Is forgiveness really free: And other questions about grace, the law and being saved by Michael Jensen is definitely worth a read. I must admit, however, that I came to the book with a different set of questions and expectations that all had to do with the intricacies of forgiveness—particularly our forgiveness of one another. Fundamentally, this is a book about God’s forgiveness of us. It’s about ‘grace’ and grace is something we all need to be reminded of all the time. Maybe ‘grace’ should have appeared in the title and ‘forgiveness’ dropped to the subtitle. Anyway, I don’t want to be a pedant.
Michael’s aim in writing this book is to help you plunge into a deeper and richer experience of God’s grace, so that it may make a huge difference in your life. (p7) I read this book at the same time as viewing the recent movie Freedom. This is a story about rescuing American slaves to freedom in Canada. There is also a back story throughout of John Newton and the writing of his powerful hymn Amazing Grace. Both the movie and the book warmed my heart.
Some of the book describes my transformation to becoming a believer. For years I was confused and lacked assurance of my standing before God. I needed to focus on the death of Jesus to so as to reject the following erroneous ideas:
God’s grace to us in Christ is not conditional on our performance in any way, or upon taking part in certain rituals, or on our having confessed in precise detail everything we can think of we have done wrong. Those false views of grace only lead to a life filled with guilt, uncertainty and a lack of assurance. (p15)
I loved Michael’s section on Jesus’ crazy economics. It’s so helpful to be reminded that God’s economy is the economy not of the wage but of the gift. (p24) God gives to those who haven’t earned or deserved anything from him. It comes entirely from the generosity of his heart, not because of any debt or obligation to us for services rendered. But we are also carefully reminded that while the grace of God is free, it is not cheap. The cost is to the giver, not the receiver. It comes at great price—through the death of Jesus Christ for our sins.
Michael includes a pastoral word for those with a tender conscience who are scared that they, or others might fall away and separate themselves from God’s grace. He writes:
The confidence that Hebrews speaks about is not a confidence that we are saved because of some past decision or prayer of commitment; but rather a confidence in God, that also means a right fear of him.
Can grace be taken away? The right answer is not “yes” or “no”, but: God is faithful: cling onto him with all your might. (p46)
Is forgiveness really free? goes on to describe the relationship of the Old Testament law to grace and Christian living; to debunk the challenge that grace is simply a license to sin; to show how grace transforms our lives to make us more like Jesus; and to challenge to our pride that we should need such grace in the first place.
I found this book pointed me back to the important truths of grace from the Scriptures and reminded me that “but for the grace of God go I” goes far beyond a cliche. It’s the foundation of a life lived in the transforming power of God.