(Continued from Monday)
(Thanks to John C. for inspiration on this one.)
A pastor friend of mine recently made the statement, "There are only two religions in the world, grace and works. But only grace works."
I think that's a great way to express two truths. First, only Christianity proclaims that forgiveness and newness of life with God is provided by Him as a free gift of His unexpected and unmerited favor. All other spiritual claims require the efforts of human hearts and hands, efforts that are impossible for any lost sinner to fulfill. Unbelievers are dead in terms of spiritual inclination and capacity, and apart from the convicting work of the Holy Spirit, would have no interest in God or godliness whatsoever. "As it is written, There is none righteous, no, not one: There is none that understandeth, there is none that seeketh after God" (Romans 3:10-11).
It is also true that the grace we cannot work to access is nevertheless the means by which genuinely godly works become the natural, or supernatural, course of our lives. The grace of God in Christ births a "new man, created in righteousness and true holiness," and one who is indwelt by the Holy Spirit (Ephesians 4:24; I Corinthians 6:17). Grace changes the heart, establishing faith and obedience as the truest delight of our innermost being (Romans 7:22-25). We may not always live accordingly, but nothing alters the fundamental change of being and nature that occurs when we believe. We are "new creatures" in Christ, and are called to account ourselves as "alive unto God" (II Corinthians 5:17; Romans 6:11). Grace provides such newness of life as a free gift, and becomes the dynamic basis for all good works. ""By the grace of God I am what I am: and His grace which was bestowed upon me was not in vain; but I labored more abundantly than they all: yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me" (I Corinthians 15:10; emphasis added).
Grace works. It works in justifying the sinner, and sanctifies and ultimately glorifies the saint. Nothing else can accomplish such a miracle in the human heart, and nothing else is required. Indeed, where the believer is having difficulty in the works to which we are called, the source of the problem is that he is having difficulty in matters of grace. The writer of Hebrews confirms this in his declaration of the wondrous origin and dynamic of all true godliness: "Let us have grace, whereby we may serve God acceptably, with reverence and godly fear" (Hebrews 12:28). Our Heavenly Father would have us know Him always in terms of John 1:17: "Grace and truth came by Jesus Christ." It is the only way we could have began a relationship with Him, and it is the only way we can reveal in thought, attitude, word, and deed that such a relationship exists. Yes, let us have grace.
"But grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ."
(II Peter 3:18)