By Maritza Rivera
But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace to me was not without effect. No, I worked harder than all of them--yet not I, but the grace of God that was with me. 1 Cor. 15:10 (NIV)
I recently had a conversation with someone on the topic of grace. Let’s face it, grace is a deep topic that many Christians fail to understand. We fail to understand grace and its function in our lives. We fail to dig into the scripture deeply enough to have a solid Biblical foundation on the topic, or at times we become utterly confused because so many ‘Christians‘ are using grace as an excuse to live sinfully. Below are a few points that arose from the conversation that will help clarify what grace is.
To dig deeper, we must first define grace…
Grace – The unmerited favor of God toward men. I like to say it is getting something that you don’t deserve. Much like a parent who randomly gives their child the greatest gift ever, or like a random stranger who gives you 10 million dollars even when you are rude, obnoxious, self-centered, etc.
However, grace is a pretty broad definition and it basically has two points. First, it draws us to salvation (turns us to Christ). Secondly, it keeps us in Christ (empowers us to turn away from sin). God created it to be two-fold because He not only wanted to gift you with salvation, but He wanted you to work out and be steadfast in your salvation.
So during the discussion on grace I had with this individual they asked a few questions…
QUESTION 1: “If we are sinful beings and we invite Christ into our lives to transform us, is it wrong to give into sin and indulge in the sinful nature if we are moving toward holiness?”
Every Christian struggles to resolve the two issues of striving for holiness/sanctification and falling into sin. There is a Bible verse that has helped me truly grasp the function of grace in my life.
“For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age, waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works.”
This verse explains graces two-part form discussed above. So if we are truly allowing grace to function correctly in our lives we are not only receiving the gift of salvation through grace, but we are also empowered to say no to any ungodliness that tries to rise up in our walk in Christ.
So the answer is yes, when we knowingly sin it is wrong. When we do give into sin we are disregarding the sacrifice Jesus made and ignoring the Holy Spirit’s guidance towards holiness. If we aren’t saying no to ungodliness then we are not allowing grace to function in us as God intends, we are just taking the first part of the package and not the second. It’s like eating dessert but not the meal.
QUESTION 2: “So then, does grace have the ability to cover sins committed on purpose?”
The answer to this question is actually yes, but only if we follow through with asking God for forgiveness with sincere intentions of avoiding that sin in the future. When I read the scriptures it is clear that God expects us to avoid sinning at all costs.
“Dear friends, if we deliberately continue sinning after we have received knowledge of the truth, there is no longer any sacrifice that will cover these sins. There is only the terrible expectation of God’s judgment and the raging fire that will consume his enemies.” Hebrews 10:26-27 (NLT)
QUESTION 3: “What about intentional sin or habitual sin?”
If we intentionally sin or habitually sin we insult the spirit of grace. It’s like getting a very expensive car as a gift from someone – a car that is not like any other. It is a collectable. It is priceless. You would take care of that car with utmost caution. But let’s say you don’t care for that car. Let’s say you refuse to change the oil, you drive over nails and sharp objects, you never wash it, and eventually you crash into objects. You are insulting the person who gave you that gift. If you really cared for the person who gave you that priceless gift, then you would care for the gift.
“For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith--and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—“ Eph. 2:8 (NIV)
“How much more severely do you think someone deserves to be punished who has trampled the Son of God underfoot, who has treated as an unholy thing the blood of the covenant that sanctified them, and who has insulted the Spirit of grace?” Hebrews 10:29
“We know that we have come to know him if we keep his commands.” 1 John 2:3
“If anyone says, "I know Him," but does not keep His commandments, he is a liar, and the truth is not in him. But if anyone keeps His word, the love of God has been truly perfected in him. By this we know that we are in Him:” 1 John 2:4-5
Finally, there are a few points that I use to determine sin in my own life:
1. Is it something clearly defined by Scripture?
2. Is it harming me spiritually?
3. Is it causing others to stumble?
4. Is it causing bondage in my life?
5. Am I feeling conviction from the Holy Spirit?
These points help us figure out whether something we are doing is sinful. This is what the scripture is talking about when it says to ‘examine ourselves’ in 2 Cor. 13:5
But before I'm done, I want to clarify that we don’t need to overwhelm ourselves on the do’s and do not’s of our walk in Christ (although it is important to reflect daily), what we need to do is understand God’s goodness which is displayed through His grace. And, understanding His goodness towards us will compel and move us to have a deeper relationship with him – a relationship not based on rules, but based on love which keeps us from doing sinful things that are not part of His plan for us.