven, he does not need to pay it back. If he pays it back, he does not need forgiveness. He confuses forgiveness, received freely by grace, with merits. This means you don’t need grace; you work for it and therefore deserve it.
He also imagines that he can pay it back. In his day, he would have had to live over 164,000 years, work every single day, and never use any of the earnings for food or bills to pay it back—without considering interest. He would never have been able to make a dent in paying his debt back.
Because he is not cognizant of his situation, he does not appreciate the infinite, extended grace. Because he does not fully appreciate the grace he receives, he cannot extend grace to others.
His neighbor owes him 100 denarii, which would be, more or less, about 100 days of work, a little over three months of working seven days a week. The first servant is pardoned for more than 160,000 years of debt, yet he cannot forgive 100 days.
Grace received, grace imparted
To the degree that each one of us understands, receives, and appreciates God’s infinite grace expressed in a variety of ways, to that same degree, we need to extend grace to others who may not deserve it and cannot pay it back. Only then can the forgiven forgive, the loved love, and the saved save. Only then can we genuinely preach God’s grace in the pulpit. It is said, “The more you walk among flowers, the more you smell like flowers.” So, the more you walk in God’s grace and experience it, the more you share that grace with others—and without strings. The more you receive and understand it, the more you love God and love your neighbor. Effortlessly and naturally, you are transformed and discipled. You follow God, obey Him, serve Him, and care for your neighbor.
Charles Swindoll says, “Grace acknowledges the ugliness of sin by choosing to see beyond it. Grace accepts a person as someone worthy of kindness despite whatever grime or hard-shell casing keeps him or her separated from the rest of the world. Grace is a gift of tender mercy when it makes the least sense.”3 Real Christianity is to be filled with God’s love so much that your life will reflect that love. You will then show grace in a variety of forms to those who do not deserve it.
Grace received becomes grace imparted, the real proof of Christ living in the heart. In a self-centered world, a world that is in confusion and need, God’s children must reflect God’s character in showing grace and compassion, care and love to others around them. As we extend grace, we guide them to God’s love and grace. God is calling us to experience and share His grace daily. That is the best sermon we can deliver.
- Ellen G. White, The Acts of the Apostles, (Mountain View, CA: Pacific Press Pub. Assn., 1911), 551.
- White, 551.
- Charles R. Swindoll, Jesus: The Greatest Life of All (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 2008), 90.