This is a brief excerpt from my book entitled: Positively Powerless, How a Forgotten Movement Undermined Christianity. (pages 108-109)
Keep Living by Grace
We begin the Christian life by grace through faith, yet we can easily regress into a performance or works based relationship with God. We have a theoretical commitment to justification, but our day-to-day life reveals that we rely on our sanctification or at least have a preoccupation with it. This is not surprising because grace goes against our natural instincts, and we are prone to turn inward. We prefer to earn—and therefore deserve—what we get in life, and this is precisely why we need to continually remind ourselves of gospel truths.
We can too easily become captive to criticism or praise from other people and end up living for their approval. Worse yet, we can think we are living for approval or favor from God. Some Christians live as though Christianity is based on the concepts of karma and samsara from Hinduism where your past actions (whether bad or good) determine your destiny. No, the Christian message is radically different!
In Christianity we do not get what we deserve because Jesus bore the penalty for us. Our bad behavior does not condemn us, and our good behavior does not gain us God’s favor. Read the second half of that sentence again. Our good behavior could not gain us salvation (Ephesians 2:8-9), so why do we think it can gain us favor after salvation? We already have God’s favor!
We passed from death to life (John 5:24) when we came to Christ in faith. The book of Ephesians uses the phrase “in Christ” and emphasizes the spiritual riches we possess in him. Romans 5:2 says that through Christ “we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand.” Are we standing in grace, in God’s undeserved favor? Or are we standing in our own righteousness, looking for favor? John 1:16-17 reminds us that while the law came through Moses, grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. Through Jesus it is grace upon grace—one gracious gift after another.
Galatians 6:14 says, “May I never boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ.” That means we are not boasting in or trusting in our moral behavior. Besides, how can we trump what Jesus did for us? We can never come close! Rest in the tremendous favor you possess because of what Christ did for you. Reminding ourselves of the gospel grounds us in humility and directs us away from our inherent self-absorption. We need to “be found in him, not having a righteousness of our own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness that comes from God on the basis of faith” (Philippians 3:9). It doesn’t get clearer than that, my friends.