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Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Do's and Don'ts or Grace?

Illustration by: 89studio

Where's the balance between grace and legalism?

The word grace is a biblical concept that speaks of God’s actions and favor toward undeserving people. Grace encompasses salvation (Jesus dying for sin and rising again). It speaks of provision and blessing.

Does grace cover every failing, every mistake, every sin?

Or, is God interested in His people following a list of do’s and don’ts? Is there such a list? If we need to do certain things in order to be “good Christians,” what happens if we mess up--when we mess up? Is that when grace kicks in?

When Jesus died for sin, He died for all the sins of the world. And he is the propitiation (payment) for our sins: and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world (1 John 2:2). This means that any person can be saved and that Christ’s payment was sufficient.

When a soul calls out to the Lord Jesus Christ for salvation, he's forgiven, the Holy Spirit indwells him, and the Spirit begins the work of sanctification--transforming him to the image of Christ. Being confident of this very thing, that he which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ (Philippians 1:6).

God is working in this process of grace, helping us to grow day by day. Part of this work is His, and part depends on us. Romans 12:1-2: I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service. And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God. Jesus said, If ye love me, keep my commandments (John 14:15). 

So, what about the supposed “list” and the grace of God in our lives? Are they compatible? Do we need a “list” at all?

Yes . . . and no.

God has given us clear guidelines for faith and practice: 
  • The Ten Commandments, God’s moral law. (Exodus 20:3-17; Deuteronomy 5:6-21)
  • The new commandment in Christ: A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another (John 13:34).
  • Sound biblical doctrine 
  • Church policies as outlined in the New Testament

Jesus warned against “Phariseeism,” looking at works more than on heart attitude. He told the parable about the Pharisee and the publican to illustrate that idea. (Luke 18:10-14). 

The believer’s works back up his profession of faith in Jesus. Even so faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone. Yea, a man may say, Thou hast faith, and I have works: shew me thy faith without thy works, and I will shew thee my faith by my works. Thou believest that there is one God; thou doest well: the devils also believe, and tremble. But wilt thou know, O vain man, that faith without works is dead? (James 2:17-20).

We demonstrate our faith by our works.

We are not “better Christians” because we do everything on a list. We are not “worse Christians” if we have a different list. 

But . . . 

We are better Christians if we strive to follow the Bible and try to obey what we know the Bible commands. We are better Christians if we’re actively in the process of transforming our minds through the Word of God. We are better Christians if we’re praying without ceasing. We get to know God better as we learn more about Him and communicate more with Him. As our relationship with God becomes more intimate, we grow spiritually. When we feed ourselves on the Bible, we grow spiritually. When our actions add up with our profession, we are living as God wants us to.

What does the Bible say? Jesus said we’re to keep His commandments. So did the Apostle John, For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments: and his commandments are not grievous (1 John 5:3).

We’re accountable to God for what we do. But I say unto you, That every idle word that men shall speak, they shall give account thereof in the day of judgment (Matthew 12:36). So then every one of us shall give account of himself to God (Romans 14:12). Moreover it is required in stewards, that a man be found faithful (1 Corinthians 4:2).

Lists of do’s and don’ts aren’t helpful. Many times, they include traditions and preferences instead of biblical commands. Here are a few examples: eating organic, grinding your own flour, abstaining from caffeine, rearing children a certain prescribed way, homeschooling, specific styles for modesty, not cutting women’s hair . . . . The “list” goes on and on! (You have Christian liberty to choose how you want to live and eat. These things are all fine, but they’re not specifically prescribed by the Bible.)

The Word of God is our guidebook. The Bible will teach you each day. For the word of God is quick (living), and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart (Hebrews 4:12). It’s a living Book!

Throw away the “list,” and get into the Bible! When your heart desires to please God, your life will show it. 

Blessed are the undefiled in the way, who walk in the law of the LORD.
 Blessed are they that keep his testimonies, 
and that seek him with the whole heart.
  They also do no iniquity: they walk in his ways.
 Thou hast commanded us to keep thy precepts diligently.
 O that my ways were directed to keep thy statutes!
 Then shall I not be ashamed, when I have respect unto all thy commandments. 
(Psalm 119:1-6)

 But whoso looketh into the perfect law of liberty, 
and continueth therein, he being not a forgetful hearer, 
but a doer of the work, this man shall be blessed in his deed.
 (James 1:25)

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