Last week we answered two questions.
- Why do Christians who stand in God’s grace still sin?
- Is God sovereign over our sin? Is our sin outside of God’s purposes?
- Our aim, ultimately, to continue exposing how our works baggage obscures the peace, joy and freedom God’s extravagant grace brings to the believer.
We located the answer to the first question in the nature of God’s Kingdom.
- It is a now and not yet Kingdom.
- “The kingdom has been inaugurated, but not yet consummated” – Trevin Wax.
Quite simply, the inaugurated kingdom contains things the not yet consummated kingdom will not contain.
- One of those things is the presence of sin in believers.
- In the “now” kingdom, we will continue to sin.
- We are free from sin’s dominion (the “now” kingdom), but not free from its presence (yet to come kingdom).
Tom Schreiner put it as follows:
“When believers contemplate their own capacities, it is clear that they do not have the resources to do what God demands. In encountering God’s demands, we are still conscious of our wretchedness and inherent inability. The struggle with sin continues for believers because we live in the tension between the already and the not yet” – Tom Schreiner.
We answered the second question as follows:
- Though we are delivered from the power of sin, God leaves us “with a sinful nature that will wage war against our new nature for the remainder of our lives” – Barbara Duguid.
“In the sovereign will of God, the Christian life is supposed to be this way. God is capable, when he pleases and for his own purposes, of giving me the grace to stand and resist temptation. But often he chooses instead, for his own good purposes, to show me grace through my falls, humbling me and teaching me my desperate need of him” – Barbara Duguid.
We then located the reason for this view in two Scriptural examples.
(1) Paul speaks of one such example:
- Romans 5:20 (ESV) — 20 Now the law came in to increase the trespass, but where sin increased, grace abounded all the more,
N.T. Wright teases Paul’s point out for us.
- “What was God up to, giving the law not simply knowing that it would give sin the chance to grow to its full height, but actually in order that it might do so?” – N.T. Wright.
- Answer – to deal with sin once for all in Jesus, Israel’s Messiah.
(2) Jesus speaks of another example of permitting sin for His glory.
- Luke 22:31–32a (ESV) — 31 “Simon, Simon, behold, Satan demanded to have you, that he might sift you like wheat, 32a but I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail.
Why did Jesus not protect Peter from the presence of sin, even allowing Satan to tempt Peter to sin?
Peter had a pride problem.
- When confronted with Jesus’ warning, Peter was full of himself.
- “Lord, I am ready to go with you both to prison and to death” (Luke 22:33).
- Yet, this declaration fell flat as soon as the servant girl at the gate questioned him (with John at his side).
- John 18:17 (ESV) — 17 The servant girl at the door said to Peter, “You also are not one of this man’s disciples, are you?” He said, “I am not.”
Jesus had a use for Peter that apparently required that he be humbled and broken by his sin.
- Jesus says as much at the end of verse 32.
- Luke 22:32b (ESV) — 32b And when you have turned again [because Peter’s faith won’t fail him], strengthen your brothers.”
- The path to Peter’s usefulness was through sin and the recognition of his weakness and Jesus’ strength.
Today we answer the final question.
- The one we have been aiming at the last few weeks.
- How do we live in the Extravagant Grace in which we stand?
Letting God’s Extravagant Grace Run Wild:
Our aim over the last few weeks was to recognize that we stand in God’s Extravagant Grace – even in our sin.
- Hopefully this alone has allowed the grace in which we stand to begin to run wild.
- We have identified how our works baggage clouds our view of God’s grace.
- We have seen that we can’t not sin in the now Kingdom.
- We have seen that God is sovereign over our sin.
- We have seen that, therefore, our sin is not outside of God’s purposes.
- We have seen that He actually uses it to mature us, grow our dependence, and all to His glory.
But there is one more thing we need to address.
- It might be that our view of obedience hinders God’s grace.
How does the freedom God’s Extravagant Grace provides relate to the call to obedience?
- Doesn’t the idea of obedience lead us back to our works baggage and religion?
- Isn’t obedience (or better yet – sin killing) a “work”?
- The answers are found in a grace-filled view of obedience.
Called to Obey:
First, there can be no doubt that God calls us to obedience – to kill sin.
- John 14:15 (ESV) — 15 “If you love me, you will keep my commandments.
