Grace and Responsibility (part 2)


Last week, we looked at this subject, focusing on the Scripture:

Ephesians 2:8-10
For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.

God’s grace does for us what we cannot do for ourselves.

We are commanded to be perfect like our Father in Heaven is perfect, but we cannot do it. Through faith in Jesus Christ, God’s grace gives us salvation, forgiveness, perfection, righteousness, and power over sin. It is that same grace that gradually changes us into the image of Christ so that we can do the works that Jesus did. Apart from Jesus, His grace, and His Spirit in us, we are unable to do anything but sin, for even our good deeds have impure motives.  

Therefore, our responsibility is to abide in Christ and allow Him to abide in us. That way, we can hear His voice and follow Him. We are guided by the Holy Spirit and no longer by the desires of our flesh (although the desires of the flesh still abide in us). Through faith in Christ, God gives us grace to love Him, to love others, and to do what He desires.

Jesus said in Mark 12:30-31
“And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength. The second is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.”

These commandments sum up all the other commands in the Bible. While these sound simple, only by God’s grace can we fulfill these commandments.

The Holy Spirit is God. When we are filled with the Holy Spirit, we have the perfect love of God in us, giving us the grace and power to obey these commands.

Our responsibility is Hebrews 4:16
Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.

Instead of striving to be perfect, our responsibility is to strive to be near the throne of grace and to be filled with the Holy Spirit, who will perfect us. Our goal is:

Ephesians 3:19
to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.

What will our conduct look like when we are pursuing Christ, the Holy Spirit, and the fullness of God? Much of the New Testament describes this grace-filled living.

Since we are looking in Ephesians about salvation by grace, we will continue in this book to see how Paul went on to explain God’s grace and our responsibility.

Ephesians 4:1-7
I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit—just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call—one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all. But grace was given to each one of us according to the measure of Christ’s gift.

We are called to be witnesses for Jesus Christ.

When we are walking in the grace of the Holy Spirit instead of the desires of our flesh, there will be unity in the Body of Christ.
The fruit of the Spirit will be evident: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, gentleness, faithfulness, goodness, and self-control.
There will be humility and respect for one another since no one considers themselves better than another.
If these characteristics are not evident, then we are walking in the flesh instead of the grace of God.

Ephesians 4:11-16
And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes. Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.

We all have a job to do for the Lord. We have different gifts of the Spirit so that the whole Body of Christ depends on one another and builds itself up in love. We speak the truth in love and gradually grow together in every area into the fullness and image of Christ. When a church does this, it is a powerful witness of God’s grace to a “dog-eat-dog” world.

2 Corinthians 5:18-21
All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.

One of our jobs is to share the Gospel.

Most people have never read the Gospels according to Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. The only Gospel some people will ever hear is the “Gospel of Jesus Christ According to You”. We have a Gospel message and a ministry to tell others about God’s grace through faith in Jesus Christ, who has reconciled us to God.

So, can people see the reality of this Gospel in your life?
Can they see the righteousness of Jesus in you?
Are you being an ambassador for Christ?

That is our responsibility, but we cannot do it apart from God’s grace and power. Therefore, ask the Father to fill you with the Holy Spirit. That is how we abide in the Lord Jesus Christ and how He abides in us.

Ephesians 4:17-24
Now this I say and testify in the Lord, that you must no longer walk as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their minds. They are darkened in their understanding, alienated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them, due to their hardness of heart. They have become callous and have given themselves up to sensuality, greedy to practice every kind of impurity. But that is not the way you learned Christ!—assuming that you have heard about him and were taught in him, as the truth is in Jesus, to put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.

The grace of God does not give us a license to sin. On the contrary, the grace of God renews our minds and gives us the ability not to sin. We have an innate sin nature that naturally sins, but the new birth from the Holy Spirit gives us a righteous nature that has grace not to sin.

2 Corinthians 5:17
Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has gone; the new has come.

This new birth is the work of the grace of God. As a new-born baby has to grow and mature, so we, who are born again of the Spirit, have to grow and mature.

Our responsibility is to put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.

Therefore, put to death the desires of your sin nature and walk after the Holy Spirit, who leads us in true righteousness and holiness.

We can ask God for the grace and power to do this. And He will do it.

Ephesians 4:25-32
Therefore, having put away falsehood, let each one of you speak the truth with his neighbor, for we are members one of another. Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and give no opportunity to the devil. Let the thief no longer steal, but rather let him labor, doing honest work with his own hands, so that he may have something to share with anyone in need. Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.

