In Christian media today one of the most popular subjects is the subject of Grace. Many pastors, prophets, and teachers are becoming wealthy and popular by writing and teaching on this subject. In the self-centered culture of the West there is a part of this message that is very appealing and is being passionately embraced by many. It is the amazing truth that through Faith in what Jesus Christ accomplished on the Cross we can become empowered to do the very same things that Jesus did! The heavenly Spiritual Gifts are absolutely free, and we can preach, heal, and prophesy in Jesus’ Name even if our personal lives are less than perfect! God can save anybody at any time, and God can use anybody at any time to accomplish His will. This gift of Grace is free and available to all and you don’t have to do anything to receive it!
This is an amazing truth and I have seen it impact the lives of many. However, this beginner’s message of Grace is actually not the complete Grace message. There is another part to Grace, and unfortunately this part of Grace is in fact an offense to the self-centered culture of the West, and is resisted rather than eagerly embraced. To begin to explain what this part of Grace is we can turn to Jesus’ encounter with the rich young ruler in Matthew 19, Mark 10 and Luke 18. In this encounter Jesus told the rich man that he had to give away all of his earthly riches in order to “inherit eternal life” (10:17). Now this presents a challenge to some of our Grace teachers today, who might argue that this pre-condition to salvation came before Jesus died on the Cross. Yet in another teaching Jesus laid out similar requirements for becoming His disciple:
Then said Jesus unto his disciples, “If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me. For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: and whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it. For what is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? Or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul?” ―Matthew 16:24-26
To accept the first part of Grace, and to receive Jesus into your heart along with all of the spiritual gifts, requires nothing and remains a free gift. You don’t have to give up anything and the supernatural power of the Holy Spirit will be available to you even if you have sin (or worldly riches) in your life. However, the very moment that you receive the Holy Spirit and the benefits of the first part of Grace then the process of the second part of Grace, which is the fullness of Grace, begins in your heart as well. So what is this second part of Grace, you ask? It is the supernatural ability to resist your own flesh, to resist the devil, to resist the “love of money,” and to resist the world, becoming transformed into the likeness of Jesus Christ Himself!
Jesus said to the rich young ruler, “To be my disciple you must get rid of all of your worldly distractions, all the earthly treasures that your heart is attached to, and then come and follow me.” Whereas today Jesus says, “Come to Me, allow Me to become formed in you, and as a result We will no longer be attached to the things of this world or enslaved to sin.”
Christ fully formed in us is the goal! So what does that mean? Jesus said, “Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly father is perfect” (Matt. 5:48). Peter said, “As obedient children, do not conform to the evil desires you had when you lived in ignorance. But just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do; for it is written: ‘Be holy, because I am holy’” (1 Peter 1:14-16).
With the first part of Grace we are saved and brought into the family of God by accepting the offer that Jesus Christ extends to live in us. With the second part of Grace ―the fullness of Grace― we become sanctified into holiness because the Holy Spirit gives us the power to overcome all of the temptations that bombard us every single day.
With the first part we receive Salvation and Spiritual Gifts by Faith, even if we have sin in our lives. With the second part we pursue Holiness motivated by Love, overcoming temptation and sin through the power of His Spirit working in us. The second part of Grace is summarized very well by the Apostle Paul:
“But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves to God, the benefit you reap leads to holiness, and the result is eternal life.” ―Romans 6:22
In the New Testament Paul’s anger was directed at two different kinds of false teachers who had incomplete understandings of the work of Grace in the life of a Christian. On one hand Paul was angry with the Pharisees and the “keepers of the law” who emphasized legalistic conformity to a list of rules apart from Love, while ignoring the first part of Grace that comes through Faith in the finished work of Jesus. On the other hand Paul was completely furious with “Christians” who embraced the first part of Grace as an excuse to keep sinning and who ignored the second part of Grace.
So-called “believers” who continue in sin often quote Romans 8:1 as an excuse: “There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus…” Yet they leave out the concluding sentence: “…who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.” The truth is that the New Testament is full of condemnation against “Christians” who are walking after the flesh (for instance, see Galatians 6:7-10, Ephesians 5:5-7, 2 Peter 2, Jude, James 4:1-4).
Christians who emphasize the first part of Grace like to remind everyone that despite the evidence of sin in their life, “When God looks at me all He sees is Jesus!” This is true, but why resist the ongoing work of the Holy Spirit and stop there? Yes, when God looks at us He sees Jesus, but the world around us which we are meant to be a witness to does not possess this heavenly perspective! When they look at Christians they see all of our junk! However, I firmly believe that the end-times destiny of the Body of Christ is to one day stand before the world, and for the world to see Jesus when they look at us! As Hebrews 12:14 says, “Without holiness, no one will see the Lord.”
If we claim to represent Jesus and we want the world to see Jesus in us, we must accept the full impact of the gift of Grace in our lives, be filled with the supernatural power of the Holy Spirit, and pursue holiness becoming completely transformed into the image of Christ. With Jesus all things are possible!
June 4, 2012