It’s Monday Grace!
Several years ago, my wife was explaining the concept of God’s love and grace to a woman who had been a believer for many years. The woman believed, as so many do, that the law was central in the Christian life and working hard to please God was the goal. When she heard the message that God accomplishes in us all that He wants accomplished, that our primary goal is to walk in His presence and love, she replied:
“Well, that’s nice. That’s basic.”
In other words, that was a doctrine for babes in Christ. Mature believers understood the burden of the law and focused on their performance.
Perhaps childhood was the only good time in this woman’s life. Now, as an adult, she knew that life was hard and usually frustrating. She was one of those who believed that the will of God was most often the most difficult way. Suffering was the only real test of being in the will of God.
“This message of grace is a children’s story!”
I wish! I wish that all children could grow up knowing that Jesus loves them, that they cannot become good enough on their own, and that Jesus gives all that is necessary as we come to Him in faith.
I wish that all new believers would be taught from the beginning that grace is the work of God on their behalf emanating from His amazing love. I wish new believers would be taught the continued futility of trying to live the Christian life on their own as a process of bettering themselves in order to be fully accepted and loved by God. If “babes in Christ” understood the work of the Lord in and through and for them, they would become fully mature and alive.
But, I understand. Paul used this term as a negative, didn’t he?
“And I, brethren, could not speak to you as to spiritual people but as to carnal, as to babes in Christ.” (1 Corinthians 3:1, NKJV)
The legalist says that carnal people, babes in Christ, need the solid food of the law, the hard message of the struggle of the Christian life. He laments the soft message of love the grace teachers bring.
“For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the first principles of the oracles of God; and you have come to need milk and not solid food. For everyone who partakes only of milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, for he is a babe. But solid food belongs to those who are of full age, that is, those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil.” (Hebrews 5:12–14, NKJV)
But let me flip this right-side up. Carnal people, people who follow the flesh, are performance-focused. They believe their works will be the criteria by which they are judged. That’s what they were taught by their life apart from the Lord. That’s what they learned from the time they were babies. Now, as adults, they still think the same thing. They think of themselves as wise and superior because their performance is hard work.
That is neither the message of the cross nor the proper focus of the Christian life. As we grow in grace, we should be growing away from the law and from performance. Not that we should be more willing to sin, but that we should understand that Jesus is our whole life. When our heart focus is Jesus alone, in contrast to the flesh’s focus on the world and self-pleasure, then we are mature in Christ.
The proper focus of the Christian life is Jesus, not our works or our doctrine or our behavior. Those things fall into place as we walk with Jesus. That’s what mature believers understand.
“Not that I have already attained, or am already perfected; but I press on, that I may lay hold of that for which Christ Jesus has also laid hold of me. Brethren, I do not count myself to have apprehended; but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. Therefore let us, as many as are mature, have this mind; and if in anything you think otherwise, God will reveal even this to you. Nevertheless, to the degree that we have already attained, let us walk by the same rule, let us be of the same mind.” (Philippians 3:12–16, NKJV)
Paul is not suggesting that we are to run the race in order to win, but that we are to focus on the prize that is already ours as we go through our days, that for which Christ has “laid hold” of us. We run as winners, looking forward to the end. We are not at the end, have not “apprehended,” but all the striving and sweating and frustration are behind us now. Those who are mature have Christ in mind and heart. We receive what He has done for us. We enjoy Who He is in our lives. We look forward to being separated from this world and with Him forever. He is our prize. He is enough.