"Amazing grace, how sweet the sound that saved a wretch like me! I once was lost, but now I'm found, was blind but now I see."
— John Newton
God's grace is undeserved and lavish, and when we grasp its truth and power, we are transformed with gratitude, freed from the power of sin, and given a fullness of joy. The young Martin Luther was known to make confession every 20 seconds; such was his grief over sin. He would exit confession, have a sinful thought, and go right back in. He was miserable and tormented until he came to understand the grace of God through his reading of scripture. He was so liberated by the Word of God that he led a movement to reform the Church, so that generations of others could also have a complete picture of God's grace.
Grace is life changing. You do not have to jump through hoops to get to Christ because His grace is free. Paul writes, "For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith — and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God — not by works, so that no one can boast" (Ephesians 2:7-9). You are not saved by God's grace plus keeping external rituals, rules or practices. This truth has liberated countless men and women since the early days of the Church, freeing them to pursue God with love, not legalism.
But some may wonder how works fit into this equation. Because of God's grace, given freely, are we given license to break the commandments? Paul answers this very question in Romans with an emphatic, "By no means!" (Romans 6:15). It is clear from a study of God's Word that those who are saved by grace will keep the law — both to the letter and to its spirit. You won't kill, but you also won't hate, which is the first step toward killing. Once you have received the love and grace of God, you will not only refrain from coveting your neighbor's property, you will have a growing desire to give sacrificially of your life and resources.
Do you remember the rich young ruler from Matthew 19? He came to Jesus and asked him how he could earn salvation. Jesus told him to keep the commandments but when the young man confessed that he had kept them all, Jesus was able to see the covetousness of the man's heart. When told to sell everything that he had and follow Jesus, the young ruler went away sad because he knew he couldn't conform to the spirit of the law. People may be able to keep some part of the external law but deep down they must contend with hate, pride, anger, greed and envy. Only grace changes our hearts.
When you are saved by grace alone, the Holy Spirit of God comes in to dwell on the inside of you and He empowers you to do the impossible. He will help you fulfill God's desire and make you what God wants you to be.
God wants to free us up to serve, sacrifice, love, give, and obey Him. External laws don't permeate every part of your being, but living in God's grace requires daily intimacy and openness to the Holy Spirit. He makes you conscious of what is left undone, calls you to walk in humility, forbids you to put on a social mask, and calls you to a correct view of God.
If you want to live in power and victory, explore and invest in the overwhelming grace of God through His Son Jesus Christ.
Excerpted from My Journal, a monthly devotional magazine from Leading The Way with Dr. Michael Youssef.
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