There is a movement currently happening in Western Christianity – The Grace Movement.
I know that phrase elicited one of two reactions from my Christian readers: interest or annoyance.
There are reasons for this reaction, and I’ll tell you why: those interested may believe that this will be a “pro-grace movement” post. They may read with hopeful expectation that I’ll give an elaborate dissertation on the sovereignty of God in His distribution of grace, or how the grace of God given through the blood of Jesus makes us blameless before God, regardless of the sin in our lives, because we’re all just broken people, right?
I’m sorry that I’ll be disappointing you.
For those annoyed, maybe they see this and cringe at the thought of another millennial trying to keep grace “relevant;” keep the Gospel “cool;” reduce Holy God to the tolerant “Man Upstairs,” and celebrate “J.C.’s” presence in a worship service.
I’m much less sorry to be disappointing this crowd.
On the contrary, what drives my pen across this page is sanctification. I hope that I haven’t lost you at this word.
Practically, sanctification is the process of becoming more like Jesus in word and action. The process of learning to love like Jesus; to show compassion like Jesus; to be angry at what God is angry at like Jesus is; to hate sin the way that Jesus hates sin.
Sanctification tends to be thrown around as a mystical, theoretical word that many speak much about, but allow God little room to actually cultivate. I know, because I have this struggle.
However, grace and sanctification seem to be opposites, according to many today. I emphatically disagree. In fact, grace and sanctification are entirely dependent upon one another. David Mathis paints a beautiful picture of this marriage in his book Habits of Grace:
Grace sanctifies. It is too wild to let us stay in love with unrighteousness. Too free to leave us in slavery to sin. Too untamed to let our lusts go unconquered. Grace’s power is too uninhibited to not unleash us for the happiness of true holiness…grace bounds not through our continuing in sin, but through our spirit-empowered, ongoing liberation. Grace is too strong to leave us passive, too potent to let us wallow in the mire of our sins and weakness.
In 2 Corinthians, Jesus says, “My grace is sufficient for you, and my strength is made perfect in weakness.”
These weaknesses – these areas where we are the least like Jesus – these are where God wants to show His strength the greatest. He wants to sanctify us by means of His grace. But sanctification requires discipline. Just like the skilled and diligent athlete that Paul speaks of in 1 Corinthians, who disciplines his body and keeps himself under control. An athlete disciplines himself to win a “perishable wreath,” as Paul mentions; however, we discipline ourselves for a prize much greater than that – sanctification. We discipline ourselves in Bible reading to allow God to change us to be more like Jesus. We discipline ourselves in prayer to align our hearts with the will of God, as Jesus did. We discipline our thoughts to allow God to fill our minds with thoughts of Jesus. We discipline our time to prioritize community and serving others and building relationships to further the Gospel so that we can encourage others and be encouraged in Jesus.
Do you get it?
So often we make an idol of grace. But how could that be?
Grace is what God has freely given us, whether it’s the saving grace in the life of a Christian, or the common grace given to all men. Grace, to our broken and sinful hearts, is convenient, and we love convenience.
“Unmerited grace that justifies us before the Father? Grace that declares me righteous through the blood of Jesus? Grace that was given even while I yet sin?”
However, while grace is freely given, sanctification comes at a price. What is the price?
Sacrificing in love for Jesus what He was sacrificed in love for – our sin.
Grace makes a terrible god, because grace is only the beginning. With grace comes sanctification – the beautiful, messy, perfecting work in the life of a Christian. But as beautiful as they are, they are but conduits of the ultimate beauty and glory of their Source.
I close as Paul did to the Thessalonians:
“May the God of peace Himself sanctify you completely, and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.
“He who calls you is faithful: he will surely do it.”