Sunday, July 19, 2009

Live by Grace, Not Performance

"I write these words at the age of fifty-five. During the past ten or twelve years, I have often—and with greater seriousness than ever before—reflected upon the course of my life. Certain patterns of thought and attitude and conduct have come to light, some of them quite disturbing. I look back upon repeated failures in my efforts to subdue inner conflicts and fears, to combat immaturity and self-centeredness, to build genuine and enriching relationships with other people, to conquer besetting sins, and to grow in holiness and communion with God. I now see that every period in my life has been marked by...struggle. But the persistence of the failures, together with a growing understanding of the past, has made the struggles of recent years exceptionally intense and painful."

- J. Knox Chamblin, Paul and the Self, pp. 11-12, as quoted by Jerry Bridges in The Discipline of Grace, ch. 2, p. 42.

"I am this day seventy years old, a monument of Divine mercy and goodness, though on a review of my life I find much, very much, for which I ought to be humbled in the dust; my direct and positive sins are innumerable, my negligence in the Lord's work has been great. I have not promoted his cause, nor sought his glory and honour as I ought, notwithstanding all this, I am spared till now, and am still retained in his Work, and I trust I am received into the divine favour through him."

- William Carey, in a letter to one of his sons

These words describe the voice of the one for whom conformity to Christ is the sweetest, most desirable thing in the universe. However, human experience in this fallen world will ever fall short of the mark of complete Christlikeness, and the Christian may often be left heartbroken and in despair over sins that daily mar his walk and testimony. The danger of relating to God on the basis of performance then becomes quite apparent.

We must constantly be taking to mind and heart the precious truth that God deals with His children always on the foundation of His unmerited grace. He can justifiably do this for us—for those who have trusted in His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ—by virtue of the fact that Christ has fully satisfied His requirements of having both the penalty of sin paid for and perfect obedience to His law carried out in a sinless righteous life—and these are applied to us as real benefits. Because of our union with Christ, God's grace is assured and we have now, and will have all the days of our earthly lives, all that we need and will ever need to live a life that is pleasing to God, growing in maturity to the attainment of ever-increasing Christlikeness.

But we must desire Christ and continue to desire Him, and the new nature wrought in us by the Holy Spirit does so in a way that is as inevitable as breathing is to the sustenance of physical life.

1 comment:

  1. "A person who struggles with some persistent sin but does so out of love for God is more pleasing to Him than the person who has no such struggle but is proud of his or her self-control."

    - Jerry Bridges, The Discipline of Grace, ch. 7, pp. 123-124


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