Throughout the history of the Christian faith there has been a tension between grace on the one hand and works on the other. The Scriptures say, “By grace you are saved…,” but the Scriptures also say, “Faith without works is dead.” So which is it?
I believe in many ways the church at times has misled a lot of folks. One way this has been done is by teaching people that we’ve somehow got to get ourselves fixed before God will accept and love us. In essence the church has taught a lot of folks that God works just like everything else in life; that is we get what we deserve. Therefore, we must first of all turn our lives around, fix what’s wrong with us, and start living right so that God will love us. And if we don’t, then God will punish us. We get what we deserve. There are a lot of folks who believe this line of thinking even though the Scriptures clearly teach otherwise. Grace is getting what we don’t deserve!
But there’s also another way the church has misled people, and that’s by failing to teach that grace calls for a response. God’s love and acceptance of us is freely given (that’s grace). God’s love is completely unconditional and given without merit whatsoever. We cannot earn it! That’s grace. But once we have received this free gift, we are changed. God’s love is a redeeming love. When God’s love has been received, the receiver lives a different way because the receiver is changed.
Unfortunately what the church has often taught is a little bit here, a little something there, is all the response that is necessary. Just receive grace and keep living the same old way. Not so say the Scriptures. When Christ is truly Lord for us, we change. We bear fruits.
Where are we bearing fruits in our life? Has receiving God’s incredible grace changed us? If we are not changed, could it be we haven’t received the gift?
“By their fruits you shall know them.”
Cliff C. Wright, Jr.