How do grace and discipline come together for the Christian? Do we throw out one or the other, or exchange one for the other at some point, or how does this work? First of all, salvation is totally by grace. We are sinners (Romans 3:23; Isaiah 64:6; Jeremiah 17:9), who are saved by the work of Christ on the cross (1 Peter 2:24,25; Colossians 2:13,14; 2 Corinthians 5:21), through putting our faith in what He has done (Romans 4:4,5; Ephesians 2;8,9; 1 John 5:11-13). But after being saved, does God leave us on our own to advance in the Christian life, or does grace still play a part? Grace has a place, both as a motivator and as a source of power for living the Christian life. We obey God out of love for Him because of what He has done for us (1 John 4:19; 2 Corinthians 5:14,15; 2 Peter 1:9). Also, God sends His Spirit into our lives to transform us (2 Corinthians 3:18; Philippians 2:13; Colossians 1:29) and to accomplish His purposes in the world (Ephesians 2:10; Matthew 16:18; 1 Corinthians 3:6,7),and we are not able to do anything of ourselves (John 15:5; Romans 7:18; 8:8). Nor, as believers, does God deal with us on any basis other then grace (Romans 5:1,2; 8:33,34; Hebrews 4:16). But does that mean we can avoid using any effort or discipline in living the Christian life?
Scripture tells us we are to respond to God’s grace with a life of obedience (Titus 2:11-14; Romans 6:12-14; Galatians 5:13). Further, we are told that this life is not something that happens automatically, but it is a process we are called to participate in (Philippians 3:12-16; Hebrews 12:1-3; Ephesians 6:10-13). Our goal is nothing short of being conformed to Christ (Romans 8:29; 2 Corinthians 3:18; Colossians 3:10). In this process, the Bible tells us to exercise discipline (1 Timothy 4:7-10; 1 Corinthians 9:24-27; Hebrews 5:11-14). We are told to know, understand, and apply God’s Word (2 Timothy 2:15; 3:16,17; Colossians 3:16) through meditating on it (Psalm 1:2; 119:99; Joshua 1:8). We are also to pray to God (Ephesians 6:18; 1 Timothy 2:1-8; James 5:13-18)--with thanksgiving (Philippians 4:6,7; 1 Thessalonians 5:17,18; Hebrews 13:15)--which can at the appropriate time include fasting (Matthew 6:16-18; 9:15; 1 Corinthians 7:5). This does not mean we forget grace, but rather we do these things motivated by grace and trusting in the power of God to enable us to accomplish them. It is not a matter of gritting our teeth and trusting in our own will power to accomplish these things. But neither is it a matter of sitting back and expecting to grow in the Christian life without applying ourselves. Both aspects of this process are important.