Receiving God’s grace is merely the first step in the life of a believer. The difficult part is to continue growing, keeping ourselves under God’s favour and impacting the world.
Most of us are familiar with the account of the woman caught in the act of adultery (John 8:3-11). The crowd gathered around her and wanted to stone her.
But Jesus said, “He who is without sin among you, let him throw a stone at her first.”
Finally, when the crowd dispersed, Jesus asked her, “Woman, where are those accusers of yours? Has no one condemned you?”
She said, “No one, Lord.”
And Jesus said to her, “Neither do I condemn you; go and sin no more.”
This short account has deep theological implications. The recipient of God’s love and mercy ought to show evidence of change in thought and behaviour. In other words, the sinner has to repent.
We tend to emphasise God’s love and mercy towards sinners. The need for sinners to bear fruits that befit repentance—personal responsibility—is often not emphasised to the same degree.
The purpose of grace is to lead us to repentance. When God forgives a sinner, He expects fruit: changed lives, holiness and obedience to His timeless laws set forth in the Ten Commandments. It would mean denying our selfish desires and turning our backs on the world and satan.
“For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men, teaching us that,denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly in the present age, looking for the blessed hope and glorious appearing of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, who gave Himself for us, that He might redeem us from every lawless deed and purify for Himself His own special people, zealous for good works” (Titus 2:11-14).
“If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me” (Luke 9:23).
“Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world—the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride of life—is not from the Father but is from the world” (1 John 2:15-16).
To assume that God merely personifies grace and mercy—and forget about the equally significant attributes of God such as justice and righteousness—is to be foolhardy. That means after having tasted of His goodness, we must not harden our hearts and willfully live in sin.
“Do you despise the riches of His goodness, forbearance, and longsuffering, not knowing that the goodness of God leads you to repentance? But in accordance with your hardness and your impenitent heart you are treasuring up for yourself wrath in the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God, who will render to each one according to his deeds” (Romans 2:4-6).
“He died for all, that those who live should live no longer for themselves, but for Him who died for them and rose again” (2 Corinthians 5:15).
No, we should not abuse grace by saying that when we sin more and more, grace would abound more and more.
“What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin that grace may abound? Certainly not! How shall we who died to sin live any longer in it? Or do you not know that as many of us as were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death? Therefore we were buried with Him through baptism into death, that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life” (Romans 6:1-4).
No, we should not pervert God’s grace, using it as an excuse for licentiousness.
“For certain people have crept in unnoticed who long ago were designated for this condemnation, ungodly people, who pervert the grace of our God into sensuality and deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ” (Jude 4).
No, we should not think that once we have received God’s grace, we can never fall out of His favour. For He holds us accountable till the end of our lives or when Christ returns, whichever comes first. We have to be faithful till the end.
“When a righteous man turns away from his righteousness and commits iniquity, and does according to all the abominations that the wicked man does, shall he live? All the righteousness which he has done shall not be remembered; because of the unfaithfulness of which he is guilty and the sin which he has committed, because of them he shall die” (Ezekiel 18:24).
“Now I want to remind you, although you once fully knew it, that Jesus, who saved a people out of the land of Egypt, afterward destroyed those who did not believe. And the angels who did not stay within their own position of authority, but left their proper dwelling, he has kept in eternal chains under gloomy darkness until the judgment of the great day—just as Sodom and Gomorrah and the surrounding cities, which likewise indulged in sexual immorality and pursued unnatural desire, serve as an example by undergoing a punishment of eternal fire” (Jude 1:5-7).
“For if, after they have escaped the defilements of the world through the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, they are again entangled in them and overcome, the last state has become worse for them than the first” (2 Peter 2:20).
“For if we go on sinning deliberately after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins” (Hebrews 10:26).
“For you have need of endurance, so that after you have done the will of God, you may receive the promise:
Now the just shall live by faith;
But if anyone draws back,
My soul has no pleasure in him.
But we are not of those who draw back to perdition, but of those who believe to the saving of the soul” (Hebrews 10:36, 38, 39).
If we think that, once we have received God’s grace, we can afford to be complacent, merely rest on the imputed righteousness of Christ, happily go on our way and do nothing, why are there so many references to active faith?
- Work out your faith with fear and trembling: Philippians 2:12-13
- Keep striving: Philippians 3:12-14
- Run the race with discipline so we won’t be disqualified: 1 Corinthians 9:24-27
- Bear fruits that befit repentance and don’t rest on your spiritual laurels: Luke 3:8
- Narrow and hard is the way to life: Matthew 7: 13-14
- Holiness requires effort; confirm your election: 2 Peter 1: 5-8, 10
FAITH: ACTIVE OR PASSIVE?
“It would not be difficult to point out at least twenty-five or thirty distinct passages in the Epistles where believers are plainly taught to use active personal exertion, and are addressed as responsible for doing energetically what Christ would have them do, and are not told to “yield themselves” up as passive agents and sit still, but to arise and work. A holy violence, a conflict, a warfare, a fight, a soldier’s life, a wrestling, are spoken of as characteristic of the true Christian.”
―Michael Brown, Hyper-Grace: Exposing the Dangers of the Modern Grace Message
The fact Jesus is the personification of grace and truth—not grace alone—has practical implications in the life of believers.
It is true that we receive God’s grace (salvation) through faith, not works. But, then, what comes next? God is looking for fruit: Changed lives, repentance and obedience, all of which does not nullify at all the grace we receive by faith.
Some compare the Christian life to a walk in the park. They say everything is by faith. You just have to believe in what Jesus has done for you at the cross. Anything more than that smacks of self-effort, pride and legalism.
Though we are saved by faith, we must not forget the fact we are destined for good works. “Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered up his son Isaac on the altar? You see that faith was active along with his works, and faith was completed by his works.”
Note: Dr Lim Poh Ann is a medical practitioner. He was the former editor of Asian Beacon magazine (Dec 2008 – Oct 2011). He can be reached at his Facebook page, www.facebook.com/AskDrLi
SOURCE OF ARTICLE: http://limpohann.blogspot.my/2016/01/continuing-in-grace.html
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