To appreciate and embrace the grace of God, one must first focus on two things: (1) the holiness of God, and (2) the heinousness of sin. Underestimating either one will lead to a warped and weakened apprehension of grace. Embracing both will lead to a greater gratitude for the God of grace, and giving Him the worship He so richly deserves!
The holiness of God. Isaiah writes, "In the year of King Uzziah's death, I saw the Lord sitting on a throne, lofty and exalted, with the train of His robe filling the temple. Seraphim stood above Him, each having six wings: with two he covered his face, and with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew. And one called out to the another and said,
Holy, Holy, Holy, is the LORD of hosts,
The whole earth is full of His glory." (6:1-3).
Of all the attributes of God mentioned in Scripture, only His holiness is repeated three times, as here. He is never said to be "love, love, love" or "gracious, gracious, gracious"... yet His holiness is highlighted beyond all else. This characteristic, then, permeates all others, so that His love is distinguished as a holy love... His anger is a holy wrath... His goodness is a holy goodness... Too, as with every attribute of the infinite God, His is an infinite holiness. His innate standard is perfection, unattainable by mankind, and His judgment against sin is death. A consuming fire, is our God... righteous and upright in His perfections, hating sin to a level we cannot conceive. Nothing is hidden from His gaze, the Creator with Whom all must have to do (Hebrews 4:13). Again, the greater, higher, and loftier awareness we have of Who He is in His utter holiness and hatred of sin, the greater will be our gratitude for grace.
The heinousness of sin. To say that we are comfortable with sin is to understate the obvious. This familiarity explains much as to why it is so difficult to comprehend (and reverence) God's holiness. Born into this sin-cursed world with a sin nature, as accustomed to sin's prevalence as the air we breathe, inundated with its perspective, priorities, and pressure by the world system, we struggle to grasp its seriousness, its deadliness, its fatal consequences. On a planet whose system downplays sin's reality, whose lost inhabitants are spiritually blind to its presence, and whose lives are lived with sinful glee, we often absorb this atmosphere, gradually falling into an unconscious apathy to sin's dominance around us. Thus, we can lose sight of God's perspective on sin, His holy perspective... When this occurs, it is time to return to the cross. There we see most graphically the living God's hatred of sin, as He poured out His holy wrath onto His beloved Son (who had become sin that we might be the righteousness of God, in Him), II Corinthians 5:21. To meditate upon the agonies, both physical and spiritual, of the Son of God as He endured the terrible tree, is to find afresh the oft-hidden true nature of sin. It is a terrible thing. We are to hate it, for we are to hate what our God hates, and love what He loves. And the closer our walk with holy God, the greater will be our detesting of sin in all its forms.
Grace. Only now are we able to embrace sovereign grace. In a holiness and love we cannot comprehend (but definitely adore), God took the initiative to spare a people from nations all over the globe, by setting His heart upon them from all eternity. In so doing, He precluded any claims any one of them might have that they contributed in any way to this gracious act. Had He not done so, no one would have been spared. His hatred of sin would have seen to that. Yet He showed immeasurable condescension and grace, as He sent His only Son to live the required sinless life, to die as a Substitute for those He had set His heart upon, and having His Holy Spirit apply the sparing to their lives in His sovereign timing. Such an un-coerced plan of loving grace, when truly embraced, leads to humility, life-long thanksgiving, and ongoing obedience.