Have you ever seen one of these? It’s a wooden nickel. During the American Civil War, the government issued something like this in place of traditional coins. But unlike the nickels we know, these wooden ones had no intrinsic value. So when the troubled American economy recovered, these coins lost their worth. Even though they had the same seal and shape of a normal nickel, anyone who touched one of these knew it was worthless.
Unfortunately, I think that’s how we can view God’s grace. We know the feel and value of the real thing, but we can sometimes find ourselves settling for a version that is just a cheap, worthless knockoff. The grace we’re offered through Christ means complete freedom from the judgment we deserve. But Peter warns us, “Live as free people, but do not use your freedom as a cover-up for evil” (1 Peter 2:16 NIV).
He’s talking about “wooden nickel grace.” It’s a version of grace that’s used as an excuse to justify consistent sin while neither offering it up to God in confession in order to receive the gift of forgiveness nor, in repentance, looking to God for ways to resist temptation and discovering a transformation and new freedom through his power. God’s grace is a relationship that both accepts and transforms us into Christ’s image by the working of the Holy Spirit. God extends this grace to us freely. We pay him nothing for his forgiveness. But our receiving his grace will be costly to us. Most especially, receiving it will cost us our pride.
Our sin will always have some consequence in our lives and the lives of those around us, and we ignore that to our detriment. Sin always disrupts from our “side” enjoying a joyous and peaceful fellowship and communion with God. It results in our making rationalizations and leads to self-justification. Presuming upon grace is not receiving and living in God’s gracious relationship he has established for us in Christ. Rather, it amounts to rejecting God’s grace.
But worst of all, cheap “grace” degrades the true value of grace, which is the costliest thing in this universe. The grace that we’re offered through new life in Christ Jesus was so costly that God offered his own life to pay for it. It cost him everything, and when we use it as an excuse to sin, we might as well walk around with a pocket full of wooden nickels and call ourselves millionaires.
So whatever you do, don’t take any wooden nickels. True grace is worth so much more.
I’m Joseph Tkach, speaking of LIFE.