April Fool's Day
Ken Duncan - Photographer

Amazing Grace

FreedomOfGrace Our theme for April at our church is the Freedom of Grace. During the month, and especially over the Easter weekend, we will take time to reflect on the amazing grace that God has and continues to show to this world. We will also read through the letter to the Galatians written by the Apostle Paul, the apostle of grace.

Paul tells us that we are saved by grace through faith, not by our own works but once we are saved the natural overflow of God’s life in us should be good works done for the glory of God and the benefit of others (Ephesians 2:8-10). The Old Covenant was ‘DO and LIVE’ – if you can just do everything right you will know true life. The New Covenant is ‘LIVE and DO’ - because of what Christ has already done for you, do what is right, not ‘in order to’ be forgiven and accepted, but ‘because you already are’ forgiven and accepted. This truly is good news!

When we try to keep the law we soon realise that we will never earn God’s approval. It is impossible. So we need to stop trying and see our old self as dead – crucified with Christ. We should live now by trusting in the Son of God and allowing him to live his life through us. If we try to be saved by keeping the law we are treating the ‘grace of God’ as meaningless. As it stands, grace is how we are saved and accepted by God. That’s why Christ died.

We need to move out of ‘performance orientation’. We will never reach a place where we live such a perfect life that God accepts us because we’ve been totally good. We are sinners and we sin because of our old nature. God loves and accepts us as a free act of his grace. We need to place our faith in Christ and stop trying to measure up through our self-effort and good behaviour. We can receive his forgiveness and righteousness today then begin to let Christ live his life through us.

Here are some excellent books on the topic of grace:

  • The Grace Awakening by Charles Swindoll
  • What's So Amazing about Grace? by Philip Yancey
  • Healing Grace: Finding Freedom from the Performance Trap by David Seamands
  • Transforming Grace: Living Confidently in God's Unfailing Love by Gerald Bridges

    "May God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ give you grace and peace. Jesus gave his life for our sins, just as God our Father planned, in order to rescue us from this evil world in which we live. All glory to God forever and ever! Amen.” [Gal 1:3-5. NLT]

  • Comments

    Brilliant move, from John to Galatians - a clear contrast between Jesus' death on the cross that set us free from enslavement to sin and legalism.

    I'm glad I'm good enough for God, warts & all : )

    The opening sentence says Freedom FROM Grace whereas the logo up the top says Freedom OF Grace:)

    Hey John. Good pick up. Just saw it myself. All fixed now. My mistake. Enjoy your day!

    No worries. Wasn't being picky, just 'gracious'...(ok I haven't had my coffee yet)

    I think the 4th paragraph of Mark’s post should be made into fridge magnets as a reminder to deprogram our modern Christian mindsets from the tyranny of performance orientated Christian living, which a subtle variety of unconscious works-based salvation.

    Remember, we don’t only GET SAVED by grace but also STAY SAVED by grace “He will keep you strong to the end, so that you will be blameless on the day of our Lord Jesus Christ.” (1 Cor 1:8)

    I would like to hear from some others what they would regard ‘performance orientation’. I have my thoughts, but I’d be interested in hearing from others.

    Anyone???

    Hi John from Brisvegas,

    I suppose someone who has a performance orientation would be involved in many ministries or areas of the church community and equating this to righteousness and being acceptable before God. The real question is motive and state of a persons heart in doing all that they do. If they performed many tasks for the church with a stinking attutide then it is pointless. God sees the condition of the heart and for that matter the mind. It amazes me how many people can fool themselves and think that God can also be fooled. Do people realise how thoroughly "naked" (not physcial) they are before God? Every thought and sin is so clear to our creator. We really do need HIS grace. The times I have felt closest to God was not in the physical doing but in prayer and meditation. At these times I had a greater sense of my own sin. It is only in drawing close to God that we realise how distant we really are. Doing "stuff" is no substitute for reaching out for intimacy with God.

    Thanks for your thoughts RP.

    You said that you had a greater sense of your own sin when in prayer in meditation. So did Isaiah (Isaiah 6:5), so you’re up there with ‘good company’. I must admit that the holiness of God comes to me with greater force when I’m in some serious prayer mode. The realisation of God’s holiness always tends to expose our sinfulness.

    Yes, ‘performance orientation’ is subtle legalism. As the article above says, we’ll never reach perfection. Only Jesus did. This doesn’t mean we should stop trying as our good works are the fruit of obedience and the by-product of our salvation, but where the line gets blurred is when ‘effort’ becomes the means to the end.

    It is not hard to be overwhelmed by the endless appeals for ‘more’ (more giving, more commitment (signing of all sorts of covenants), more involvement, more surrender, more reading and prayer, more conferences to attend, striving for higher levels etc). This does not only burn people out, but pushes us into some sort of approval addiction towards God to always try and do more to please him. And those who feel they are doing more than others, may slowly slip into elitism (feeling more special than other Christians). The deeper issue with this is that it always turns the focus on us and away from Christ (not what He did for me but what I can do for Him). Taken to an extreme, it can make us neurotic and self-obsessed.

    You then have to scratch your head and wonder if Jesus was trying to trick us when he said “my yoke is easy and my burden is light”. The truth is that while God expects us to do good works, none of those works bring us an inch closer to him. Our acceptance is guaranteed ONLY because of Christ. While Cornelius’ alms got God’s attention, they weren’t enough. He had to send for the uneducated fisherman to come and tell him how to get saved. My best is no match for Jesus’ one-time-once-and-for-all offering to God on my behalf. To entertain the remotest possibility that I can match it, borders on blasphemy. Subtle nuances they are, but they can trip us up to miss the plot.

    So what’s the solution? As weary Christians we need an ongoing reminder of the ‘gospel’ to fill our hearts with joy and gratitude which will motivate us to spread ourselves as salt and light to the world throughout the week, through our vocational callings and various gifts.

    “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace AS YOU TRUST IN HIM, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” (Rom 15:13)

    Blessings!

    Well said RP. I have known some well-minded people that are "performance based" without them realising it. In their case I believe it is a means to avoid that very hard walk with God where He exposes those things in us that He's trying to change. By "keeping busy" and performing there can be a false sense that we are on that intimate walk with God because, after all, look what we are accomplishing. But the danger is that we can stagnate in our growth because we never allow God to go deeper in to our character transformation. We can be distracted with what we are "doing" for God, and not paying attention to what God wants to "do" in us.

    And yes, elitism can also slip in there, thinking oneself is better than those around us because of all that we "do". Again, distracting us from the character journey that we all need to be on.


    Hi Mark. I can't tell you how excited I am to see you doing a series on grace. It's a subject very dear to my heart. Coincidentally, I've been posting articles on a Facebook group called The AGRACE Project. Feel free to visit and use any of the material. Most of it isn't mine but is attributed. The address is:
    http://www.facebook.com/home.php#/group.php?gid=29231082878

    Hi John

    You asked for comment, I would offer a example of performance orientation, “as a person who serves as a deacon, then car park then create all in the one weekend, seeking Gods approval through merit rather than the provision. I would add though that there is substantial discipline that Christ demonstrated such as rising early for prayer daily, fasting and meditation. Luke 6:12,Luke 11:1,Luke 22:44), I actually think one of the more pressing issues to be addressed is in the members of the body who take the grace for granted, live a mediocre life as a Christian, an example consistently missing prayer with God on a daily basis, no fasting and if God challengers the way they live through a minister of the holy ghost, they will often dismiss it as “we live under grace now, not under law”,(they harden there heart to the prompting of the Holy Ghost) make no mistake Gods desire is for a body with military precision.

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