“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.”Ephesians 2:8-9, (ESV).
For those of us who have come to the end of ourselves and have ‘tasted the heavenly gift’ of God (Hebrews 6:5) know that it is by the grace of God that we are saved from ourselves. Through the grace of God we are forgiven of all our sins, adopted into the family of God, and justified before the eyes of God. This is the free gift of the gospel of Jesus Christ! This is known as forgiving grace, but too often I find that we lose track of the other form of God’s grace for believers. There is forgiving grace that cleanses all believers, but there is also transforming grace that enables us to live in obedience to what God calls us to be. It is a great thing to come to trust in Jesus and find forgiveness in his grace, but if we do not move on into his transforming grace then we are like a polished tool with no job. Without the transforming grace of God we would find it drastically hard to attain things like “present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship”(Romans 12:1), “let us cleanse ourselves from every defilement of body and spirit, bringing holiness to completion in the fear of God”(2 Corinthians 7:1), or “but as he who called you is holy, you also by holy in all your conduct”(1 Peter 1:15). Obviously, we cannot attain these things without the grace and power of God, but how are we to receive such power? Heath Lambert in his book Finally Free, explains:
“Transforming grace works when you believe that Jesus gives it to you. The moment you believe in Jesus’ grace to change you, you are changing. The more you continue to believe it, the more you will continue to change.”Heath Lambert, Professor in Biblical Counseling at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary (Finally Free).
This is faith! Believing and acting out of the belief that you hold – this is faith in Jesus. Trusting that he will be true to his word and give what he has promised – both forms of the grace of God. Romans 6:11 says, “In the same way, count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus”. Paul is showing that acting in faith (COUNT yourselves dead to sin) is the first step in conquering sin. To be clear, we cannot attain perfection in this life, but through the transforming grace of God we are EQUIPPED to progressively conform into the model of Christ. Trusting in Jesus and acting in belief that he provides what he promises. This is the Christian faith. Consider this passage in 1 John:
“This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all. If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin. If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us. My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous. He is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world. And by this we know that we have come to know him, if we keep his commandments.”1 John 1:5 – 2:3
When Jesus calls us to obey his commands and live out our faith he is not presuming that we muster our own strength to achieve these things – in fact, they are truly against our sinful nature. God’s forgiving grace frees us from slavery to sin (Romans 6:6) and God’s transforming grace enables us to change and obey his commands (2 Corinthians 9:8). Trust in Jesus as your savior and source of strength to do what he calls you to do! God is faithful and keeps his promises to his people.