Have you ever heard that we are Christ’s hands and Christ’s feet? No, we aren’t. We are Christ’s gloves and Christ’s shoes. He indwells us and fills us. He lives in us. The choice is deciding between “Do I do it for Him?” or “Does He do it through me?” That is the difference between religious Christianity and real Christianity.
It is understandable that we desire to know what it takes to please God. Or at least we want to know how to try. Fortunately we can know the answer because we have the Biblical record of that very question being asked to Jesus by the disciples. And we have Jesus’ response. “Then they asked him, ‘What must we do to do the works that God requires?’ Jesus answered, ‘The work of God is this: to believe in the one he has sent.'” (John 6:28-29) The disciples probably expected a list of works they were responsible to accomplish. But Jesus’ answer was very clear and concise. He said that God required one thing. God wants us to believe. That’s not referring to intellectual belief; it means to rely and depend upon what Jesus has done for you. It means to depend upon Him for righteousness and holiness. It means to put all of your eggs into that one basket. Religion says, “Behave.” Grace says, “Believe.”
The full picture of grace cannot be contained in a simple definition. Grace is so much more than the amazing mercy of God extended to us at salvation. Grace is God doing for us what we cannot do ourselves. It is His Godness responding to our humanness. Grace is the way God has chosen to relate to us then, now and forever. It describes the way God viewed us and loved us when we were His enemies in our minds; it is the way God operates in our daily lives and empowers us now; it is the way God judges us and forever looks at us through the perfect righteousness of Christ. Grace is about Jesus. It is about who He is. It is about what He did. It is about His finished work. It is about what He is doing. But it is not just about Jesus. Jesus is Grace.
The Grace Message does not cheapen the problem created by sin; it actually recognizes that God is the only One that can truly handle sin. It recognizes that grace is not just about forgiveness; it is also the solution to the whole sin issue.
“For the grace of God has appeared that offers salvation to all people. It teaches us to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age.” (Titus 2:11-12, NIV)
God recreates our hearts. He recreates our minds. And He gives us His Spirit. That new heart and new mind and new Spirit guides us to say “No” to ungodliness.
The problem with us trying to live the Christian life in our power is that we have an erroneous idea of the standard required. We compare our goodness to the goodness we see in others. But attaining or exceeding the goodness of others is not the goal. We are to be perfect as God is perfect. Holiness is not a diluted standard. It is all or none. Is reaching a perfect holiness hard? No, it is impossible. It would be a hopeless struggle. So God made the impossible possible. But it was not a method we could accomplish in our own efforts. It was by His grace.
When we think of God’s great miracles we might think of God enabling a child to defeat a warrior giant or of God’s stopping the sun in the sky. We might think of great crowds being fed with only a little boy’s lunch or of a few spoken words calming a storm. All are truly amazing miracles of God’s power. But the most amazing miracle is that God loved us and gave us new spiritual life. He justified us and declared us holy. And then, He comes and lives in us.
True grace has to be pure grace. It cannot be mixed with human effort because human effort is the very reason we need grace. If grace means unmerited favor, then we no longer have true grace if we start adding conditions of merit. When we add any element of human merit, grace is no longer pure grace.
Grace is God’s working in our lives to do what we cannot do ourselves. We could not save ourselves from the penalty of sin. So God did it. By His grace. We cannot deserve forgiveness. So God gave it. By His grace. We cannot live a godly life in our own power. So God gives us His power. By His grace. We cannot draw forth the strength to handle all the difficult times throughout the various stages of our lives. So God handles them. By His grace.
The religious leaders of Jesus’ day said, “Live for God.” Jesus said, “I am God come to live in you.” And they missed it.
I talk a lot about the Sin Management approach to the Christian life. Actually, I talk a lot against the Sin Management approach. This approach says that I am responsible to manage and control the sin in my life. It sounds responsible; it sounds logical; and it is desirable because it allows me to retain a sense of control. But it doesn’t work consistently. The Grace/Spirit Life approach says that God alone has the power to give me a new nature, a new heart and a new mind. I am to depend upon His power alone for victory over sin. And there is one other none too subtle difference. The Grace/Spirit Life approach does work.