by Lyn Packer
In the last few months the Lord has been re-revealing to me aspects of truth that I had known a part of when I first got saved, but along the way I had lost sight of in my pursuit of living the way I thought a Christian should live. I have been re-discovering the grace of God. In doing so I am finding that it is far more radical, outrageous and extreme than I ever thought, and it is changing my life. I am not alone in this either. I know of many others who are on this same journey of rediscovering grace. It is turning lives upside down and inside out. It is demolishing beliefs, messing with our theology and demanding that things change. And oh, it's glorious!
Over the years I had slipped into beliefs and behaviour that unfortunately, while looking good and giving a good outward appearance, were scripturally wrong. I was inadvertently trying to re-do much of what Christ had done. That has a term to describe it – it's called religion! I had become religious! I didn't look it to a lot of people (or to myself), but I was.
Paul Ellis said this, "Dead religious works are sold with respectable labels like "responsibility," "good works," "mission," "sowing," and "investing." I am not against these things! What I am opposed to is the diabolical lie that says that God's favor depends on me doing them."
People don't deliberately step into religious works unless that is the gospel that they have been sold. Most of the time they experience a slow slide that comes through wrong teaching, wrong examples, things that they pick up by osmosis along the way, or through believing the enemy's lies.
Aren't you thankful for fresh revelation from the Lord? I am!
So what are some of those subtle things that can creep into our lives?
This list is not exhaustive - it is not everything about grace in one teaching, but it may contain some things that you'll recognize and that will speak to you.
• Thinking that we can finish what Jesus began in our lives (Col 2:6; Gal 2:20; Gal 3:3), as if our good works or good lifestyle could effect anything. We may start out saved by grace but then end up believing that it is our efforts that keep us saved or keep us close to God. It's what he did that does those things.
• Doing stuff in order to please God – good works, attendance at things, volunteering for everything, prayer, self denial, abstinence, sin consciousness etc. We try to live like we believe a Christian should in order to make God happy or pleased with us. We try hard to not sin. We think that our efforts can make God be more pleased with us than he is. God cannot love us more than he already does; we cannot do one thing to add to that love. We are loved, accepted by him and now we are 'In Christ' in a state of oneness that is a wondrous mystery which, while we may not fully understand it, is still true (John 3:16, Eph 1:6, Rom 8:35-39).
• Crucifying our sinful nature – we keep trying to do what has already been done. We are crucified with Christ and our old self no longer lives (2 Cor 5:17; Rom 6:6; 2 Tim 2:11). Instead we need to learn to live out of our new nature, the nature and character of Christ. And yes, there are verses in some translations that say that we have a sinful nature; eg in the NIV – Col 2:11; Rom 7:25; Gal 5:24; Rom 13:14; but those verses are translated incorrectly. In these verses Paul is talking about our flesh or sensual nature. The Greek word used is "sarx" and refers to our physical bodies or our carnal sensual nature. There are also a couple of verses that refer to the 'putting off' of our old nature and 'putting on' the new. One is Eph 4:22; the tense in this verse is also translated incorrectly – the original means we "have put off" our old nature – not "should put off" the old. This is what happens when you come into Christ – you lay aside the old and put on the new (Col 3:9). You can read a good article on these verses here.
We will simply waste time if we try to crucify ourselves. Instead we need to accept what Jesus has done and live out of that reality. It is when we are living in that grace that sin has no dominion over us. And true grace does not bring more sin, it brings greater restraint and power to resist sin. Why? Because when you know the reality of that grace, when you really fall in love with Jesus, you don't want to sin and your state of holiness causes you to live a holy life, your righteousness causes you to be righteous.
• Thinking that we mature in Christ by doing certain things – reading the word, praying, attending church, listening to endless amounts of sermons, living by Christian principles. These can all too easily become a substitute for relationship with the Lord and trusting in his work. These things in themselves will not make us more spiritual or mature. Maturity in Christ comes through relationship - in believing, trusting and walking in Christ's finished work (John 6:29) and becoming more childlike in our trust, love, faith and obedience.
• Thinking that grace is a doctrine – it is not a doctrine. Grace is the revealed and demonstrated love of God through Jesus. Grace is a part of who they are – it's their character and nature. Grace is found in relationship with them, not in doctrinal understanding. Joseph Prince says it this way, "Let me teach you how to discern if the grace teaching that you are hearing is doctrinally sound. When you hear the new covenant of grace preached, it is always Christ-exalting. It always reveals more and more of Jesus… There is no grace without Jesus. Grace is not a theology. It is not a subject matter. It is not a doctrine. It is a person, and his name is Jesus."
There are many more aspects to grace but hopefully these will give you a taste for the reality of the wonderful freedom that Christ has brought you into. It is a glorious freedom and we get to live in it for the rest of our lives and also to bring others into it. Now that's good news!