The effort to repay God, in the ordinary way we pay creditors, would nullify grace and turn it into a business transaction.  If we see acts of obedience as installment payments, we make grace into a mortgage… Let us not say that grace creates debts; let us say that grace pays debts.

-John Piper (Future Grace)


Okay—are we done demanding God be fair yet?

John Piper calls it the debtor’s ethic and makes a powerful case for approaching God and his loving-kindness altogether differently than  many of us have been taught.  One of the traps of feeling like we deserve something so undeserved as forgiveness is the subsequent feelings of being somehow entitled to favorite pet sins as a sort of consolation for our good time—it’s a God will understand mentality which never fails to result in our engaging in a lifestyle or activities that don’t serve God, ourselves, or others well. 

When we approach God’s forgiveness or any of the benefits of his grace and mercy with an approach of anything other than a gift—we slip into approaching God as some big cosmic scale up in the sky and we somehow justify our giving him anything less than all of us (or worse yet—a measly 10%).  We are his, and everything we have was given to us by him if we remember rightly (aren’t we stewards rather than owners?).   We reason that it is plenty for us to give God six of the seven days within our week—I should get at least one day to have my time the reasoning goes.  A heart set free by true forgiveness says What mercy God has given me!—is there any sacrifice too great for me to give back to him?

Do you see the distinct difference?

The forgiveness we receive in Christ is a net result of the liberating grace of God.  Grace is all gift—no re-payment necessary.  And so it is with forgiveness since it is one of the fruits of grace after all.

1 What then shall we say was gained by Abraham, our forefather according to the flesh? 2 For if Abraham was justified by works, he has something to boast about, but not before God. 3 For what does the Scripture say? ‘Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness.’ 4 Now to the one who works, his wages are not counted as a gift but as his due. 5 And to the one who does not work but believes in him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is counted as righteousness, 6 just as David also speaks of the blessing of the one to whom God counts righteousness apart from works: 7 ‘Blessed are those whose lawless deeds are forgiven, and whose sins are covered; 8 blessed is the man against whom the Lord will not count his sin.’   (Romans 4:1-8, ESV)

Do we live in this kind of faith—a belief that we haven’t earned an ounce of the forgiveness that Jesus provided for us through his sinless life and by sacrificing his very life in our place?

Giving back to God is the response of a heart set free—paying him back isn’t.

Like it or not—we are debt free.