- 1 John 2:3 (ESV) — 3 And by this we know that we have come to know him, if we keep his commandments.
Our natural inclination is to respond to this call of obedience with lists and will power – works baggage.
- We incorrectly see this call to obey as a responsibility dumped on us.
- Maybe forgetting that it is “God who works in us…”.
- The weight of the obedience dump leads to frustration and despair.
- But we are to despair and hate sin – not obedience.
We need a grace filled view of obedience.
- To that end, we need to take a look at something about the obedience that Jesus wants.
What is a Grace view of Obedience?
The Greek word “obey” (hypakouo) carries with it the idea of to “follow” or “be subject to” – BDAG.
- In other words, to be obedient is to “follow” Christ and “be subject” to Him.
This certainly involves individual acts of obedience on our part (outward conformity).
- But the “following” and “subjugation” is way more than a mere act of obedience on our part.
- They come out of something altogether different.
- To leave it there is to be stuck in our “works” baggage.
The “following” and “subjugation” are a result of the belief that comes with a regenerated heart (inward conformity).
- Obedience, fundamentally, then is tied to our faith/belief – our inward conformity – something we have nothing to do with.
- And by extension, tied to the place in which our faith/belief places us.
- That place – Paul’s, “the grace in which we stand”.
Scriptural Examples of this Obedience:
(1) Hebrews 5:9 (ESV) — 9 And being made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation to all who obey him,
- Are we saved by our obedience?
- Absolutely not!
- We are saved by believing and being positionally in Christ.
- We are saved by His obedience.
(2) John 3:36 (ESV) — 36 Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him.
- John treats belief and obedience as synonyms here.
- It is not the “obeyer” that has eternal life but the “believer” (inward conformity of the heart).
- So, likewise, it is not the one whose acts are disobedient [I have plenty of that] that is under God’s wrath, but the unbeliever whose disobedience issues forth outside of Christ.
Obedience even has connotations of to “hear” and to “answer a knock at the door” – BDAG.
- Revelation 3:20 (ESV) — 20 Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me.
- Who hears the voice of Jesus?
- Those drawn by the Spirit with reborn hearts (inward conformity) or those who have obedient actions (outward conformity)?
- Mark 4:23 (ESV) — 23 If anyone has ears to hear, let him hear.”
- Who hears?
- Romans 11:8 (ESV) — 8 as it is written, “God gave them a spirit of stupor, eyes that would not see and ears that would not hear, down to this very day.”
- Who doesn’t hear?
And look at what Paul says about what he remarkably calls the “obedience of faith”.
- Romans 1:5 (ESV) — 5 through whom [Jesus] we have received grace and apostleship to bring about the obedience of faith for the sake of his name among all the nations,
- Romans 16:26 (ESV) — 26 but has now been disclosed [the Gospel and preaching of Jesus Christ] and through the prophetic writings has been made known to all nations, according to the command of the eternal God, to bring about the obedience of faith—
- Obedience of faith are his bookends to Romans.
It will also help us to know this:
- “Obey” appears in the NT 33 times.
- “Grace” appears 124 times.
So a grace filled, biblical view of obedience is, firstly, the inward conformity of the heart.
- A heart that has been given ears to hear.
- A heart that has been reborn by the Spirit.
- A heart that, therefore, lives in subjugation to Christ and His authority – in His now Kingdom.
- A heart that is justified by being in Christ and in His obedience.
- A heart that lives in the “grace in which we stand” – a new realm, a new position, a new status.
We have a man-centered, self-powered, “works” view of obedience.
- As such, we think the Gospel somehow requires our obedience for it to work for us.
- We think that, “…the willingness and strength to stand in obedience come from our own diligence and hard work as we walk through life” – Barbara Duguid.
- Remember, it is God who works in us to will and to act – Phil. 2.
- This is works – this is religion.
And this wrong view of obedience even skews the value of our obedience.
- We brashly think that even our obedient acts (“outward conformity to his will”) are without sin.
- This is a deadly, overly optimistic, man-centered view of obedience.
“Obedience is tricky business and can be confusing to us. We can be obedient outwardly while sinning wildly on the inside, as the example of the Pharisees makes clear” – Barbara Duguid.
- In fact, “[Our] outward obedience can become the framework and context for [our] inward sin” – Duguid.
