Maturing Toward Wholeness in the Inner Life

Grace

God Doing for Me What I Cannot Do for Myself

Lord Jesus, I bring my sin, and the guilt and destructive behavior it has caused, to you on the cross. Thank you Lord! On the cross you made provision for my guilt to be removed, my wounds to be healed, and the power of sin in my behavior to be broken. Lead me now into the faith, expressed by obedience, which enables me to access this provision of your grace.

1 – Every benefit from God available to humans comes by way of his grace. But often Christians have inadequate understandings of the nature and reach of grace.

2 – Grace is not the same as mercy, although it is merciful. Mercy is a quality in relationships. Grace is more active—God’s provision, empowerment, impartation.

3 – “But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace toward me was not in vain. On the contrary, I worked harder than any of them, though it was not I, but the grace of God that is with me.” (1 Corinthians 15:10)

4 – Grace can never be earned, but God extends grace to us in response to our choices. God offers grace freely; we choose actions to access his offer.

5 – God’s grace is accessed through faith—a choice I make to rely on him. Only by his grace can my guilt be removed and I become justified before God.

6 – “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus.” (Romans 3:23-24)

7 – “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works.” (Ephesians 2:8-9a)

8 – How do we know faith is genuine? Biblical faith is expressed by obedience. “For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works.” (Ephesians 2:10a)

9 – Jesus: “If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love.” (John 15:10)

10 – Are the two ideas that we are justified freely by God’s grace apart from works, and the Biblical call to a holy life, contradictory?

11 – Are justification (removal of guilt) and holiness of life (Christlikeness within) related? How? Do we need to revisit how we have understood “salvation”?

12 – In Scripture, the basic idea of “salvation” is “deliverance”. It takes us back to the people of Israel, and how God delivered (saved) them from bondage in Egypt.

13 – What all was involved when God delivered Israel from bondage? Certainly we could begin with him taking them out of Egypt and through the Red Sea.

14 – But was that all? After Israel had crossed the Red Sea, and entered into the wilderness, was their deliverance complete?

15 – Israel was formed in the wilderness, then entered and possessed the promised land by faith and obedience. These were essential to complete Israel’s deliverance.

16 – God was delivering (saving) Israel, not just from something, but to something.

17 – What is Jesus’ project on earth? Forgiveness of sin? Removal of guilt? Making it possible for us to go to heaven when we die? Absolutely! Is that all?

18 – Jesus: “Everyone who practices sin is a slave to sin. So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.” (John 8:34b,36)

19 – What does God think about one who self-identifies as being born-again but is still in the grip of sinful (destructive) behaviors. Is that really deliverance?

20 – As a wise woman ministered to one in the grip of destructive behavior, he said, “I’m saved.” She responded kindly, “I think there is some saving yet to be done.”

21 – What is the full meaning of biblical salvation? Did Jesus come to deliver us only from “guilt”? Or also from “sin”? Is there a distinction?

22 – John the Baptist said of Jesus, “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” (John 1:29b) Did he mean takes away “guilt” or takes away “sin”?

23 – Does the Bible give any indication that deliverance from guilt and deliverance from sinful behavior might both be part of one overall process God works by grace?

24 – What is Jesus’ project on earth? For us to go to heaven when we die? Yes! Is that all? Much of the New Testament is not about going to heaven when we die.

25 – The majority of what Jesus and the apostles taught was how Christlikeness, the righteousness (rightness) of the Kingdom, is formed in the inner life—now!

26 – Jesus: “A disciple is not above his teacher, but everyone when he is fully trained will be like his teacher.” (Luke 6:40)

27 – Paul: “My little children, for whom I am again in the anguish of childbirth until Christ is formed in you!” (Galatians 4:19)

28 – What are the full dimensions of what God is doing on earth? “And he who was seated on the throne said, ‘Behold, I am making all things new.” (Revelation 21:5a)

29 – God in Christ is restoring creation to the condition he intended for it originally. He gave mankind dominion over creation. Restoring humanity is primary.

