One of the most frustrating times in our walk with Christ is when we don’t see results in our life with Christ. Power is defined as the ability to get results. When we are not seeing results in our life, what really happens is we fail to take hold of the empowerment already given to us by Christ. This power comes from the gospel of the grace of God for salvation and everything it entails (Romans 1:16; Acts 20:24). For more on this, visit “When the Christian Life ‘Isn’t Working.’
When we are lacking results in our life with Christ, we are living under the law rather than grace. But what if we are unsure which one were living under? Lets find out:
The law was given to show us our need for a Savior, nothing more. In fact, there is nothing more it can do except revitalize the sin in our lives (Romans 7:9). In fact, living under the law is actually a curse (Galatians 3:10) because it works wrath (Romans 4:15), and is why the law is not for the righteous (1 Timothy 1:9).
So how do we live under the law? We live under the law when we are trying to achieve justification or righteous standing (good standing) with God through what we do or our works. This is what the Israelites attempted to do under the Old Covenant. They tried to follow the law perfectly to achieve righteousness. However, what most don’t realize is that following the Ten Commandments are not the only ways we try and ‘work’ or earn our way into righteousness.
When we ready our Bible to get into good standing with God, we are living under the law. When we go to church to get into good standing with God, we are living under the law. When we give money in an attempt to earn righteousness, we are living under the law. When we volunteer at church because we think that we will be blessed by God, we are living under the law (you have already been blessed by God; Ephesians 1:3). Anytime we do a work to try and get into good standing with God, no matter how minimal the work is, we are living under the law and it is a curse. It is a curse because the moment we don’t meet the mark, we will feel condemned and unworthy of God’s love. When we are living under the law, we are rejecting grace.
Now don’t get me wrong, faith without works is dead (James 2:26). The difference is in performing the works to get in good favor with good compared to ‘good works’ being a naturally result of God’s love manifesting through us into the world. There are two types of works, one that tries to earn righteousness, and one that is the natural result of righteousness.
The problem with using works to get into God’s good standing is that we believe that God is obligated to give us something (Romans 4:4) in return for what we did. And that is not grace. That is not freely receiving what God has freely given us.
So, how do we live under grace? Well, we first need to understand what grace is, and there are a couple definitions I enjoy. The first one is, grace is God’s undeserved, unmerited, and unearned favor.
Romans 3:23-24 (NIV): for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, (24) being justified as a gift by His grace through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus;
Righteousness is a free gift given because of God’s grace. There is nothing we can do to earn it and to think we can earn it, cheapens it. We nullify the blood of Christ when we believe we can achieve grace without the perfect sacrifice of Jesus Christ. At the root of this belief, we do not believe God is good enough to give us what he has freely given us through the death of His only begotten Son. And this may seem harsh, but we cannot worship what we don’t believe in (John 4:24).
The second definition of grace, is that God works for us, in us, and through us. God is working in our life so we don’t have too. When we try and do everything ourselves, we are not trusting what God is doing behind the scenes as well as in us, and we try and do it ourselves.
Philippians 2:13 (NIV): for it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose.
Titus 2:11-12 (NIV): For the grace of God has appeared that offers salvation to all people. (12) It teaches us to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age,
Whats God’s good purpose? It’s righteousness! It is through grace that God literally teaches us to say no to ungodliness and yes to righteousness. But not only does He teach us, He’s the one working in us! I love Philippians 2:13 in the Amplified Version:
For it is [not your strength, but it is] [a]God who is effectively at work in you, both to will and to work [that is, strengthening, energizing, and creating in you the longing and the ability to fulfill your purpose] for His good pleasure.
God is working in you! He knows what you need! He knows when you need the strength to overcome a bad situation or a dysfunctional relationship. God is working in you to both will and to do his good pleasure! When God gives you the desire to do something, He will give you the power to do it. And this includes sin, providing for your family, saying no to dysfunctional relationships, managing your money with wisdom, you name it, everything in life falls under grace. Especially righteousness. This is why righteousness is through belief (Romans 3:22). Right believing leads to right living.
When we live under the law, we are trying to earn God’s love/acceptance through our works. Let me be very clear, God already loves you beyond understanding! You have already been accepted by God through grace!
Ephesians 1:6-8 (NIV): to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves. 7 In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace 8 that he lavished on us. With all wisdom and understanding,
We put grace aside and try to do righteousness in our own strength when we don’t think God accepts us, or believe that there is more we must do to earn is love. We are trying to obtain self-righteousness, which is the purest form of unrighteousness. Stop trying to earn God’s love. Stop trying to conquer sin in your own strength. The hardest part of the Christian life is learning to freely receive God’s goodness and His love. But when we do freely receive grace, when we let God will and work in us and through us, bondages of sin will be broken, doors will be opened, relationships restored and we will truly experience the goodness and perfect love of God.