- Discuss examples.
Even our good deeds are seasoned with sin and selfish motives!
- Even our obedient acts are stained by sin.
- “In this life even the holiest have only a small beginning of this obedience” – Heidelberg Catechism 114.
So Even in Our Obedience We Need Grace:
Barbara Duguid puts it like this:
“Christians thus face a seriously disturbing predicament: when we are most successful in obeying God, we so often also hear that whisper of self-exaltation and superiority. We cannot escape it. If this is true of us even in our best moments, what hope is there for us in the race toward true holiness that changes us inside and out?” – Barbara Duguid.
- And in the pursuit of obedience, “Our problem is extensive and hopeless, for we don’t just need a moderately clean record; we need a history of perfect goodness in order to meet the demands of God’s laws” – Barbara Duguid.
And speaking of the older son from the Prodigal Son parable:
“There is a sobering warning to the most earnest Christians here: you may actually sin more profoundly in all of your obedience than others do in their rebellion, and you may be the one who misses the party of grace because you don’t want to go in if those ‘sinners’ are there” – Barbara Duguid.
- Obedience is not just an individual act of conformity on our part – it is way bigger than that.
- It is something we are placed into by our Union with Christ.
- Our attempts at obedience don’t lead to grace – it is the other way around!
- “God is not captivated by our attempts to please him; he is riveted by the obedience of his Son and delighted by the goodness of Jesus Christ” – Barbara Duguid.
- Through Christ’s obedience it is possible to, by grace, already be obedient in Christ and be free to act in obedience at the same time!
The Result – Living in God’s Extravagant Grace:
When we understand God’s grace…
- Understand our sin is not outside God’s purposes…
- Understand that even our obedience is full of sin…
- We come to deeply understand our need for Christ and His perfect obedience.
- And our hearts are stirred to desire outward conformity – to obey.
- Knowing that even in our disobedience, in Christ, we are found obedient.
All of this should set us free to pursue obedience in the grace of God.
“This new understanding did not make me want to sin more. On the contrary, it stirred my heart to want to obey” – Barbara Duguid.
There is no sin killing by works and religion.
- Sin killing is on God’s time and by His power.
- Works are on our time and our power – useless.
- Sin killing comes when we go deeper and deeper into God’s extravagant grace.
- God’s grace and Spirit power our sin killing – not our works.
In fact, the world can change a person’s behavior through all sorts of counseling techniques.
- But this is merely outward conformity.
- It is religion.
- It is works.
God wants to shape our hearts into the image of Christ.
- God wants inward conformity.
- This requires us being joined to Christ’s obedience.
- This requires that we be placed in “the grace in which we stand”.
Some of our deepest struggles with obedience and sin come from not properly grasping God’s grace.
“You don’t know who you are. You have a real status change. It’s really there. It’s not just in your mind. It’s not just symbolic. It really happened, and yet you don’t know who you are. That’s why it takes so long” to grow in obedience and sin killing – Tim Keller.
- “Resisting temptation isn’t a matter of pretending you wouldn’t find it easier to give in. It’s a matter of learning to think straight, and to act on what you know to be true” – Wright.
But in your sin and failure to obey, know this…
“If you are united with Christ today, the number of sins you will commit in your lifetime is a finite number, and they were all paid for in full before you emerged howling from your mother’s womb” – Barbara Duguid.
“If all my sins are already known to God and paid for by Christ, I am free to move forward trusting that God has planned which sins I will wrestle with. He already knows how he will walk through them with me and how he will use them to teach and strengthen me. I am freed from a relentless counting of wrongs to move into whatever God has decided is next for me, confident that his grace is always greater than all my sin” – Barbara Duguid.
And finally, this…
“If you are in Christ you are cherished, you are washed, you are clean, and you are wrapped up tightly in the perfect robes of his goodness. Wherever you have sinned and continue to sin, he has obeyed in your place. That means that you are free to struggle and fail; you are free to grow slowly; you are free at times not to grow at all; you are free to cast yourself on the mercy of God for a lifetime. Repeated failure does not mean that you are unsaved or that God is tired of you and disappointed. It does mean that he has called you to a difficult struggle and that he will hold on to you in all of your standing and falling and bring you safely home” – Barbara Duguid