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What happens when we believe God's grace is earned and not freely given?

by Dr. Casey Lewis on February 01, 2021

The book of Jonah highlights Jonah's journey to preach to Nineveh. After running from the Lord, Jonah eventually ends up in Nineveh, but his heart is not completely right. After reaching Nineveh, Jonah preaches to them and his worst fear comes true, God saves Nineveh. God doesn’t just save one or two of them. He saves the entire city. One of the greatest revivals in history happens right there in Nineveh.

How does Jonah respond?

“O Lord, is not this what I said when I was yet in my country? That is why I made haste to flee to Tarshish; for I knew that you are a gracious God and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love, and relenting from disaster.

(Jon 4:2)

Clearly, Jonah’s emotions are out of control. He is angry at God and feels he has been treated unfairly. All because God saved the Ninevites. If you think about it, that is quite a peculiar reaction.

But before you are too hard on Jonah and think you could never react like him. Consider for a moment the emotions you might feel if a terrorist suddenly repented and turned to the Lord. On the one hand, you might rejoice because you know their terrorist activities would stop.

But on the other hand, you might be upset, you might find it hard to rejoice and praise God because you think they didn't get what they deserve — the full brunt of God’s wrath.

Or bringing it even closer to home. Consider how you would react if someone who brutally murdered a family member met Jesus on death row. Before they could carry out the death penalty, they came to know the Lord. How would you react? Would you find it hard to rejoice with them? To praise God for saving another soul from the fires of hell? Would you be upset because you don’t feel like true justice was served?

Resentment

If we aren't careful, we can end up resenting the Father because we don’t get what we think we are owed. Maybe we believe we are owed recognition, wealth, prosperity, and an easy marriage. When we don’t get those things, we resent God because we think He is being unfair.

But when we act that way, we show we misunderstand the gospel. We have it wrong if we think God’s grace is earned. God’s grace is not earned it is freely given. It’s crucial we know God's grace is freely given because if we believe God’s grace is earned, we will also believe God owes us for our faithful service. When God doesn't pay up, we will resent Him. As well as if we believe God’s grace is earned, we won’t be able to celebrate when someone who we believe doesn’t deserve God’s grace gets it.

It’s crucial we understand God’s grace is freely given and it is given to those who don’t deserve it. If we don’t understand that, we are going to resent God for not giving us what we think we are owed for our faithful service.

Here is the odd thing.

The more we faithfully serve the greater the temptation becomes to resent God for not giving us what we think we are owed for faithfully serving Him.

Tags: mercy, grace, resentment

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