Grace is less of an abstract concept than sometimes I would like it to be. When it stays abstract we can still think we are in control our perfection. When it isn’t abstract anymore it continuously hits us like massive smooch on your cheek that leaves a lipstick stain that we just can’t manage to get off!
Grace is a part of love and is always present to believers- whether we know that it’s there or not.
A while ago I was praying and I asked God something along the lines of, “what is grace?” and wondering how grace leads to obedience. God said “it compels people to do good.” Those who receive grace are compelled to do good. Let me explain a little more of the undertone of our conversation (you know, the thoughts that are underneath the actual words that you think)… When we have faith in Jesus we receive grace and at a similar point in time, or at the same time, we receive the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit reveals our sin to us and also sanctifies us, making us holy. Because we love God, when we gain knowledge of our sin, we want to repent and so we do, bringing about more good actions and thereby helping the world.
Let’s add a little bit of the scripture into this discussion: The law gets us to the point where we understand our sin and need for Grace (Rom 3.20, 7.7) When we believe in Jesus the sinful outer layer of our heart that made us predisposed to commit sins is cut away by the Holy Spirit. It is thrown away- we are circumcised and are now pure of heart not just of body as was circumcision under the law. We have the ability not to sin. (Rom 6.2-3)
Romans 6.2-3 (TLB) “…Should we keep on sinning when we don’t have to? For sin’s power over us was broken when we became Christians and were baptized to become a part of Jesus Christ; through his death the power of your sinful nature was shattered. 4 Your old sin-loving nature was buried with him by baptism when he died; and when God the Father, with glorious power, brought him back to life again, you were given his wonderful new life to enjoy.”
This does not mean that we don’t still struggle with sin. Although we are now able to choose not to sin, the habits that we used to have, the mindsets, and the impulses can still be there. Sometimes we need to be intentional about denying any sinful desires that arise. We need to consciously remind ourselves of what has happened spiritually and then cognitively choose to go down a different path which is not destructive and thereby strengthen the good habit at the downfall of the bad one.
A few months after my ‘conversion moment’ I was healed of depression. Although I didn’t have the same illness and emotions (or the lack thereof) as I did when I was depressed, the coping mechanisms which I needed prior to the healing had become habits and needed to trust and have faith that if I chose not to use a coping mechanism that I would be okay.
When praying a while back, God gave me an image of a heart, completely black and the blackness that it beats pumps into the arteries and is circulated around the body, thereby making the whole cardiovascular system blackened. Then, the heart, the vital organ, suddenly becomes pure as light. The issue is that the arteries and veins and capillaries are all black and although the most essential organ is light, it takes sometime for the pathways to clear and become light. I share this in hope that you will be comforted that sometimes even though we are completely holy and have right standing with God, righteousness (right acting) doesn’t always come automatically straight away after the Holy Spirit enters us, sometime we still sin and make mistakes, and sometimes there are bits of blackness hiding in random spots that we didn’t know were there until the Holy Spirit points them out and lightens them with us.
Roman 6.5-11 “5 For you have become a part of him, and so you died with him, so to speak, when he died;[a] and now you share his new life and shall rise as he did. 6 Your old evil desires were nailed to the cross with him; that part of you that loves to sin was crushed and fatally wounded, so that your sin-loving body is no longer under sin’s control, no longer needs to be a slave to sin; 7 for when you are deadened to sin you are freed from all its allure and its power over you. 8 And since your old sin-loving nature “died” with Christ, we know that you will share his new life. 9 Christ rose from the dead and will never die again. Death no longer has any power over him. 10 He died once for all to end sin’s power, but now he lives forever in unbroken fellowship with God. 11 So look upon your old sin nature as dead and unresponsive to sin, and instead be alive to God, alert to him, through Jesus Christ our Lord.”
The law is only useful to reveal to us our sin. If we believe in Christ, the law becomes redundant. To follow it makes us of no higher standing with God. We also should not allow ourselves to be bound to any sort of law again. In this regard I’m talk of ‘Christian law’. Laws such as you must have a quiet time every day, attend church once a week, be part of a cell group, tithe, etc. They are great ideas and perhaps the Spirit does want some people to do these, but faithfulness to God looks different in every culture and context and those particular activities very will may not be what God wants people in another culture and context to be doing. We cannot turn Christianity into rules and law. It was founded upon grace and will remain so until Jesus returns.
God’s grace, love, and mercy, is the reason that we are saved. It also compels us to do good and to help mend the world of it’s brokenness. I know that God delights in giving us grace; it not only mends our soul but compels us to do good in the world, thereby we contribute (as a result of grace) to mending the world. We are now completely free because of Christ’s love for us and his actions of death and resurrection. We are free, sanctified, and compelled to obedience and goodness because of God’s grace.
A great book that I would highly recommend on this topic is The Utter Relief of Holiness by John Eldredge.
*My theology is every growing, expanding, and being nurtured, so please be kind if some of my theology is misguided, and please do lovingly correct me.