Usually I don't pay much attention to "pop-ups" or other ads when I'm surfing the net, but one just caught my attention (while checking out my own blog). It was a banner that promised a free* copy of Halo 2, the limited collector's edition. Okay, I confess that I'm a gamer and think that Halo is about the best game ever produced - and I am counting down to November 9 when Halo 2 is released. So that was an enticing ad.
When I clicked on the banner I got a "pop-up" ad that promised a free* Halo 2 with free shipping*. You know what I kept seeing - those little asterisks. It was always free with a catch. At that point my well-entrenched skepticism took over and I didn't click on the pop-up because I knew I would have to do something like apply for a new credit card, refinance my home, or sell a child to get the "free" game. Either that, or I was going to have to buy the game and get the collector's edition upgrade for free. It really wasn't going to be free, but the ad didn't want to tell me on the front end what the real story was.
Too often God's grace has been presented as free* (with that ubiquitous asterisk). Investigation usually reveals that what the preacher meant was that the offer was freely given but the actions needed to qualify for God's free offer are extensive and meticulous. So stringent are the requirements that one begins to wonder what the meaning of "free" is. The nuanced small print is that one does not work to earn salvation but one must work to receive and keep salvation. God's grace and forgiveness is free to those who meet the qualifications. But it is free.
What rubbish! God doesn't have an asterisk by His free offer of eternal life through Jesus. Whatever one might construe as "requirements" God Himself supplies - be it faith, repentance, confession, humility, submission, or anything else. And as those who have received freely we become giveaway communities who share in God's generosity by extending it to others. The abundance of grace creates a celebratory atmosphere that is irresistible. The Gospel becomes Good News (as it should be) and life in Christ becomes joyous. Kingdom parties become common, and the invitations are thrown around with abandon. Come one and all to feast in the palace of our God!