In the mid 1970s, the Florida Orange Growers Association made advertising history when they paid singer Anita Bryant to utter the famous phrase: “Orange juice—it’s not just for breakfast anymore.” In the years since, the slogan has been adopted to apply to everything imaginable, so if you will indulge me, I want to add my own small twist to the pantheon of parodies.
A couple of years ago, as I was preaching through the parables of Jesus and looking at them anew through the lenses of the present reality of the Kingdom of God and the revelation of our complete acceptance as sons and daughters, I stumbled onto something that has taken me deeper into the heart of God and changed me in ways that I could not have foreseen. As I studied and preached on the parable of the old and new wineskins, I finally saw it in its true meaning: you cannot combine the Law and Grace. (I won’t copy and paste it here, but you can read about that in my blog posted on July 21, 2011 called “Careful With That Wine.”)
Since then, my world has been proverbially rocked. I have seen the message of grace and I cannot un-see it. And once you see the greatness of God’s goodness, the unsurpassable sufficiency of Christ’s finished work on the cross, the immeasurable width, depth and height of the Father’s unquenchable love for His sons and daughters, there really is only one response—you can breathe again.
You see, this grace, this freely given love, isn’t just for salvation anymore. God did not limit His love, bought for us by the sacrifice of His Son, to a “just enough” allotment for you to be born again. You didn’t use up your allowance when you gave your life to Christ. That was only the first breath in a new atmosphere, and now God’s intention is for you to breathe this air of His love every moment for the rest of your life. It is this air of the continuous, unbroken love of God for you—again, paid for by Jesus—that makes you live.
Let me see if I can put it another way: there is no other way to be spiritually alive, engaged in a vital relationship with God, than through the gift of God’s grace that not only saved you, but is flowing into you and over you right now, even as you read these words. You cannot relate to God through the Law any longer. You can’t go back and breathe the old air, and why would you want to? The Old Covenant has been fulfilled. The New Covenant has come, and the Scriptures declare that it is better than the old one. What that means is that your performance is no longer the issue in relating to God. Jesus has performed for you, perfectly. So perfectly, that your performance—your discipline, your faithfulness, even your obedience—cannot raise your estimation in God’s sight by even a smidgen, as my grandmother might say. That, my friends, is the good news of the Gospel. Jesus has done it all.
Now, I know very well all of the questions that this kind of statement begs. And we will get to them. But before all of that, do you think you can just sit back and believe the unbelievable for a little while? Can you dare to believe that the good news really is that good?
Let me repeat it one more time: Grace—it’s not just for salvation anymore. In fact, it never was.