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Living on Borrowed Grace

I woke up early this morning, a long time before my alarm was set to start buzzing. I woke up with a phrase bouncing through my mind—a phrase I’ve been thinking about for a long time. Some time ago I was thinking about children who have the privilege of growing up in Christian homes but was drawn to the many I know who have fallen away from the faith. Despite the great honor given them in being raised in a family where they were taught the Christian faith, they fell away and rejected the faith of their parents. What a horrifying thought it is that these people will have to stand before God knowing that they rejected a gift of inexpressible value.

I thought about this for a little bit and then turned to the lesson I’ll be teaching tonight at our mid-week services. Aileen and I lead a class for junior high kids and are working our way through a Children Desiring God curriculum. It just so happens that this week’s lesson is one that challenges these children not to neglect the gift they’ve been given. This week’s focus statement is “Man is without excuse when God rightly withdraws His restraining grace and gives man over to his sin.” As you might expect, the key verse is from Romans (Romans 2:4 - “Or do you presume on the riches of his kindness and forbearance and patience, not knowing that God’s kindness is meant to lead you to repentance?”).

The phrase that was bouncing in my head this morning and the phrase that summarizes this lesson, at least in my mind, is this: “living on borrowed grace.” Those children who are born into Christian homes—children who from their earliest days learn stories from the Bible, who watch their parents living the Christian life and who attend church week after week—are living on borrowed grace, at least until they turn to Christ in repentance and faith. This is true of all unbelievers though in a particularly pronounced way with the children of Christians. They enjoy a grace given by the God in whom they do not believe. As Jesus tells us, God “makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust” (Matt. 5:45). Grace abounds in this world and grace abounds in a special way in the homes of those who love Him.

Those who do not love the Lord, those who do not serve Him, are living on borrowed grace. They are living in light of a grace that is not rightly theirs; they have not turned in love and faith to the One who gives such grace. They live like this grace will continue indefinitely, eternally, while in reality the clock is ticking down.

My heart longs for my children and for all of the children in my church that they would embrace the faith that is being taught to them and modeled for them. The consequences of such a rejection are terrifying. “For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened.” For those who turn away, this borrowed grace will begin to be withdrawn. God will withdraw His restraining hand and give them over to their sinful desires. Paul says as much in Romans 1:24-25: “Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves, because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen.” I have seen this and you undoubtedly have, too. I have seen young men turn away from Christ, turn away from their families, turn away from the faith, and embrace lifestyles of gross immorality. That borrowed grace that had restrained sin was gradually loosened as they rejected the source of all grace.

And still they continue to live on borrowed grace. Though they have rejected the Savior, rejected the Creator, they continue to enjoy the beauty of this world and so many of the graces it contains. This is what Christ would say to them: “But because of your hard and impenitent heart you are storing up wrath for yourself on the day of wrath when God’s righteous judgment will be revealed” (Romans 2:5). A time will come when all grace will be removed. Rain will no longer fall on the just and the unjust; the sun will no longer shine on those who have rejected God. God will demand an accounting of the grace that gave them life, the grace that sustained them through life, and the grace that was freely offered to give them everlasting life. May they, in that day, be found in Him.