Christians like grace. We like grace because we so desperately need it. I think that's why we sing about grace, pray about grace, and preach about grace. It's the one thing that gives us hope to enter into the life that God offers. We love grace. We couldn't be saved without grace.
But here's the thing. The Bible makes clear that God is not only full of grace, but that God is absolutely holy and just. And that means that we are held accountable. This means that what we do and fail to do, that our obedience and disobedience really matters.
I don't know how these two work together, but I know that this is what the Bible teaches.
One of the most frightening passages in scripture for me is found in 1 Samuel. Here's what it says:
Do you think all God wants are sacrifices – empty rituals for show? He wants you to listen to Him! Plain listening is the thing, not staging a lavish religious production. Not doing what God tell you is far worse than fooling around in the occult…Because you said no to God’s command, he says no to your kingship. 1 Samuel 15:22-23
This is the story of King Saul. He was commanded by God to absolutely wipe out the Amalekites. They were to leave nothing. Here's God's clear command to Saul, "Now go, attack the Amalekites and totally destroy everything that belongs to them. Do not spare them; put to death men and women, children and infants, cattle and sheep, camels and donkeys" (1 Samuel 15:3).
I don't know why God would command such killing. All I know is that it's in the Bible, and, yeah, it makes me really uncomfortable.
But the point is that Saul had clear instructions, but he chose to disobey. And because of his willful disobedience, look at what God says, "Because you said no to God's command, he says no to your kingship."
God rejects Saul due to his disobedience.
Sure we like grace - because we all need grace. But remember that we are also fully accountable. What we do and fail to do matters. There is a great difference between messing up, and willful disobedience. Grace more than adequately covers mess ups. But only discipline can cure willful disobedience.
If you and I are smart, we opt for grace.