There was once a young man in love with a woman to whom he longed to give a diamond ring one day. The young woman he loved happened to be a smoker. He had the very human idea of attaching a condition to the purchase of the ring: that she would quit smoking once and for all. After all, he reasoned, it was for her own good. He presented the terms of this proposition to his beloved, which she reluctantly accepted. She had been smoking for several years.
Months and months passed. As much as she wanted that ring, she was simply not able to quit her unhealthy habit. Something was happening in the heart of her young man, however. His love was growing to such an extent that the smoking didn't seem to matter as much any more. In fact, he was beginning to feel a little ashamed that he had ever attached a condition to the prospect of presenting her a gift; it seemed a contradiction, a more and more glaring one.
One day as they strolled in the mall a particular diamond ring caught her eye, "That's the one!" She exclaimed. "Some day I want to own THAT ring." Within days the young man had purchased and presented her with the irresistible diamond ring, her smoking notwithstanding. But guess what happened next. She suddenly began losing her desire to smoke, until the habit soon fell away like the shedding of an old layer of skin.
That, O reader, is the amazing power of grace. This is not only a parable, it is a true story. When the young man withdrew the condition, when it ceased to matter, and he gave just out of the joy of giving, the wonderfully powerful effect of grace kicked into play. And it's the same today with God and God's children. Because He has been so loving and generous with us without attaching conditions, we not only instinctively WANT to return the favor out of deep gratitude, we are EMPOWERED to do so. He first loved us, before we ever lifted a finger to try to deserve it!