What is grace?
Grace is not unconditional acceptance, but it is undeserved. That is a very difficult balance to strike! God’s grace comes to us without prerequisites, finding us as we are. God;s grace does not come to the “deserving” (there is no such person), and it does not discriminate. Rather, initially it comes to us freely. But once it enters into our lives, God’s grace demands changes; it holds us accountable. Why? Grace demands our holiness and growth for our sake as well as for God’s glory. Grace intercepts destructive behavior, protects us from the ravages of sin, sanctifies us so we can be “holy and happy,” two inseparable qualities.
In summary, grace is undeserved caring that intercepts destructive behavior. It is not unconditional acceptance, nor is it a legalism that says, “Shape up or I will stop loving you.” Rather, it says, “Your sin cannot separate you from me,” and then, in addition, says, “I won’t let your sin destroy you.” Grace comes to the unlovely person, but refuses to let him remain ugly.
Timothy Keller, Ministries of Mercy: The Call of the Jericho Road. P&R Publishing, Phillipsburg, NJ. 1997. 226-227.