free grace peacock picture

Is Grace Really Free? The Price Jesus Paid So You Could Live in Freedom

FREE Grace?

I have heard the phrase “free grace” used by pastors and theologians. I understand that we do not do anything to receive God’s grace, and I believe in the worth of this grace: how priceless it is and beyond anything I could ever afford. But I get tripped up a bit when we combine them. Maybe it’s because I can be a total sucker for “free.”

Deals like BOGO entice me to think that I get a free item when I buy something, but the cost of both is factored into the one price. And even though I only needed one thing, I would walk out with two for the sake of a good deal. I don’t know about you, but I get bombarded by offers to get 10% off in exchange for my email. And do I use them? You bet I do! It’s like wasting money if you don’t. (I think there’s a meme about “girl math”!)

While I may think I am getting “free money,” what I am actually doing is paying for that discount with my information. Now, the company can email me promotions, track my purchases, and entice me with new products. 

Everything has a cost, and often we don’t even realize what that cost is. Famed American salesman Billy Mays was a direct-response advertising salesman. He said, “The best things in life are free – and $19.95.”

Now, being a bit wiser and…older…I have become cynical of the “free” stuff. I reject samples, decline offers, and avoid salesmen. I just don’t trust companies anymore. I feel they all want to make the sale or take my money. They don’t want me to have what’s good for me, let alone for free.

So, as a Christian, it’s easy for me to think of God’s grace like the FREE DEALS that come into my inbox every day. I get cynical about this so-called “free grace.” Nothing’s free, so why is grace the exception?

Can we really call grace free and priceless at the same time?

Or does the idea that it is free to cheapen the gift?

Shake Your Tail Feathers

When I came across the popular acronym TANSTAAFL, it stuck with me.

TANSTAAFL is used among physicists to explain that you can’t get something from nothing (Laws of Thermodynamics). It stands for the technical and scientific phrase, There Ain’t No Such Thing As A Free Lunch

One way biologists use TANSTAAFL is to describe animal features. The peacock is an excellent example of TANSTAAFL. There’s a biological cost to the peacock’s tail feathers. Sure, they are beautiful and showy and will attract a female, called a peahen. However, the tail feathers come with a cost that reduces the peacock’s survival rate. Here are some of its disadvantages.

  1. The tail reduces maneuverability. Peacocks can only get around slowly. 
  2. The tail makes the bird more noticeable to predators. It’s hard to miss that fan of plumes!
  3. Growing and maintaining that appendage imposes a considerable energy cost on the peacock’s body. Instead of using its energy for hunting, sleeping, or protection, it has to spend a lot of time growing and keeping its tail. 

Maybe we should change the phrase to “there ain’t no such thing as a free tail!” If a tail comes with a cost to a peacock, then how can we claim total forgiveness and grace costs nothing?

The Cost

Grace isn’t free at all; it costs Jesus everything. This cost was more than just the cross. From the moment his single-celled organism multiplied in Mary’s womb, Jesus began his descent. He humbled himself, becoming the basic building block of the world, to save sinners. 

I don’t think it took until Easter morning for Satan to realize he had been defeated.

The entire cosmos should have collapsed when Jesus took that last breath and the sky darkened. The world cannot hold together without God’s love. And yet, the world kept spinning, hearts kept beating, and life kept on. 

That was the moment Satan knew his plan wouldn’t succeed, that God’s power would overcome. Satan had to sit on that splinter and feel nothing but dread from Friday until Sunday. He knew it was coming; it was only a matter of when. But even knowing it would happen did not mean Satan understood it. That kind of love was unfathomable for him. 

With his death, Jesus earned the right to make his love unlimited. 

Unlimited Love

Because God made that priceless payment, he gets to decide how to give that grace. The Bible makes it very clear that grace is unlimited.

  • God’s love is unlimited. 
  • His sacrifice is unlimited.
  • The reach of his grace is unlimited.

  1. First, God’s unlimited love and grace in and of himself. Because God is triune, three-in-one, love existed before humanity. Remember, Jesus was around way before he came as a baby. Genesis uses a plural article (Elohim) for the first mention of God. “In the beginning created Elohim the heavens...” (Genesis 1:1 ).The plural article doesn’t mean there are multiple gods. There is only one God. But all three persons of the trinity were present at creation. They had always existed, exchanging love with one another. So, God didn’t need to wait for us to have love already in existence. Love has always been and always will be. Jesus talks about this togetherness in John 14:20,“On that day you will realize that I am in my Father, and you are in me, and I am in you.”

  1. Second, Jesus Christ was God’s unlimited gift to the world. It was already incredible that he humbled himself as a baby. There is no way the enemy could have predicted Jesus’s death. God did not limit his gift but sacrificed himself on the cross. No other religion on earth has God coming to earth and humiliating himself by taking on all the sins of others. They have gods that give good gifts or gods that can do mighty acts of power. But they wouldn’t go so far as to die. 1 John 2:2 says, “He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins: and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world.”

  2. In the last invitation found in the Bible, our Lord opens the door as wide as he can by saying,
    “The Spirit and the bride say, “Come!” And let the one who hears say, “Come!” Let the one who is thirsty come; and let the one who wishes take the free gift of the water of life” (Rev 22:17). His grace is for any and all. Not one person excluded.

The Bible says Jesus died for every person. God’s gift is unlimited and free for us, but that doesn’t mean it was for nothing. That grace cost Jesus everything. 

It’s costly grace that’s free for me.

I’ll happily fall for that offer every time.  

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