“Perhaps the most difficult task for us to perform is to rely on God’s grace and God’s grace alone for our salvation. It is difficult for our pride to rest on grace. Grace is for other people – for beggars. We don’t want to live by a heavenly welfare system. We want to earn our own way and atone for our own sins. We like to think that we will go to heaven because we deserve to be there.” (R. C. Sproul)
A couple weeks ago I mentioned that there are three main tendencies that can draw our hearts away from “gospel-centered living.” They are…
- Legalism: Basing our relationship with God on our own performance.
- Condemnation: Being more focused on our sin than on God’s grace.
- Subjectivism: Basing our view of God on our changing feelings and emotions.
I want to focus our attention again this week on the first of these three tendencies: legalism.
Let me try and sum up in a single sentence the difference between living a “legalism-driven” life as opposed to a “gospel-driven” life.
Now that you and I are followers of Jesus Christ, we are to live our lives…
from acceptance rather than for acceptance!
Two different words can make all the difference in the world…“from” or “for.”
As I’ve said so many times before, God accepts us strictly by His grace through the merit of Jesus Christ alone. Some people immediately say, “Paul, such an unqualified statement about the love of God sounds exceedingly dangerous.” I mean, after all, doesn’t this leave me open to the charge of saying in effect that God doesn’t care whether you sin or not.
Before I answer that question, let me have you consider the alternative:
“God loves you if you are obedient and doesn’t love you if you are disobedient. Since God’s love is conditioned on obedience and you are never perfectly obedient, God never loves you perfectly or accepts you completely.”
Such a bold description of the all-too-common works/merit way of thinking about our relationship with God puts the issue into clear focus.
We are accepted by God, not only in salvation but also in our present relationship with Him, either on the merit of Jesus Christ or on the basis of our own performance.
So, are we to conclude, then, that since we are saved by grace and fully loved and accepted by God, that He doesn’t care whether we sin or not?
The answer to that is found in Paul’s letter to the Romans, chapter 6 and verse 2, “By no means!” The exact question and answer that Paul gives is this:
“What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? By no means!”
Or as one commentator said, “The force of the Greek text in verse 2 could be properly translated as “Hell no!”
A person who is genuinely saved will not want to abuse God’s grace and live a life of persistent sin (without strong conviction of the Holy Spirit)!
Anyone who thinks, “Since God’s love is not conditioned on my obedience, I am free to live as I please,” is not living by grace, nor does he understand grace. What he perceives as grace is really a caricature of grace.
Let me wrap up by simply saying this: Our love for God, expressed through obedience to Him, is to be a response to His love, not a means of trying to earn it.
Let me encourage you this week to live your life from acceptance rather than for acceptance!