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Amazing Grace

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Amazing GraceGrace is at the very heart of the gospel of Jesus Christ. I remember as a child being told that “grace” stands for God’s Riches At Christ’s Expense.” Indeed, Jesus Christ paid our sin penalty on the cross, but it is not a blanket pardon for all of humankind that requires nothing from us personally. While  John 3:16-18 states that “God so loved the world that he gave his only Son [Jesus Christ]” . . . it is also makes it clear that we must personally believe in Him. Read it with me:

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because they have not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son.

“Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already . . . .” Believing in Jesus Christ starts with salvation, but it doesn’t end there. Jesus Christ’s parting words to His disciples in Matthew 28:18-20 after His resurrection at the time of His ascension ring out just as clearly today as they did back then:

All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.

“Make disciples of all nations . . .” Disciples, not just converts. We hear a lot about “getting saved” in our churches today but not so much about how to live as a disciple of Jesus Christ. Jesus gave us some pretty clear instructions in His Sermon on the Mount,” (Matthew 5-7), and the New Testament is full of instructions on how to live our lives as disciples of Jesus Christ, not just converts who go on living just like we did before we came to know Jesus Christ as our Savior and Lord.

On the matter of grace, Ephesians 2:8-10 states, “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” It is only by grace that we have been saved, through faith . . . not by our own power or our own works but as a gift from God so that we cannot boast that it was accomplished by anything we did or do. But why are we saved? Ephesians 2:10 gives us the answer. We are saved to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do. And in Matthew 28:18-20, Jesus called it “making disciples.”

Okay, here’s a question for you (well, at least for folks who are true believers in Jesus Christ). If we are saved to do good works that God has prepared in advance for us to do which includes making disciples of all nations, can a true follower of Jesus Christ do anything they want without any repercussions claiming it all falls under “grace”? That notion has been floating around Christian circles throughout America for sometime now. Sometimes known as “hyper-grace” (although I’m not fond of labels as they can confuse the issue), it is a message that basically states that we can continue to sin (as an ongoing lifestyle without repentance) as a believer in Jesus Christ because it’s all covered by the grace of God. If that is true, then there is really no difference between someone who does not believe in Jesus Christ and someone who states that they do but continues to live like the rest of the world. Dr. Michael Eaton at Greenleaf Ministries has provided a much better explanation of hyper-grace and you can read it at this link.

The Apostle Paul gives us the clearest definition regarding grace and sin in Romans 6:

Dead to Sin, Alive in Christ

What shall we say, then? Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase? By no means! We are those who have died to sin; how can we live in it any longer? Or don’t you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life.

For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we will certainly also be united with him in a resurrection like his. For we know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body ruled by sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin—because anyone who has died has been set free from sin.

Now if we died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. For we know that since Christ was raised from the dead, he cannot die again; death no longer has mastery over him. The death he died, he died to sin once for all; but the life he lives, he lives to God.

In the same way, count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus. Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its evil desires. Do not offer any part of yourself to sin as an instrument of wickedness, but rather offer yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life; and offer every part of yourself to him as an instrument of righteousness. For sin shall no longer be your master, because you are not under the law, but under grace.

Slaves to Righteousness

What then? Shall we sin because we are not under the law but under grace? By no means! Don’t you know that when you offer yourselves to someone as obedient slaves, you are slaves of the one you obey—whether you are slaves to sin, which leads to death, or to obedience, which leads to righteousness? But thanks be to God that, though you used to be slaves to sin, you have come to obey from your heart the pattern of teaching that has now claimed your allegiance. You have been set free from sin and have become slaves to righteousness.

 I am using an example from everyday life because of your human limitations. Just as you used to offer yourselves as slaves to impurity and to ever-increasing wickedness, so now offer yourselves as slaves to righteousness leading to holiness. When you were slaves to sin, you were free from the control of righteousness. What benefit did you reap at that time from the things you are now ashamed of? Those things result in death! But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God, the benefit you reap leads to holiness, and the result is eternal life. For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Set FreeFor those of us who are believers in Jesus Christ, we “have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God” (and not of ourselves or what we want) and “the benefit we reap leads us to holiness resulting in eternal life” (v. 22). That is not to say that there is not still a very real struggle with sin as Paul discusses in Romans 7. As he states in Romans 7:21-25:

So I find this law at work: Although I want to do good, evil is right there with me. For in my inner being I delight in God’s law; but I see another law at work in me, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within me. What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death? Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord!

So then, I myself in my mind am a slave to God’s law, but in my sinful nature a slave to the law of sin.

However, Paul does not leave us there but goes on to write about the wonderful answer found through Jesus Christ in Romans 8. Let’s look at some of the 39 verses in that chapter by starting with Romans 8:1-17:

Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit who gives life has set you free from the law of sin and death. For what the law was powerless to do because it was weakened by the flesh, God did by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh to be a sin offering. And so he condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fully met in us, who do not live according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.

Those who live according to the flesh have their minds set on what the flesh desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires. The mind governed by the flesh is death, but the mind governed by the Spirit is life and peace. The mind governed by the flesh is hostile to God; it does not submit to God’s law, nor can it do so. Those who are in the realm of the flesh cannot please God.

You, however, are not in the realm of the flesh but are in the realm of the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God lives in you. And if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, they do not belong to Christ. But if Christ is in you, then even though your body is subject to death because of sin, the Spirit gives life because of righteousness. And if the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies because of his Spirit who lives in you.

Therefore, brothers and sisters, we have an obligation—but it is not to the flesh, to live according to it. For if you live according to the flesh, you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the misdeeds of the body, you will live.

For those who are led by the Spirit of God are the children of God. The Spirit you received does not make you slaves, so that you live in fear again; rather, the Spirit you received brought about your adoption to sonship. And by him we cry, “Abba, Father.” The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children. Now if we are children, then we are heirs—heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory.

Paul clearly states that “. . . we have an obligation—but it is not to the flesh, to live according to it. For if you live according to the flesh, you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the misdeeds of the body, you will live. For those who are led by the Spirit of God are the children of God” (vv. 12-14). When we as believers look to anything or anyone other than Jesus Christ to set us free from the sin that entangles us, we are losing the battle. Our lives and actions should reflect to the rest of the world that we belong to Him. And if there is sin that has taken hold of our lives, we need to heed the words found in I John 1:5-9 which state:

This is the message we have heard from him and declare to you: God is light; in him there is no darkness at all. If we claim to have fellowship with him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live out the truth. But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin.

If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. If we claim we have not sinned, we make him out to be a liar and his word is not in us.

If we are true believers in Jesus Christ, we want to please God and not live according to our own fleshly desires that war against the Spirit of God living in us. If our desires are focused on this world and all that we can get while we are here or making excuses for the sins we hold dear, who do we really belong to?

I’ll end this post with the words of Paul from Romans 6:11-14:

In the same way, count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus. Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its evil desires. Do not offer any part of yourself to sin as an instrument of wickedness, but rather offer yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life; and offer every part of yourself to him as an instrument of righteousness. For sin shall no longer be your master, because you are not under the law, but under grace . . .

Yes, God’s amazing grace . . .

YouTube Video: “Amazing Grace” by II Divo:

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