I love how when God teaches you something, He repeats the lesson over and over again! I mentioned in my post this past Sunday a great sermon. The one point I mentioned (not the only one that I took away from the sermon!) was that as Christians, we often forget that we are sanctified by grace, not by works. It’s all too true! I have tried so many times to change myself just by my own power. It usually lasts for a little while, then I fall back into the same old habits. But when God changes something in us, it is lasting.
So, I mentioned that God repeats His lessons to us… Last night I was looking for something to read. I went to the bookshelf with a particular book in mind, but couldn’t find it. I did find a book that I started reading about a year ago and never finished, Transforming Grace by Jerry Bridges. I remembered that at the time I had really enjoyed the book, but life took over and the book got relegated to the bookshelf. I picked it up and found my bookmark still in it, so I began reading there. To my great surprise, the fourth paragraph stated this:
All Christians recognize that we are justified — that is declared righteous — solely on the basis of the righteousness of Christ imputed to us by God through faith (see Romans 3:21-25). But few of us fully recognize that we are also sanctified through faith in Christ.
p. 122 (emphasis added)
When I hear/read the same spiritual lesson more than once, I figure that it must be time to listen up! Sanctification by grace, not my work. OK, I’ve got it. I think. Well, maybe just in my head. Is it in my heart?
Bridges goes on to talk about living in the old way of the law versus the new way of the Spirit.
But now we are released from the law, having died to that which held us captive, so that we serve in the new way of the Spirit and not in the old way of the written code.
Romans 7:6 (emphasis added)
He uses five contrasts, but there were two that really hit home for me. The first is obedience in order to win favor with God vs. obedience out of gratitude for favor already given. Right now, I’m still on a spiritual high and obedience is out of joy for what He has done. I cannot say that this is typical of my life, though. For years I have tried to gain God’s favor through good works. Yesterday I said that I’m realizing daily how completely shame has covered me and I believe that this is another example. I couldn’t accept that God would just accept me, so I had to fight and struggle to win some acceptance and favor — despite knowing that I stand fully justified before Him. My obedience was out of fear, not gratitude.
The second contrast is working from a position of weakness vs. relying solely on His perfect righteousness and therefore working from a position of strength.
But he said to me, My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness. Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.
2 Corinthians 12:9
So I don’t have to work to be accepted. I already am. And the grace that accepts me is the grace that gives me the strength to walk in obedience to Him.
Do you try to obey by your own sheer will and determination, or do you rely on the Spirit daily for His power to enable you to obey?
Bridges, p. 134
In my flesh, I will try to obey by my own will. But He has given me a new way — the way of the Spirit. By His grace, I will be inclined, empowered, and given strength to walk in obedience! And that makes me want to dance all the more!