Let’s start with an excerpt from a blog by Tullian Tchividjian, Pastor of Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church.
I will springboard off of this piece with my comments.
I am sadd ened when the very pack of people that God has unconditionally saved and continues to sustain by his free grace are the very ones who push back most violently against it. Some professing Christians sound like ungrateful children who can’t stop biting the very hand that feeds them. It amazes me that you will hear great concern from inside the church about “too much grace” but rarely will you ever hear great concern from inside the church about “too many rules.” Why? Because we are by nature glory-hoarding, self-centered control freaks. That’s why.
It’s high time for the church to honor God by embracing sola gratia anew–the “high-octane grace that takes our conscience by the scruff of the neck and breathes new life into us with a pardon so scandalous that we cannot help but be changed…For many of us the time has come to abandon once and for all our play-it-safe, toe-dabbling Christianity and dive in” (Dane Ortlund). It is time, as Robert Farrar Capon put it, to get drunk on grace. Two hundred-proof, defiant grace.
It’s scandalous and scary, unnatural and undomesticated…but it’s the only thing that can set us free and light the church on fire.” Tullian T.
It’s high time we admit that our best works fall miserably short of the standards of a holy God. It’s time to stop trying to earn what has already been paid for. Jesus paid it all. That means He gets all the glory, for both our justification (changing our status from sinner to saint) and our sanctification (becoming more like Him). We are mistaken when we think that resting in grace is lazy or unholy. Nothing could be further from the truth. Actually not resting in grace makes me a glory-grabber. We really want to share in the work, so that we can share in the glory. If it’s not all of Him, then I get some of the credit.
I know that it is difficult for us to believe that the Good News of the gospel of grace is enough to move our hearts to do His will, but it is; and it’s the only thing that will. Knowing that I am securely loved and accepted frees me to face the depth of my sin (however horrific it may be), because Jesus took my shame. If we are in self-sanctification (self-improvement) mode, we will naturally start dealing with the surface bad behaviors (immorality, drunkenness, vulgar language), and perfecting our good behaviors (church attendance, Bible study, acts of service), all the while never dealing with the root sins (idolatry, unbelief, pride). Anyone who has ever pulled weeds knows, if you don’t pull the roots, it only takes a good rain and the weeds are back.
These outward works (stopping our bad deeds and doing good ones instead), allow us to appear as mature Christians and live in good standing within the church, without plummeting the depths of our depraved hearts. But sometimes these are simply the effects of fleshly self-discipline motivated by man-pleasing. The fruit of the Spirit featured in Galatians 5 are not behaviors; they are attitudes of a heart transformed by the Holy Spirit. Fruit is not a work. This fruit grows from a heart that has seen the holy law of God, is wrecked by its inability to keep it (the spirit or letter), then realizes that Jesus fulfilled it perfectly – and freely offers us the benefits. That heart will not only have a transformed attitude, but will be motivated toward good works too.
Focusing on what has been done for us rather than what we need to do, projects our vision outward toward Jesus as our only hope. It causes us to focus on “the founder and perfecter of our faith,” rather than ourselves and our efforts. As long as my works are done as a means to earn something (either avoiding punishment or gaining blessings) from God, my works have no value; because I’m not really doing them for God. I’m doing them for me (idolatry). When I realized that good works are not required to be ravished by God’s amazing gracious love, but I do them anyway as an act of worship, they actually begin to have value. “Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. (3) For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God.” Col 3:2-3. It really is ALL about Jesus. Solus Christus.