30 – “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.” (2 Corinthians 5:17)

31 – “For neither circumcision counts for anything, nor uncircumcision, but a new creation.” (Galatians 6:15)

32 – We might consider what is meant by a new creation. Some interpret this to be a transaction that takes place in heaven, unrelated to our daily lives on earth.

33 – Do we find it credible that a holy God would design a righteousness that has no effect on rightness of life and behavior? Does that seem like the God we know?

34 – When we seriously ponder Jesus’ teachings, are we left with any doubt that he intended for us actually to do the things he said were best for us—obey him?

35 – Jesus: “Why do you call me ‘Lord, Lord,’ and not do what I tell you?” (Luke 6:46)

36 – Jesus: “Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock.” (Matthew 7:24)

37 – How did the apostles understand these things? They are the original appointed-by-God interpreters of Jesus and his teachings.

38 – Paul: “Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry.” (Colossians 3:5)

39 – Notice the command form “Put to death”. In Scripture command forms point to actions we are to take. Ability to obey develops as we learn to access God’s grace.

40 – Paul: “…you have put off the old self with its practices and have put on the new self…” (Colossians 3:9-10a) “With its practices” points us to life now.

41 – All this presents us with a gigantic challenge: Our well-being—a blessed life—lies only in obeying God. And the ability to obey? In ourselves, we don’t have it!

42 – Readiness to obey is not necessarily the same thing as being able to obey. I may genuinely desire to obey, but find myself painfully unable.

43 – So we come to perhaps the most misunderstood truth about grace: The ability to obey comes via God’s grace just like forgiveness of sin and removal of guilt do.

44 – Grace does not free us from responsibility for good works. Grace gives us the power for good works. Forgiveness, Christlikeness, heaven—all available via grace.

45 – Outward behavior comes from somewhere—from the condition of the inner life. Christlikeness formed within ultimately finds expression in outward behavior.

46 – One key to accessing God’s grace is scheduling spiritual practices. (see Chapter 8) I learn these from Jesus and our Judeo-Christian forefathers and mothers.

47 – By choosing spiritual practices:

          • I open my inner life to God.
          • He responds by working within me by his Spirit.

This is all a gift, provided for me by his grace.

48 – We move from sin and disobedience to purity and obedience as the inner life is transformed from rebellion and lostness to Christlikeness. God’s grace works this.

49 – Peter: “But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.” (2 Peter 3:18a) God is present. Grace is active. It does stuff. “Grow.”

50 – Paul: “The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit [inner life], brothers.” (Galatians 6:18) God’s grace, invited by faith into one’s life, transforms.

51 – The Christian’s focus:

          • learning how to abide in Christ
          • not trying harder to obey.

       Knowing Jesus:

          • cultivates the desire to obey
          • then imparts the ability.

52 – “And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that having all sufficiency in all things at all times, you may abound in every good work.” (2 Corinthians 8:8)

53 – Without a proper understanding of the unlimited supply of grace available to us, the call to a righteous (holy) life can seem a heavy burden—unbearable.

54 – So we seek to escape. We throw it off. We disregard, or try to reinterpret, the clear teachings Jesus said lead to life in all its fullness.

55 – When obedience is a burden, we are functioning in our own strength. Christ formed within renders obedience desirable, dependable, increasingly spontaneous.

56 – Jesus: “Come to me…I will give you rest…learn from me…you will find rest for your souls… my yoke is easy…my burden is light.” (Matthew 11:28-30)

57 – “Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us…” (Ephesians 3:20)

58 – We are speaking here of a life characterized by victory over destructive sinful behavior, not perfection.

59 – The apostle John described it this way: “I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous.” (1 John 2:1)

60 – John did not leave us wondering if he believed that followers of Jesus are actually to live godly lives of obedience:

61 – “And by this we know that we have come to know him, if we keep his commandments.” (1 John 2:3)

62 – “Whoever says he abides in him ought to walk in the same way in which he walked.” (1 John 2:6)

63 – “The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.” (2 Corinthians 13:14)

 

Last edited—February 16, 2018

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