Anchored in Grace

Hello, my friends!

Today I want to take a bit of a wander through the wonderful truth of the grace we have in Christ Jesus. So often in Christian circles, we can hear grace being mentioned, but sadly it's frequently mixed with law and legalism, it’s far more common than not. The sad reality is that much of the church still operates from an old covenant mindset, a works mindset, rather than embracing the glorious new covenant we have been ushered into by our Lord Jesus Christ.

You see, grace is the way God relates to us now – it's how He sees us and interacts with us. But religion, which is really just self-effort cloaked in spiritual language, tries to pull us back under law and legalism. Legalism says our works, our behaviour, our spiritual performance is the basis for God's acceptance and blessing. But grace declares we are already fully accepted and qualified for every spiritual blessing because of Jesus' finished work on the cross (Rom 5:17)!

Under legalism, the focus is all on self – what I can do, how I measure up. But grace shifts that focus entirely onto Jesus and what He has already done. You could say legalism pulls in the opposite direction to the cross, trying to get us to pay for that which Christ has already paid in full (Rom 7:1-4).

One major misconception is that the law will actually help us live a better life. But Paul exposes this as a deception – the law arouses sinful desires within us and ultimately produces death, because it relies on our own fleshly, human efforts (Rom 7:5, 7:8, 7:11, 8:3). Legalists have the will to do what's right but not the ability, because the law's power base is the weak and unreliable flesh (Rom 7:18).

Another lie is that we need to balance grace with law – that grace alone isn't enough. But God doesn't do “balance”, He does pure grace. Trying to mix law and grace is asking for a toxic mixture. The moment we add works to grace, Paul says, it is no longer grace (Rom 11:6, Gal 5:4). For grace to be effective it must remain radical and unmixed.

Some think grace licences people to just sin MORE – that if there are no rules or standards, believers will run amok in ungodliness. But this couldn't be further from the truth! Grace never encourages sin; in fact it is the only thing that can free us from sin's dominion over our lives. Grace trains us to renounce ungodliness and to live soberly, righteously and godly (Rom 6:14, Titus 2:11-14).

Then there's the idea that while we believe in grace, we still have a part to play – as if Christ's work wasn't quite enough on its own. But our only “part” is to believe in the One God has sent, Jesus Christ. The just live by faith alone in Him and His finished work (John 6:29, Gal 2:20).

Finally, there's the lie that although God's grace is free, there's still a price to pay to experience His blessings. This cannot be! We have already been blessed with every spiritual blessing in Christ. The price was paid in full at Calvary. Now all things are freely given to us because of Jesus (Eph 1:3, Rom 8:32).

The truth is religion and legalism can never produce the life Jesus paid for us to have. Only by resting in His grace, focusing on His finished work rather than our works, can we experience the freedom and empowered living He died to give us.

Grace reigns through righteousness, my brothers and sisters (Rom 5:21)! Our righteous standing before God has nothing to do with our behaviour and everything to do with being joined to Christ's own righteousness. When I was joined to Adam's line, I was made a sinner – but now I'm joined to the Second Adam, Jesus, and He is my righteousness (1 Cor 1:30)! Therefore I am a saint, who sometimes sins.

That's why under grace, I'm not forever trying to establish my own righteousness through ritual and rules. Christ is my righteousness, so I'm free to simply believe and receive from Him everything I need for life and godliness (2 Pet 1:3). Now that’s true freedom!

Religion wants me focused on my insufficiency, always striving to make up the shortfall through duties and devotions. But grace has me focused on Christ's unlimited sufficiency! In Him, I lack no good thing (Ps 34:10). In Him, I'm complete, lacking nothing (Col 2:10). What a glorious reality to live from!

Too many Christians are weighed down by burdens Christ never intended them to bear. Feelings of guilt, shame, inadequacy – these are all symptoms of being under law rather than securely established in grace. We weren't created to strive and struggle, but to simply abide and receive the abundant life Jesus purchased for us.

It's like being a branch in the vine of Christ. As long as we're connected to the Vine, remaining in Him, the life flows! You cannot be disconnected from the vine, for you are in Christ, you are grafted in, and that is an eternal state. The fruit comes naturally and supernaturally as we rest in the Vine and let His divine energy course through us (John 15:5). We don’t produce fruit; we bear the fruit God produces in us and through us.

But if we disconnect from the Vine through unbelief, thinking we have to produce fruit through our own efforts, we'll wither somewhat spiritually. And what is disconnection? It’s not detachment, as many would preach, because this is impossible; you are part of the body of Christ. Jesus can’t and won’t chop off part of His own body. This would make God out to be a liar, and forfeit the wonderful promises He made to you, including to never leave you nor forsake you, amen! Disconnection is really just being distracted, taking your eyes off the Shepherd, taking your eyes off the One who loves you so dearly, and leads you each and every day—that is, if you let Him, as many Christians don’t! Our call is to just abide and let His resurrection life pump through us continually, after all, it is His life we are living, His wonderful and glorious life!

So let me encourage you today, my friends – look to Jesus, the author and perfecter of your faith! Fix your eyes and your hope fully on His grace. He is more than enough! He has qualified you, enabled you, and enriched you in Himself. You don't need to strive to become something more – you just need to believe you already are everything He died to make you.

When you embrace this grace reality, genuine good works and fruitfulness will naturally overflow from that place of rest, not from a sense of duty or desperation. You'll find yourself bearing fruit in your life more abundantly than ever before, but not by your own efforts – by His grace working within you both to will and to do of His good pleasure (Phil 2:13).

My prayer for you and for myself today is that we would increasingly understand the breadth, length, height, and depth of God's love for us in Christ – a love that transcends all knowledge, so we may be filled with all the fullness of God (Ephesians 3:18-19). May the Lord open our eyes to see more clearly the abundance of His grace and the gift of righteousness we have received in Christ (Romans 5:17).

And in those moments when we feel unworthy or are tempted to look to our own self-efforts, may we remember these words: “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast” (Ephesians 2:8-9). For in Christ, we are new creations – the old has gone, the new has come! (2 Corinthians 5:17).

So be encouraged, my brothers and sisters! God's grace is sufficient for you. Let that truth burn brightly in your heart, for it is by grace you have been saved. Thanks be to God for His indescribable gift as you bask more deeply in the grace wherein you stand (Rom 5:2). You are loved, you are accepted, you are complete in Christ. Let His grace reign through righteousness in your life!