Grace Upon Grace
The gospel begins with forgiveness and ends with Sonship
God’s aim is to lift mankind out of spiritual and moral squalor, forgive him, cleanse him and impart to him His own divine nature. His plan is to transform us from sons of the earth into sons of God.
Forgiveness of sins is only the starting point but it is not the final goal. His goal is to produce a race of people who carry the nature, life, behavior and works of the Son of God!
If John the Baptist preached a gospel for the remission of sins what did Jesus add? Much Christian preaching is taken up with the message of the forgiveness of sins, which is what John preached. This is important, basic, foundational and central but it is not the entire gospel. Jesus brings more than a gospel of forgiveness; He brings a gospel of TOTAL TRANSFORMATION into His likeness.
In Acts we read (Acts 19:1-7) “While Apollos was in Corinth, Paul .. came to Ephesus, where he found some disciples. He said to them, ‘Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you became believers?’ They replied, ‘No, we have not even heard that there is a Holy Spirit.’ Then he said, ‘Into what then were you baptized?’ They answered, ‘Into John’ s baptism.’ Paul said, ‘John baptized with the baptism of repentance, telling the people to believe in the one who was to come after him, that is, in Jesus.’ On hearing this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. When Paul had laid his hands on them, the Holy Spirit came upon them, and they spoke in tongues and prophesied – altogether there were about twelve of them.”
Like much of today’s church they had received a baptism for the remission of sins through faith in the Lamb of God but had not received the Spirit of adoption and Sonship. Too often the starting point of having our sins forgiven is presented as the entire gospel, and God’s goal to transform us into His likeness is neglected or seen as hopelessly unattainable. The disciples at Ephesus received a second work of grace and today that second work of grace is transforming the face of Christianity around the world.
The Problem of Grace
People sometimes ask us if we support “The Grace Message”. The answer is: “Of course we do! But we do not support a message of grace, which makes removal of sin or following Jesus an option. We believe in the grace that brings not only pardon but totally emancipates us from sin’s power and transforms us into the likeness of Jesus.”
God not only pardons us to through Christ, He empowers us through Christ to live by His ways. Grace acknowledges, “I can do nothing of my own” but also cries out for the power that enables us to “do all things through Christ who strengthens me”
The problem is not ‘the grace message’ but an INCOMPLETE grace message that presents only half a salvation. “And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified.” (Rom. 8:30) Many believe that our pardon and reconciliation with God is a matter of grace but that our transformation into His likeness is a matter of self-effort. This is not true! Our transformation is also a work of grace. It is an even greater work of grace than our justification. It does involve faith and cooperation but not legalistic self-effort. We do not transform ourselves by strenuous religious effort but we are transformed when we allow the life of Jesus in us to manifest at all times. We can only do this as we
•rest in the position of adoption into which he has brought us and
•continually yield and allow His life to flow into us and though us like a steady river.
“And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.” (2 Cor. 3:18)
When we refuse to live from self or for self and draw on the life of Jesus who has come to live within then His life and nature will manifest in us in a natural way. Since He is the Vine and we are the branches there is no striving – just faith that receives and yields to His life when we know self was crucified with Him.
In Jesus there is grace upon grace. “For from His fullness we have all received, grace upon grace.” (John 1:16) Forgiveness of sin is nottheend-itisthegatewaytoalifeof complete transformation. When we are ‘born again’ Christ comes into us to manifest His character nature and works. This new uncreated life – His life imparted into us – will produce, if we draw on it, all the fruit of the Spirit and upright living. It will overcome all sinful habits and reproduce in us the loving, wise and upright nature of Jesus.
To flow in this grace
•We build on the grace of pardon we have received as a gift.
•We put off the old life, which enslaved us, to sin and to be filled with hope and vision in the area of their imaginations. How liberated we will be when the Spirit and the Word have done their full work in every area of our minds.
•We put on the new nature of Christ.
•We yield ourselves to allow His nature, and only His nature, and ways to manifest in us.
A Greater Grace
The mystery of the gospel is far more than the grace of pardon – it is the grace of transformation. The first requires faith in the finished work of Jesus on the cross. The second requires faith in the Resurrection Life of Christ Jesus that He imparts to us.
The resurrection and Pentecost gift of the Holy Spirit lift us from the dysfunctionality of our sins and empower us to draw from His life.
God’s aim is that the people of the earth oppressed in sin, lost in the world, unaware of their real destiny be forgiven, cleansed, washed and filled with the heavenly life and nature of Jesus. His grace when fully embraced and yielded to will produce a generation of people walking in the dignity, uprightness, wisdom compassion, authority, lowliness and boldness of Jesus.
“As the living Father sent me, and I live by the Father, so whoever feeds on me, he also will live by me.” (John 6:57) The legalist and the lawless Christian are alike in this: each lives from himself. One makes an effort to make himself live by God standards and the other ignores them. The true Christian is neither legalistic nor lawless. He relies completely on Jesus to reproduce His highest standards in him not by the power of self-effort but by the power Jesus’ own life.
When we live by complete dependence on Him we will come into perfect union with Him, and His life and glory will be seen in us. “The glory that you have given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one, I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me.” (John 17:22-23)
May we walk manifesting the ‘glory of the Lord’ i.e. “His goodness, truth, mercy, graciousness, longsuffering and compassion.” (Ex. 34:6)