Monday, August 15, 2011

Standing in Grace

One of the first things I learned as a Christian was I was saved by grace. In short, this means my being right with God was done totally by him and activated when I believed upon Jesus. This truth is summarized in a couple places in Ephesians.

The first place is Ephesians 1:13 which says, "In Him, you also, after listening to the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation--having also believed, you were sealed in Him with the Holy Spirit of promise..." The second place is found in Ephesians 2:8: "For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God."

It seems to me the Protestant world pretty much understands the truth that salvation is by grace alone. But what about the Christian life? I love the old hymn "Jesus Paid it All, All to Him I Owe", but is this misunderstood by Christians who think works sustain their relationship with God? I wrestled with this question preparing for a sermon on Luke 6:1-11. In this story there are some Pharisees who essentially jump out of the bushes trying to condemn Jesus for breaking their self imposed laws.

What process does one take to get to this point of legalism (i.e. the strict enforcement of non-biblical rules)? How do we guard ourselves from creating rules that are not biblical commands? I think this is a very important issue as I have seen many turn a relationship with a loving God into a strict list of things to do or not to do if you are going to please God. The list is so long of examples, but some I have seen recently concern how a Christian family educates their children, style of worship in church, the translation of Scripture one uses, etc, etc...

In my own life I have learned that God uses the conviction of the Holy Spirit to move me into closer relationship with him. The conviction of the Holy Spirit can be painful, but he is so good to help us in our walk with God. One area in my life where I felt this conviction in a mighty was was my drinking that led to drunkenness on a regular basis. I really struggled to maintain sobriety for many years. About 10 years ago, I quit drinking altogether through the Lord's help.

This was a great victory for me in my weakness. But as the years went by, I started to notice a root of self-righteousness sprout up. I don't think it was evident externally, but I see it in the depths of my heart. From a theological standpoint, I don't thinking having a glass of wine, or a beer, is wrong. The Bible is clear that drunkenness is the problem. For more on my views on drinking read my blog about Christians and Drinking. But my self-righteousness would sprout up when I saw a Christian having a beer (without drunkenness and under legal conditions) and it was evident to me through a critical spirit within.

It never ceases to amaze me how quickly sinful man because religiously arrogant. There is phrase in Romans that caught my attention a few years back. In Romans 5:1-2, Paul says this:

"Therefore, having been justified by faith [salvation], we have been peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom with also have obtained our introduction by faith into this grace in which we stand [the Christian life]; and we exult in hop of the glory of God."
God's grace is not just sufficient for salvation, it carries on into the life that we live as followers of Christ. Why is the concept of living under grace so difficult for us? I think it boils down to our lack of understanding God's nature. The deeper my relationship grows with God, the more humbled I am by His graciousness to us. My worth is based upon God's love for me, not by my accomplishments for Him. In looking at others, I am constantly reminded that while we need to care for each other, we should hold ourselves to the highest biblical standards which will humble us into the arms of Christ and ultimately give us a spirit of grace and love as we hold others to the lowest biblical standard!

No comments: