Tuesday, August 2, 2011

On Grace and Effort

How do grace and effort come together in the Christian life? Now in terms of salvation it is easy. We simply have faith (Romans 4:4,5; Ephesians 2:8,9; Galatians 2:16) in the work that Christ has done for us (1 Peter 2:24,25; Colossians 2:13-15; 2 Corinthians 5:21). But living the Christian life is more complicated. We want to avoid the idea that God has left us to do it alone, but we also want to avoid the idea it is easy or automatic and can be neglected. How do we put these two together?

It needs to be seen that grace undergirds the Christian life in a number of ways. It provides the motivation for us to live for God (1 John 4:19; 2 Corinthians 5:14,15; Luke 7:36-50). It also provides us with the power to do so (2 Corinthians 3:18; Philippians 2:13; Colossians 1:29). This means we can have confidence in God that He deals with us in grace (Romans 5:1,2; 8:31-34; Hebrews 4:16) and will ultimately lead us to victory (Romans 8:37; 2 Corinthians 2:14; 1 John 5:4,5). But it also forms a basis for humility in that we have not yet reached where we should be, but we press on toward it (Philippians 3:12-16; Galatians 5:16,17; 1 John 1:8-10), knowing we cannot stand before God based on our good works (Galatians 2:21; Romans 3:19,20; Philippians 3:9).

However, we are told that the result of salvation should be obedience to God (Titus 2:11-14; Romans 12:1,2; James 2:14-26). We are also told that this process requires practice and endurance (1 Timothy 4:7,8; Hebrews 5:12-14; 12:1-3). This many require obedience through hardship (John 16:33; Acts 14:22; 2 Corinthians 4:17,18), and may even, on occasion, involve God's discipline in our lives (Hebrews 12:5-11; 1 Corinthians 11:30-32; Revelation 3:19). Now there is a balance here. I do not believe that God calls us to live in an atmosphere of constant fear of His displeasure (Romans 8:15; 14:4; 1 John 4:18). Nor are we to take lightly the call of God to live a life in obedience to Him (1 Peter 1:14-16; Romans 6:12-14; 1 Corinthians 6:20). The Christian life involves finding the right perspective on these things so we are not cast down in despair or puffed up in self-righteousness.

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