I once heard a preacher say that he was 90% grace and 10% law. He was, of course, concerned about the behavior of those who claimed they were under grace. It fascinates me that so many people are so concerned about behavior in the lives of those who trust in Christ alone for life.
Frankly, I haven’t seen all that much difference between the behavior of those who claim the sufficiency of Christ and that of those who say that we must maintain our salvation by our behavior. We who know that we are under grace still struggle against the flesh and the ways of the world. We still do things the Lord calls sin. And law hasn’t really helped behavior throughout the centuries, has it? It seems to me that legalists are just as compromised as we are.
Behavior isn’t the issue. The issue is life. The grace message says that life does not come through good behavior but through the love of God in Jesus. The grace message says that we can add nothing to nor take anything away from the work of Jesus on our behalf. In other words, we are saved, and kept saved, by His behavior, not ours.
The message we reject is the one that suggests we need to watch ourselves or else we will lose the gift Jesus has given us. If we do certain wrong things we may wake up one day and find ourselves on the outside. We reject the idea that anyone has to maintain his own salvation by his behavior or add to the work of Jesus in order to be “really saved.” We reject the idea that some people are more saved than others on the basis of their good works. We reject the idea that saved people walk through life with sin yet to be forgiven or washed from their lives. We reject those things because we believe Scripture rejects them.
Are there people in the grace community who think that sin isn’t a big deal? I suppose. But saying that there is no sin on the account of a believer is not the same as saying that sin isn’t a big deal. Anyone who has read my writings should know that I teach sin is always hurtful and always foolish. God does hate sin and that’s because He love us. Sin hurts us.
And, again, the problem of sin is not a grace issue. Under the law, people continue to struggle with sin. Who could deny that?
The difference, of course, is that those who are under grace walk forward through their lives with the knowledge of God’s love and forgiveness. We don’t have to look over our shoulders, wondering whether we have done enough or been careful enough. We can trust the finished work of Jesus.
Listen: If my behavior will keep me out of Heaven, then I am doomed. You are too. My salvation has to be completely outside of me, because there is nothing of me that can earn it or keep it. I am being transformed in my thinking, but I continue to look to the flesh for my responses in life. I find that I walk in the Spirit more and more; but, if perfect behavior is required, I’m not going to make it.
So if it is grace plus behavior/law, then what percentage is necessary? Is it 90% grace and 10% behavior? Is it 99% what Jesus does and 1% what I do? Maybe 99.9% a free gift of God’s love and .1% a work of my flesh?
No. No one is good enough to earn .1 % or even .001%. The stain of sin runs throughout my flesh, even after I come to Jesus. The flesh is what remains of my old thinking, built and damaged by years apart from the Lord. If my hope is built on grace plus any amount of good from my flesh, there is no hope.
When you examine the objections people bring against the message of grace, you will almost always find a desire to place some level of trust in the work of the flesh. They will almost always say that we still have to behave ourselves or else. Even those who don’t say what the “else” is, steal hope from the believer. And if hope fades, victory fades.
Victory in the Christian life, even victory in behavior, comes from the assurance that the work of Jesus is sufficient and permanent in our lives. Sin is a defeated enemy. It no longer identifies us, controls us, or condemns us. In those times when I do something sinful, I can get up and move forward again in the certain knowledge of the love and grace of Jesus Christ.
That’s the message of grace!