In 1517 Martin Luther posted his 95 thesis declaring salvation by grace through faith. Today the church desperately needs a second reformation of sanctification by grace. Christians are chained to a treadmill of trying to please God by their behavior, of trying harder and sinning less. If they can just discipline themselves enough and be determined enough, they are deceived into thinking they can become righteous and holy and be close to God and He will be pleased. Grace tells us that our relationship and intimacy with our Father in heaven is no longer dependent upon our behavior...or lack there of. Grace tells us we no longer have to strive to become righteous, because He has given us a new nature that is righteous. Grace tells us that it is the only thing powerful enough to deal with our sin. Grace tells us that God is already head-over-heels in love with us and nothing we do can change that. Welcome to "Formed by Grace."

Friday, April 30, 2010

Is God a Pirate That Can Never be Pleased?

This past week I had the priviledge of spending time with my friend John Lynch. John is one of the best teachers I know on the topic of grace. In this short 3 minute video clip he talks about the futility of trying to do in the flesh what only God can do by his Spirit in me.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Is Grace Opposed to Effort?

NO! Grace is not opposed to is opposed to earning! But a word of caution, as believers trapped in the prison of performance, we can have a lot of misdirected effort that does us no good. Effort that keeps us immature. More on that later. For now - remember, nothing we do ever makes God our debtor.

Monday, April 26, 2010

"Sow an act...reap a character" theology!

A friend asked about Colossians 3:12, "Put on then, as God's chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassion, kindness, humility, meekness..." Can this be read through a lens of grace rather than moralistic effort? Good question. I read this verse wrong for years. I pictured it as meaning I should go to the closet, "put on" some clothes and behaviors that really are not me, and if I practice them long enough, I will become like my behavior. Somehow my behavioral efforts of acting kind will seep into me and I will be transformed into a kind person. This is the "sow an act - reap a habit, sow a habit - reap a character"theology! And it is wrong. It requires nothing redemptive.

What if this new nature I have, that God describes as righteous and holy, means that the DNA of kindness is already in me! What if this was an exhortation to let what is already true about me come to the surface so others could see it and experience it? What if I don't have to try to become someone different from who I am, but I just need to live out of who God has already made me to be?

Friday, April 23, 2010

" holy in all your conduct..."

I Peter 1:15 tells us to "be holy in all your conduct..." For years I read this to mean my conduct created holiness. Get "right and wrong" right, behave right - and then I will be holy. But what if I already am holy because God gave me a new nature that is righteous and holy? Could this then not be directions on how to become holy, but rather a description of how to express the holiness I already have?

Thursday, April 22, 2010

A New Ability to Obey

God in his grace has not only given me a new motivation to obey, but a new ability to obey. That ability begins with Him giving me a new heart that is righteous and holy. Ephesians 4:23 tells me that this new nature I have is created after the likeness of God, in true righteousness and holiness. Now I no longer obey to become righteous and holy, rather my obedience is the evidence of what God has already done in me. I can stop striving to become someone and something different from who I though I could do that! What if my behavior did not create holiness, but was the result of holiness?

Thursday, April 15, 2010

My Motivation for Obedience

When I become a Christian, what I am doing is trusting in the sinless life of Christ and the punishment of Christ as the basis of my relationship with God instead of my behavior, my effort, my trying harder. And then, just as I am depending on the life and death of Christ for a relationship with God, so God is depending on the life and death of Christ for a relationship with me! He sees Christ's sinless life as mine and Christ's punishment as mine and so is as pleased with me as He is with his son. He declares me to be righteous.

For this we are thankful...deeply thankful. We express this thanks regularly. Many would say this is why we obey...we obey because we are so thankful. Our motivation is rooted in a feeling, in an attitude.

I believe we have a more significant and reliable source of obedience...and that is a transformed heart. Romans 6:17 talks about how we are not who we used to be, slaves to sin, but now we "have become obedient from the heart." (ESV) We have a heart that can obey and wants to obey. Obedience is no longer just rooted in a thankful attitude, but in a new heart!

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Can I trust my heart?

The first verse I memorized once I finished The Navigators' Topical Memory System during my sophomore year of college was Jeremiah 17:9, "The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately corrupt; who can understand it?" I don't remember why I memorized it and I wish I never did because for the next thirty years I used that verse as a template for understanding my heart! For thirty years I distrusted my heart and would not listen to it...after all it could not be trusted. It was deceitful and misleading.

Now I know better. Jeremiah 17:9 does not describe the heart of a believer. It does not describe my heart. When I trusted Christ I was given a new and transformed heart. Romans 6:17 (ESV) describes it as a heart that can and wants to obey. Ephesians 4:23 describes my new nature as "created after the likeness of God, in true righteousness and holiness." This is why being out from under the law and being released from the law does not result in me running wild and sinning more. I have a heart that does not want to do that...can't imagine doing that. I do not have to be afraid of the freedom that Christ set me free for!

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

For many, grace is just a theology that they believe. Romans 5:2 tells us that grace is an environment that we live in and experience...and so grace is not just a doctrine we believe, that we proclaim and explains how we became a Christian. When grace is simply a proclamation, we get life all wrong. Grace is something I continue to experience and is the foundation of my sanctification, of my growing in Christ, of my becoming mature.

"Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand..." Romans 5:1,2