God’s Grace ~ Part 12

“Perhaps there is no word in the Bible more precious than Grace.”
~ Rick Countryman, Senior Pastor, Big Valley Grace Community Church
Modesto, Ca.

“Compelled to Live in God’s Grace by Love ~ Part A”

In my last post, we learned how amazing God’s Grace really is. Today, we will consider how we are compelled to live in God’s Grace by love.

In encouraging us to be ministers of reconciliation, Rabbi Sha’ul explains his motivation in proclaiming the Besorah this way: “For Messiah’s love compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all, and therefore all died. And He died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for Him who died for them and was raised again.” ~ 2 Corinthians 5:14-15 (NIV adapted)

We have learned that living by grace instead of by works means we are free from the performance treadmill. It means we don’t have to perform certain spiritual disciplines to earn God’s approval.  Yeshua has already done that for us.  We are loved and accepted by God through the merit of Yeshua and we are blessed by God through the merit of Yeshua.  Nothing we ever do will cause Him to love us any more or any less.  He loves us strictly by His grace.

How does this emphasis on God’s free and sovereign grace make you feel? Does it make you a little nervous?  Does it seem a bit scary to know that nothing you do will ever make God love or bless you anymore than He already does?  Do you think, “Well, if you take the pressure off like that and tell me all of my effort will never earn me one blessing, then I’m afraid I’ll slack off and stop doing the things I need to do to live a disciplined Messianic life?”

The Bible recognizes the possibility that the grace of God can be misunderstood and even abused. It speaks of “ungodly people who pervert God’s Grace into a license for debauchery and disown our only Master and Lord, Yeshua the Messiah. (Jude 4)  Anticipating the question, “Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase?” (Romans 6:1 NIV), it warns us not to use our freedom to indulge the sinful nature (see Galatians 5:13).  All of these passages recognize the possibility that the Bible’s teaching on grace alone is the basis for God’s blessing can be misconstrued as an excuse for indulgent, sinful living.

Sha’ul wrote the entire sixth chapter of Romans to answer the question, “Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase?” Why did he have to deal with such a question?  What had he said to even raise the issue?  His whole teaching to that point in Romans was that justification is by faith in Yeshua alone, culminating in his sweeping statement in Romans 5:20:  “where sin proliferated, grace proliferated even more.”   Sha’ul himself knew that his insistence on the pure grace of God without any ingredient of commitment, discipline or obedience on our part could cause us to misunderstand him.  He knew his readers could respond with this attitude: “Well, if that’s true, let’s go out and sin all we want. The more we sin, the more we cause God’s Grace to abound.”

The grace of salvation is the same grace by which we live the Messianic life. Sha’ul said in Romans 5:2, “We have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand” (emphasis added).  We are not only justified by grace through faith, we stand every day in this same grace.  And just as the preaching of justification by grace is open to misunderstanding, so is the teaching of living by grace.

The solution to this problem is not to add legalism to grace. Rather, the solution is to be so gripped by the magnificence and boundless generosity of God’s Grace that we respond out of gratitude and love rather than out of a sense of duty.

We have loaded down the gospel of the grace of God in Yeshua with a lot of “ought to’s.” “I ought to do this” and “I ought to do that.” “I ought to be more committed, more disciplined, more obedient.” When we think or teach this way, we are substituting duty and obligation for a loving response to God’s Grace.

Let me be very clear at this point. I firmly believe in and seek to practice commitment, discipline, and obedience.  I am thoroughly committed to submission to the Lordship of Yeshua in every area of my life.  And I believe in and seek to practice other commitments that flow out of that basic commitment.  I am committed to my wife “until death do us part.”  I am committed to integrity and fairness in business relationships.  I am committed to seek to act in love toward everyone.  But I am committed in these areas out of a grateful response to God’s Grace, not to try to earn God’s blessings.

Most of my understanding of scriptural truths has come gradually through my personal study and the teaching of pastors and other capable teachers. On a few rare occasions the Lord has been pleased to enlighten my understanding of some aspect of His truth in a rather sudden fashion, like someone turning on a light in a dark room.  I didn’t suddenly learn a new spiritual fact; rather I understood some truth in a new and more scriptural way.  Romans 12:1 came to mind:  “I exhort you, therefore, brothers, in view of God’s mercies, to offer yourselves as a sacrifice, living and set apart for God. This will please him; it is the logical ‘Temple worship’ for you.”

We preach grace to the non-Messianic and duty to the Messianic. As Richard Gilbert has written, “It sometimes seems that there is plenty of grace for you if you are not a Messianic, but when you become a Messianic then there are all sorts of laws you must obey and you feel like you were better off before you were converted.” [1]

How did Sha’ul approach the subject of commitment and discipline? Let’s look again at Romans 12:1.  Sha’ul’s letter to the Romans is the foundation for the Bible’s teaching on salvation.  In that letter the teaching of justification by faith in Yeshua alone is set forth most cogently and completely.  However, Sha’ul wrote the letter to people who were already Believers.  (see Romans 1:7-8, 12)

Now, the fact is we do have a duty and obligation to God.  He is the Sovereign Ruler of this world, and in that capacity, He has “laid down [His] precepts for us to observe with care.” (Psalm 119:4).  He motivates us to obedience, not on the basis of His sovereign rule, but on the basis of His mercy to us in Yeshua.

Submission to the Lordship of Yeshua should be in response to the love and mercy of God. “In view of God’s mercies,” Sha’ul urged the Roman believers to offer their bodies as living sacrifices.  We must respond with a similar motivation to His lordship in our lives today.

Our motivation for commitment, discipline, and obedience is as important to God, perhaps even more so, than our performance.  God searches the heart and understands every motive. To be acceptable to Him, our motives must spring from a love for Him and a desire to glorify Him.  Obedience to God performed from a legalistic motive – that is, a fear of the consequences or to gain favor with God – is not pleasing to God.  Our good works are not truly good unless they are motivated by a love for God and a desire to glorify Him.

Living under the grace of God instead of under a sense of duty frees us from such a self-serving motivation. It frees us to obey God and serve Him as a loving and thankful response to Him for our salvation and for blessings already guaranteed to us by His grace.  Consequently, a heartfelt grasp of God’s Grace – far from creating an indifferent or careless attitude in us – will actually provide us the only motivation that is pleasing to Him.  Only when we are thoroughly convinced that the Messianic life is entirely of grace are we able to serve Him out of a grateful and loving heart.

We will continue to explore how we are compelled to live in God’s Grace by love.

Click here for a PDF version.

[1] As quoted in “Transforming Grace: Living in God’s Unfailing Love” by Jerry Bridges.

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