I’d like us to take a look at a terrific verse of Scripture, Colossians 2:6, which reads, "As you have therefore received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him."
The only way to become a son or daughter of God is to receive Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, to believe in Him (John 1:12, "But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name").
This entrance into the family of God is accomplished by God's GRACE through faith. "For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast." (Ephesians 2:8,9).
We can’t brag about earning our salvation, because we didn’t earn it, did we? It’s completely based on God’s Grace, His undeserved favor toward us. It’s a free gift.
Good works are the fruit of our new life, and we are a New Creation, with a new life. But no good works have any part in our receiving eternal life, or as the Bible calls it, being saved. "For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them." (Ephesians 2:10).
A Free Gift
The salvation, the eternal life is an absolutely free gift.
Some say that’s not fair. It’s too easy. You don’t know the sins I’ve committed. You don’t know how I’ve spit in God’s face for so many years. It’s not just, it’s too simple. Why should I be saved through simply believing in Jesus? We naturally gravitate toward trying to earn acceptance, and that attitude resists the simplicity of God's grace.
Yet the Bible is clear:
"But to him who does not work but believes on Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is accounted for righteousness." (Romans 4:5). "And if by grace, then it is no longer of works; otherwise grace is no longer grace. . ." (Romans 11:6).
No wonder John Newton's hymn Amazing Grace has such meaning to saved people of God!
So we received Him by Grace, didn’t we?
Well, let’s go back to our verse, Colossians 2:6, "As you have therefore received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him."
The Role Of Grace In Living And Growing In Christ
What role does God’s grace play in living and growing in Christ? What role does God’s grace play in living abundantly?
Jesus said “I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly.” (John 10:10)
That they may have life (that’s salvation, the new birth, the new creation, eternal life)...
And that they may have it more abundantly (that’s living as a believer AFTER our initial salvation).
What role does grace play in that?!
Well, it is VITAL to the Christian life.
Why? Why can’t I just pull out my Bible, find all the rules and laws for living the Christian life, and live it?
I’m tempted to just say, "Okay, go ahead and try it." But I know better than that. I know from personal experience, from the experience of others, and from the Bible itself, that this makes a miserable Christian life. It’s what we call Performance-based Christianity, and it stinks.
Problems With Performance-Based Christianity
1. First of all, if we make the Christian life about rules and laws, we will find ourselves constantly falling short.
If we think we are successfully following the laws and rules, then we don’t really understand them. We don’t understand how Jesus elevated the laws to reflect how holy and perfect God is. When He said that adultery included even the very THOUGHT of lust in our hearts, He put the cards on the table.
2. And if we try to live the Law way, we will always be thinking that God is angry with us, His children.
You may already think that God must be angry with you, either directly or by implication. Admit it.
You may even think when you are sinful or disobedient to the Word of God that God sees you as "wicked", and everyone knows "God is angry with the wicked every day", right?
Jonathan Edwards preached his famous sermon, "Sinners In The Hands of An Angry God" in the 1700's, and the picture has been applied to believers and has stuck...
...with those who don't understand the difference between a Sinner and a Saint. Or who don't understand the difference between the Old Covenant and the New Covenant.
The Devil loves this confusion. He loves confusion between the biblical concept of a "saint" as anyone who is a born-again child of God, and the Roman Catholic nonsense that a "saint" is someone who meets some elaborate criteria of the Mother Church, and is "voted in".
The Devil loves confusion between the Old Covenant (which Hebrews 8 says failed in bringing righteousness because of man's inability to keep the Law) and the New Covenant, in which God puts His laws in our hearts, fulfills those laws in Christ on the cross, declares us righteous, and forgives us of all our sins, past, present and future.
Yes, the Devil loves confusion.
So it's no surprise (though a crying shame), that children of God think that God is angry at them when they fall short and sin. And otherwise fine Christians, who mean well, perpetuate this ridiculous notion, without one shred of support from the New Covenant scriptures!
Running Away From God?
And so Christians often run away from this "angry" God, instead of toward Him, when they fail. They won't look Him in the face, because they think it's a face of anger. What a tragedy.
This is not the place for an extended explanation of the subject in the scriptures. But here's a challenge for those who doubt what I'm saying: Search the epistles of the New Testament for any teaching that God is ever angry with His children.
By the way, don't think the passages on God's chastisement are regarding some kind of punishment out of anger.
Study them closely, and you will see they involve loving, usually gentle correction, from a loving Father, who just wants his kids to be in close fellowship with Him. No condemnation, no unforgiveness, no bitterness, no anger.
Like a daddy teaching his 1-year-old to walk, while the kid keeps wobbling, staggering, and falling...sometimes painfully in the wrong direction, but often into a laughing Daddy's arms for a big hug.
The Biggest Reason
And that’s the biggest reason why grace is so important to the Christian life. Because it causes us to want to fellowship with Christ. To draw near to Him, and not away. And that drawing near is the very SOURCE of our Life. Christ, who IS our life, the Scripture says.
And ironically, moving away from a law-based life to a grace-based life doesn’t cause us to sin more, but less. That’s why Romans 6:14 says “For sin shall not have dominion over you, for you are not under law but under grace.” You are not under Law, which says “do”, but under grace, which says “done”.
With apologies to Jimmy Stewart, it can be a Wonderful Life between our initial salvation and our glorification, if we heed Colossians 2:6, and walk in grace just as we received Christ in grace, by simple faith.
Faith that He has already forgiven us of all our sins, past present and future.
Faith that we are no longer under condemnation, because our sins have been paid for and put away as far as the East is from the West.
Does God Overlook Our Sins?
Notice I didn’t say He overlooked our sins. He couldn’t be that unjust. No, He exercised His great justice, by taking our sins on Himself. He became sin FOR us, that we might be made the righteousness of God.
I love the hymn by Annie Johnson Flint that goes,
"His love has no limit, His grace has no measure,
His power has no boundary known unto men;
For out of His infinite riches in Jesus,
He giveth, and giveth, and giveth again."
You see, it’s His love that supplies that grace for salvation and living. His love for you and me.
On Sunday, August 16, 1987, Northwest Airlines Flight 225 crashed just after take-off at Detroit, Michigan.
155 died, and one lived.
That one who lived was a little 4-year-old girl named Cecelia. The wreckage was so bad, that the authorities thought at first she had not been on the plane. Checking the flight roster, however, and with Cecelia's own testimony, the following was discovered:
As the crash was developing, Paula Chichan had unbuckled her own seat belt, got down on her knees in front of her daughter, wrapped her arms and body around Cecelia, and would not let her go! Nothing could separate that child from her parent's love...neither disaster, nor crash, nor flames, nor pain.
Such is our Savior's love for us...
"...that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord." (Romans 8:38,39)