There is a phrase that I've heard on various occasions in Christian circles: "Outrageous grace!" It is used to describe the amazing grace of God.
It is a catchy phrase. It is a great retreat topic. It makes for a great sounding sermon.
But is it true? And if so, what should be its impact in our lives?
The Bible never uses the word outrageous to describe grace. But more specifically, there is a human provocativeness about the word outrageous that we can use as a tool to draw attention. For that reason, I had usually dismissed the phrase "outrageous grace" as really being an attempt to draw attention.
But as I thought more about it, I realized that I could used this phrase, when I put it in its proper context and used it to remind me of some invaluable (and mostly ignored) truths. So I hope that what I write here will explain why I will allow myself to use that phrase - on two conditions as you'll see below..
I looked up the meaning of the word outrageous. And it has a few different meanings based on context. This is one definition that I thought would fit: exceeding the limits of what is usual.
Everything about the love of Jesus Christ towards His creation has an outrageous aspect to it - exceeding the limits of what is usual. But even then, the grace of God is especially outrageous.
Grace is what saves us from sin as we put our faith in Christ (Ephesians 2:8)
Grace is the oxygen that we breathe in the Kingdom of God (Romans 5:1-2).
Grace goes even further and ensures that we have more than enough for every need (2 Corinthians 9:8).
When I think about the deep grace of God, I think of how Paul introduces grace to us in the book of Romans. Romans 5:1-2 - Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom also we have obtained our introduction by faith into this grace in which we stand; and we exult in hope of the glory of God.
So we find this immense grace at the very beginning of the good news and connected with the truth of justification by faith. And what is justification by faith? It is where God takes me, a wretched sinner fully deserving the wrath of God for my sins, and makes me perfectly righteous. And how? Only because of the sacrifice of Jesus, who was totally perfect and righteous, but still chose to take the full punishment of God's justice against my sins (Romans 3:21-28).
Dear saints, our justification by faith is truly outrageous. It is the most outrageous act even imaginable. And because we are justified by faith, we receive the grace of God. So the more we realize what being justified by faith and grace really is, the more outrageous it becomes that we even have access to it.
So yes, let us never reduce grace to something common or ordinary, in our understanding or descriptions of it.
But that is not enough. It is is easy to boast about the outrageous grace of God like pampered boastful children. If the devil cannot blind us from the good news of God's grace, he will happily deceive us into cheapening the grace of God by taking our eyes off of TWO RELATED truths connected to the grace of God, and which must characterize our lives.
1. Outrageous Humility
If we are not careful, we can easily talk about outrageous grace with a casualness that immediately destroys our credibility. Because any claims of outrageous grace that are not matched by outrageous humility is a sham.
God gives His grace to the humble - and whatever word we put before grace must be also put before the word humility.
We cannot merit outrageous grace, no matter what we do. But the legitimacy of our belief in an outrageous grace is proved by our corresponding outrageous humility. And we are responsible for our humility ("Humble yourselves"). So whenever I find myself waxing eloquent about the outrageous and amazing grace of God, I must know that I must clearly demonstrate an outrageous humility. A deep passion to be nothing so that Christ can be everything, and thoroughly unimpressed with myself and thoroughly impressed with Christ and by Christ alone.
Romans 3:27-28 - 27 Where then is boasting? It is excluded. By what kind of law? Of works? No, but by a law of faith. 28 For we maintain that a man is justified by faith apart from works of the Law.
This verse cannot be clearer. All pride and boasting and confidence in ourselves is totally and absolutely excluded by the law of faith. What person would throw a ball up in the air and expect it to stay up. Such a person is not living a life of reality here on earth - where the law of gravity is in effect. In the same way, every single person who believes in the true grace of God that justifies us, will remain grounded and growing in humility.
2. Outrageous Holiness
Another mark of those who speak of outrageous grace will be a corresponding zeal for outrageous holiness.
Titus 2:11-12 - 11 For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all men, 12 instructing us to deny ungodliness and worldly desires and to live sensibly, righteously and godly in the present age..
The grace of God instructs us to be holy. So the grace of God is our coach to be holy.
Imagine if a friend who loves tennis calls us and tells us that he was hand-selected to be coached by one of the greatest coaches in tennis. What would you expect to see if you met this friend two years later on the tennis courts? What would you think if you saw that he still did not know how to hold the racket or hit the ball over the net. After two years of being coached, we would expect to see clear progress in their tennis shots, in their footwork, and all the basics of tennis. So we would conclude that our friend is NOT being coached by the greatest coach. And we would conclude that he is probably deceiving himself and others.
That is how I can apply Titus 2:11-12 in my life. I have the grace of God as my coach, to be "instructed" on holiness. So if I have a casual flippancy towards any sin, I can be sure that the grace of God is NOT my coach. I am merely fooling myself that I have the grace of God in my life. Because the grace of God "brings salvation" from sin with it (Matthew 1:21).
Another crucial passage that we must always remember in connection with grace is Romans 6:1-2,15 - 1 What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin so that grace may increase? 2 May it never be! How shall we who died to sin still live in it? 15 What then? Shall we sin because we are not under law but under grace? May it never be!
"May it never be" is a clear total rejection to every instinct to sin even once. So the outrageous grace of God requires an outrageous attitude of holy living.
There are not enough superlatives in any language to describe the amazing grace of God. So the point of my writing this is not to dampen our confidence in the grace of God. The devil has succeeded in blinding the eyes of many from the outrageous grace of God. So I praise God for His light that shines on the marvelous grace of God.
But I also don't want to be deceived by extolling the outrageous grace of God, but then demonstrating an ordinary humility and holiness. So I don't want to be a fool, or be ashamed when I stand before God one day.
So let us guard our hearts as Christian content floods our ears and minds. We live at a time when Christianity is being adulterated like never before. One major deception in Christianity today is this: The message of outrageous grace is most loudly preached by messengers who do not clearly demonstrate an equally-outrageous humility and an equally-outrageous personal holiness. This is not a new deception, yet we Christians have proved to have an uncanny tendency to keep falling for it.
So when we see Christian leaders teach and preach and sing about God's amazing and even outrageous grace, let us also look for unmistakeable evidences of humility and the abundance of the fruit of holiness. The warnings of Jesus remain true today - you shall know them by their fruit (Matthew 7:15-27).
And I pray that you and I will prove the outrageous grace of God in our private lives, by our zeal to embrace the outrageous humility and outrageous holiness that our leader Jesus Christ had. This was the source of His authority. This is the only hope for a godless world wallowing in emptiness. This is the only light that will illuminate a world groping hopelessly in emptiness and darkness.
May God give us His grace!