By our totally resting in the grace of God and being filled with the Holy Spirit, our lives are radically changed:
Liars begin telling the truth and nothing but the truth.
Thieves quit stealing and begin working and sharing with others who are in need.
Gossips repent and begin building up the Body of Christ instead of tearing it down with their corrupting talk.
Instead of anger, bitterness, malice, slander, and wrath, the members of the Church are loving, kind, tenderhearted, forgiving, and acting like Christ.

Ephesians 5:1-2
Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children. And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.

Again, without the grace of God and the Holy Spirit, we cannot do this. However, with them, we can be imitators of God, because we abide in Christ and He abides in us.

Ephesians 5:3-14
But sexual immorality and all impurity or covetousness must not even be named among you, as is proper among saints. Let there be no filthiness nor foolish talk nor crude joking, which are out of place, but instead let there be thanksgiving. For you may be sure of this, that everyone who is sexually immoral or impure, or who is covetous (that is, an idolater), has no inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God. Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience. Therefore do not become partners with them; for at one time you were darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light (for the fruit of light is found in all that is good and right and true), and try to discern what is pleasing to the Lord. Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them. For it is shameful even to speak of the things that they do in secret. But when anything is exposed by the light, it becomes visible, for anything that becomes visible is light. Therefore it says, “Awake, O sleeper, and arise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you.”

Sexual immorality and crudeness are so common today, that they have become accepted in many churches. Those churches claim, we are “saved by grace” and not by our morality. While that is true, the devil has once again twisted God’s words and deceived many into believing it is OK to continue sinning in the area of sexually immorality and especially homosexuality. They have even quit calling those things sin, deceiving themselves.

However, declaring a sin to no longer be a sin does not change the truth of God. Judgment will fall upon those who continue to sin and upon those who declare sin no longer a sin.

Romans 6:1-2
What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it?

Hebrews 10:26-27
For if we go on sinning deliberately after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, but a fearful expectation of judgment, and a fury of fire that will consume the adversaries.

Truthfully, grace gives us the ability to be moral after we are saved by grace. If we still deliberately walk in immorality, then we are still in rebellion against God. Our desires and character have not changed. This is evidence that we are still lost in our carnality.

Instead of tolerating members in the Church who are deliberately immoral, we are to expose them. Hopefully, when their sin is exposed, they will repent. If they continually refuse to repent, we are to withdraw our association with them.

1 Corinthians 5:9-13
I wrote to you in my letter not to associate with sexually immoral people—not at all meaning the sexually immoral of this world, or the greedy and swindlers, or idolaters, since then you would need to go out of the world. But now I am writing to you not to associate with anyone who bears the name of brother if he is guilty of sexual immorality or greed, or is an idolater, reviler, drunkard, or swindler—not even to eat with such a one. For what have I to do with judging outsiders? Is it not those inside the church whom you are to judge? God judges those outside. “Purge the evil person from among you.”

Again, the grace of God does not give us a license to sin. Sin separates us from God. That is why the Church cannot condone sin and why all church members must walk in repentance (not perfection) instead of excusing their sin.

God doesn’t accept excuses. Telling God I can’t change is actually saying I won’t change. God’s reply is “I gave you grace to change”. Therefore, draw near to God and receive His grace.

Ephesians 5:15-21
Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is. And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit, addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart, giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ.

Grace is the mightiest power you will ever see at work in your life. It’s the only power that brings real fruit to your walk with God, your prayer life, your witness, and your good deeds in His name. Only as we enter fully into God’s grace and walk by His Spirit will we be delivered from the power of sin and empowered to do the glorious works He has set before us.

In conclusion, if you put your faith in Jesus Christ, you are already perfect in God’s eyes, through the righteousness of His Son. Now, your responsibility is to accept God’s grace, provided by Jesus on the cross, and be filled with the Holy Spirit. Spend time with Christ, get to know Him intimately, die to self, and allow Him to fill you with the fullness of God.

Jesus has called you to an intimate relationship with Him, not to increase your efforts for salvation. Love, peace, joy, delight, boldness, power—all of these are yours as you enter the fullness of His amazing grace and the Holy Spirit. It is your responsibility to walk by the Spirit in the freedom He has provided by His grace.

Galatians 5:16
But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh.

For those of you who have never experienced God’s grace, there is also good news. God wants to save you by His grace, but you, too, have a responsibility.

Acts 2:37-38
Now when they heard this they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, “Brothers, what shall we do?” And Peter said to them, “Repent and
be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.

If you believe Jesus is the Son of God and what He has done for you on the cross, enter into God’s grace by publicly confessing your faith in Christ. Repent of your sin and give your life to Jesus by following Him in baptism. You will be born again of the Holy Spirit, who will give you grace and power to do all that God has called you to do.