02 March 2005

Completely Graceful

Grace has been on my mind lately. It is so much more than just something that gets you in the door to the redemptive benefits of Christian-dom. On the contrary, grace is the singularly essential and comprehensive action of God in Jesus Christ that enables the entirety of the Christian life. In studying Galations it becomes clear that the gospel is the good news of the indwelling action of the living Lord Jesus, rather than legalistic, performance-oriented religion. Realizing this is both liberating, and challenging. Alright, so maybe at first I'm a little more excited about having my behind saved eternally, but being pragmatic at the core, I find huge comfort in the life altering impact of the Spirit.

Jesus declared from the cross, "It is finished!" (John 19:30). This was a triumphant proclamation of the completed accomplishment. It was the conclusion of everything required to restore man to God. Nothing more will every need to be performed for He accomplished everything required.

Intrinsicly (or positionally as some writers would say) Christians know this. Or at least they should, it's kind of the point. The reality of our inability, inadequacy, and insufficiency (II Cor. 3:5), renders every person guilty (James 2:10) of violating the Law's commands. Legalistic behaviors will never overcome the earthly, self-seeking desires of the flesh (Col. 2:23). I do not have within myself the ability to generate or attain the divine character as demanded by the Law. Religion inevitably settles for insincere and fundamentally inconsistent pretensions of hypocrisy (Gal. 2:13). They allow the legalist to "pick and choose" the rules and regulations to which they will adhere. Usually this is followed by token efforts to abide by such in their public performance when others are observing (Matt. 23:2-5).

In contrast to these ridiculous religious rules, Paul exclaims, "But may it never be that I should boast, except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ,..." This rejection of self-serving religion is expressed repeatedly. The critical concept being that all that we have and do as Christians is only received by faith. It is shown by our receptivity of His activity, and not by any Law performance on our part (Rom. 3:27,28). So, "let him who boasts, boast in the Lord" (I Cor. 1:31; II Cor. 10:17), for "Christ has become to us righteousness and sanctification" (I Cor. 1:30). Like all such liberating positions the completeness doesn't stop here. You aren't just positionally freed; you are also behaviorly changed.

When Paul addresses the "finished work" (Jn. 19:30) of Christ he reveals its complete and unrepeatable nature. Jesus Christ in death did triumphantly and victoriously exercise His resurrection power (Rom. 1:4) and enable the outpouring of His Spirit (Acts 2:4). It was this work that allows all of humanity to be restored to God's creational intent. It was this death that opened the way for believers to receive the Spirit which allows for behavioral change. Both Paul, and John later, affirmed that "greater is He who is in me, than he who is in the world" (I Jn. 4:4). This definitively sets down the mechanism by which our positional rightness and our behavioral rightness are synchronized without contradiction to our humanity. Paul explains "in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision means anything, but faith working through love" (Gal. 5:6). It is the receptivity to God's activity and the indwelling of the Spirit whereby we derive righteous character from Jesus Christ, the Righteous One (Acts 3:14; 7:52; 22:14; I Jn. 2:1).

As Christians we become servants and heirs of God. We are bestowed with spiritual blessings. Spiritually we are alive unto God, in the world we are dead to sin. We have been forgiven and declared righteous. Our citizenship in Heaven frees us from the Law. We are set free from the power of sin and granted peace and rest. We are led by the Holy Spirit.

That is quite a list. It's easy to dismiss them as just lofty goals or put them off as something we'll become...someday...or in heaven. Nothing could be further from the truth. For every one of those statements about our position, there is a corresponding behavior we are to follow. Here are some examples (paraphrased for flow):
- We are forgiven, act like it and don't live in guilt.
- We are heirs of God, act like one of God's children.
- We have been declared righteous, live righteously.
- We are led by Spirit, so follow closely.
- We are given spiritual blessings, use them.

I have to remind myself of the completeness of grace every day. Which I guess goes to show that because I am human change is still a process.

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