A follow up to rule #1. If it is all about grace, and if grace is a gift that cannot be earned or bought, then it is by definition free. Maybe this is the problem many of us have with grace, and the reason we sometimes think we have to “do something” to deserve it. A gift is not a gift if must be earned, or even “deserved.” A gift is an act of love. So, grace is a free gift.
We must be careful here, though, because we have been trained as Americans to believe that “you get what you pay for.” It is natural for us to think that because something is free, it must be cheap. The great German theologian and martyr Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote that grace is not cheap. The grace of God is manifest in God’s gift of Christ, God’s very self given for the sake of the world in an act of love. “For God so loved the world that God gave…” To truly comprehend the gift and the love that compelled it is to live one’s life in thanksgiving. A life of thanksgiving will be one filled with worship and service and discipleship, not in order to earn God’s grace, but in response to God’s grace. To take the gift for granted, to refuse to respond, to carry on with our lives as if nothing decisive has happened would be to run upstairs with our new gifts on Christmas morning and never say thank you. To do that would be to cheapen the gift.
I think that the entirety of the Christian life before God can be summed up in two words: “Thank you.”