Mulligans and Grace

Friday’s section of “The God of Grace and Judgment” asks the question, “What’s the deadly spiritual trap of thinking that because we’re saved by grace, it doesn’t matter what we do? How can you protect yourself against falling into that deception?”

On the golf course we have another word for grace. It is called a “mulligan.” After you make a terrible shot, your partner may offer you a mulligan. You take another shot and the first shot does not count. It’s like it never happened. I love grace and I love mulligans. However, one day, when I first took up golf, I was golfing with Ron, my good friend and golf mentor. We were on the 6th fairway at the Rivard Golf Course in Brooksville. It is a par 5. I was about 50 yards away from the green and about to make my third stroke. If I hit the green I would be on in three strokes, and with two putts could easily make par. My third stroke went wide left and hit a tree. Ron, who is very gracious and forgiving told me to take a mulligan. I graciously accepted and dropped another ball at the original spot and tried again. I hit the tree again. Frustrated I grabbed another ball and dropped it and hit again with the same result. Now I was becoming very frustrated because I knew I could do it, it just wasn’t happening. It was just bad luck and I was determined I wasn’t going to let bad luck control my scorecard. I dropped another ball and got ready to experience more “grace” by taking another mulligan. Then it occurred to me that I may have been taking advantage of the mulligan system. Many take one mulligan but I was taking several. I asked my friend Ron, “Does anybody else do this?” Referring to taking multiple mulligans. Ron shook his head in disbelief and with a hint of frustration in his voice firmly said, “no!”.

Grace is a wonderful thing, but it is not intended to let us make the same mistakes over and over. Sure, there is always forgiveness.  When our heart is broken because of sin, the Psalmist declares in Psalms 51, “a broken and a contrite heart, O God, thou wilt not despise.” I know with all my heart that God will never turn away a heart that is broken because of a sin no matter how many times sin has broken that heart before. At the same time grace is more than just forgiveness. Grace is a power that helps us overcome our failures.

Grace gives us power to obey and do good works

For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them. Ephesians 2:8-10

By whom we have received grace and apostleship, for obedience to the faith. Romans 1:5

For the grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men, Teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world. Titus 2:11-12

We have a relatively new senior pastor at our church who likes golf. Pastor Brad  allows me to take mulligans, but  he never takes them himself. He holds himself to a higher standard than what he requires of me.  To me that is a model Christian. Freely forgiving others while holding himself to a higher standard. Funny thing is he wins all the time.

One day we were playing on the Babe Zaharias golf course near our church in Tampa. The second hole is a par 4. My first drive went short and wide left towards some trees. I wanted to take a mulligan, but since Pastor Brad wasn’t taking them, I thought I better just play it straight and accept another double or triple bogey. Strange thing happened on my second shot. Using my fairway wood, my second shot sailed close to 200 yards and the ball landed next to the green. I chipped onto the green and my first putt fell in the hole for par! I walked off the green and thought, “Wow! Even with a bad drive I made par without taking a mulligan.” That felt good.

To me, my friend Ron and my friend Pastor Brad, make a good combination of grace. Ron sitting in the golf cart patiently as I kept hitting the tree over and over with my chip shot, and Pastor Brad challenging me by holding himself to a higher standard. I have learned in golf, that what I need instead of a mulligan is a really good second stroke. I have also learned that when I make double par the world does not come to an end. I need both Ron and pastor Brad in my life as well as my golf game. They give me the proper balance I need to improve my game.

While I may not always need mulligans, I will always need grace, because grace is  more than a second chance. Grace is the power to improve my game and my life.



Mulligans and Grace — 10 Comments

  1. Its good to have friends and preachers who gives mulligans. I m glad your game has improved .Pratice and grace really helps. Even when works and the Law want.

  2. For nine years of very hard efforts and dedicated work on his school work, he always failed his final examinations and could not cross from primary into secondary school. In the tenths year, he sat for the final examinations and scored 49%; still 1% below the passing grade of 50%. His school master considered his earnest hard efforts and dedication to his work, added 2% and that saw his student pass and cross into secondary school. Similarly God will impute His righteousness to those who have followed Him earnestly to cross into heaven. That's God's grace. For our righteousness is as filthy rags before God and our works cannot save us.

    • Ben, this is a nice story but still falls somewhat short. God's grace does not add 2% to our 49% effort. While we were still enemies God sent His son to die for us. Romans 5:8, Before the world began Jesus was the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world and promised us eternal life. Titus 1:2 Revelations 13:8. We are accepted 100% in the Beloved. Ephesians 1:6. God does not add 2% to my effort. He saved me by His own 100% effort. Galatians 2:20 tells me the gospel is not me plus Christ. It is NOT I but Christ. It is all 100% Jesus. He gave me His grace while I was still in rebellion and making no effort on my own. I do understand what you are saying though. We can cooperate with Him and not as Jesus said to Paul, "kick against the pricks."

      • William, this is quiet interesting. All what you have said is correct. By imputing His righteousness, there would be no measure in %, He does it to make those who CHOSE to follow Him whole or complete without spot or blemish. In other words His followers are clothed in His robe of rightousnes. Of course the figurative story above just serves to demonstrate that grace is given where humanity cannot reach or attain.

        On the second note. God by laying the foundations before creation shows His infinite responsibility towards His action of creation (which was not by accident but) inextricably intertwined with His plan of salvation, His love for all the creation, His grace towards the repentant sinner and etc. The key is the CHOICE man makes. Either to follow Him and be saved or disobey Him and face condemnation. And man was given the power of choice (of course with the help of the Holy Spirit).

        • Ben, I think you are meaning to say that God gave us the power to choose whether to follow Christ or Satan, and I agree. And when we choose to follow Jesus, the Spirit gives us the power to overcome temptation and sinful tendencies.

          Is that right?

        • Tyler, Yes I believe the Holy Spirit is continuously working in the minds of everyone convicting them to feel guilty of wrong things. And when one chooses to follow God, the Holy Spirit continues to help him/her to overcome temptations to sin. The challenge is on Matt 24:14, this indicates there people who do not know about God/Jesus and the Salvation. But even among those, there are those who choose to be bad or good. It's the choice man makes.

        • Ben, that is an excellent point. There is so much power in choice. Steps to Christ, tells us many want to be Christians but do not choose to be. At a restuarant I may see a lot of things on the menu that I want, but I will only get what I choose. Choosing is so important. Thank you for that point.

  3. Thanks for this wonderful article.
    This is the kind of information that is worth hearing again and again even if one already knows it.

    It's truly good news that God not only forgives, but gives power to get out of the mire of sin.

    • Isn't it wonderful Cristian, that God has basically given us a fail proof salvation plan. Grace to overcome, and if we fail to let grace help us overcome He gives us forgiveness and mercy. The only way we can be lost is to reject His help and mercy!


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