It is not an idle life that we live as believers in Christ. Matt Chandler writes on five components all our grace-driven efforts should have.
There are essentially five components to a right understanding of grace-driven effort, and what they all revolve around is not our religious performance but Christ’s saving performance on our behalf. These components are focused Christ’s cross, not our bootstraps.
1. The three weapons of grace
A man who understands Jesus’ gospel and cross will instead fight sin with the weapons that grace gives us. There are three such weapons:
The first weapon is the blood of Christ. Ephesians 2:13 tells us, “But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ.”
We have been brought near by the blood and sacrifice of Jesus alone, not by our behavior. The marker of those who understand the gospel of Jesus Christ is that, when they stumble and fall, when they screw up, they run to God and not from him, because they clearly understand that their acceptance before God is not predicated upon their behavior but on the righteous life of Jesus Christ and his sacrificial death.
The second weapon of grace is the Word of God. In 2 Timothy 3:16–17, Paul writes, “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.”
When we begin to know the Scriptures well, we can identify what is true and what is a lie. Here is one truth about truth to think about: the Holy Spirit and the accusations of the Devil can do the same thing. Both can make us aware of our shortcomings and the impossibility of earning favor with God.
The difference between what the Holy Spirit does and what the Devil does is the Spirit’s deliverance of the gospel. The Devil brings up gospel truths to accuse and condemn, whereas the Spirit brings up these truths to convict and to comfort.
Christian, if you are looking at your sins and shortcomings and constantly feeling condemned—not convicted, but condemned—you need to use the Word of God to rebuke the Devil’s accusations. You need to use the Word of God to remind yourself over and over again that the gospel is true.
The third weapon of grace is the promise of the new covenant. Hebrews 9:15 says, “He is the mediator of a new covenant, so that those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance, since a death has occurred that redeems them from the transgressions committed under the first covenant.”
2. The roots, not the branches
Second, grace-driven effort attacks the roots of our sin, not just the branches. Grace is a heart changer, because the heart is where behavior comes from. Wherever our heart is, that is where our actions will follow. We can manage our behavior until the cows come home and never have a God-loving heart, which is how the Pharisees lived. . . . Grace-driven effort not only uses the weapons of grace, but it also attacks the roots, not just the branches, whereas moralism tries just to subdue behavior.
3. Fear of God
Grace-driven effort fights for a reason that goes beyond a clear conscience and an emotional peace. One of the things I run into over and over again in my counseling role is people who are broken over sin in their life, but as I begin to dig around in there, most of the time, they’re not broken up because they have sinned against a holy God—they are broken up because their sin is costing them something. They see their sin as making life difficult for themselves, but they are not appalled at all at how they have slandered the God of the universe. We must understand that when we sin, we sin against God (Ps. 51:4).
4. Dead to sin
Grace-driven effort doesn’t just forsake sin but is absolutely dead to it (Rom. 6:11). The believer pursuing holiness by grace-driven effort is not going to serve sin, because he is alive to God. What ends up happening to so many of us is that we spend so much time trying to put sin to death that we don’t spend enough time striving to know God deeply, trying to gaze upon the wonder of Jesus Christ and have that transform our affections to the point where our love and hope are steadfastly on Christ. The goal is this: Christ would become more beautiful and desirable than the allure of sin.
5. Gospel violence
Here’s the fifth and last component of grace-driven effort: distinguishing the gospel from moralism. Grace-driven effort is violent. It is aggressive. The person who understands the gospel understands that, as a new creation, his spiritual nature is in opposition to sin now, and he seeks not just to weaken sin in his life, but to outright destroy it.
This post is excerpted and adapted from The Explicit Gospel by Matt Chandler.