[Ephesians 2:5] says “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith — and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God”
Many people understand this verse well enough to know that salvation is a gift from God not involving our personal deeds, it is because of the righteous and saving deeds of our Savior Jesus. However not many really go beyond this obvious truth and try to understand grace beyond salvation. God’s grace is not just meant for us to be in heaven after our death, but it is much more than that. It is needed by us for everything in our life here on earth.
For example, I once was speaking to a woman about the righteousness of God. How our own self-righteousness is like filthy rags to God [Isaiah 64:6]. This she readily admitted and agreed to, however as the discussion went further and I told her about how we who have believed in Jesus Christ have been bought and cleansed by His blood and become a new creation. We are now saints. That did not go down well with her. She was willing to admit that she was a terrible sinner and that all her deeds were like filthy rags, that she was an unworthy being, but to call oneself a saint was like blasphemy. “So have you stopped sinning then?” was her question, I told her that my deeds had nothing to do with my becoming a saint, if that was the case, then I could never see how I would ever be called a saint. But it was the finished work of Christ and my faith in Him that transformed me into a saint.
I do sin now and then, yet these sins do not change me back from a new creation to the dead old me. I do believe this because the gifts & calling of God are irrevocable [Romans 11:29] and salvation and righteousness of God are His gifts. So though I sin, I do not lose my salvation nor do I lose my identity as an heir in His kingdom and therefore I continue as a saint.
I can see that some people may misinterpret what I just said above to think that I can continue in sin and lead an ungodly life, but that’s not what I have said and in fact if this question does come into your mind then I guess you have begun to understand grace. Paul himself thought it necessary to ask and respond to this question in [Romans 6:1]. He says “What shall we say, then? Shall we go on sinning, so that grace may increase?” Because he knew it would become an obvious question after his audience would read the message He explains in Chapter 5, so he left nothing to their imagination, and addressed this very important question. “By no means! We died to sin; how can we live in it any longer?” he says in [Romans 6:2]. So obviously I cannot use grace as a licence to sin. Heck! Who needs a licence to sin? You mean to say that those who do not have a licence have not sinned. There is no such concept of having a licence to sin, people sin irrespective of whether you give them a licence or not. Hope that clarifies what I mean.
The woman I spoke to, had no concept of salvation by the grace of God and so we can sympathize and pray for her that her mind and heart would be open to the seed that was sown. However there are people who very well understand salvation by grace and yet are stuck a point where, though they understand that they have been saved by grace, yet when we talk about grace beyond salvation and how it becomes an important ingredient of our relationship with God, their behavior is no different from the woman I mentioned above.
There are those who get offended at this statement of mine “When God looks at me He is pleased with me, even if I have sinned”. Yes this statement sounds offensive, but the grace of God is offensive to begin with. If a person who did not do so badly is made equal to someone who did really bad, they cannot stand it. This was the problem with the Pharisees, when Jesus said that tax-collectors and prostitutes are going ahead of you into the kingdom of God, they felt offensive and thought that this teaching was of the devil. Can God be pleased with me if I sin? Let’s look at this. Firstly does God love sin? No. Absolutely not. Does God love the sinner? Yes. Now, when I say that God is pleased when He sees me, is it because of what I have done? No. It is because of what Jesus has done, my only contribution was to believe in the redemptive work of Jesus. So now my sins are forgiven, they are covered by His blood. If that is true then what does God see when He looks at me. He sees the blood of Jesus. I may have just sinned, but, is my sin greater than the blood of Jesus? [Hebrews 8:12] says “For I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more”. Forgetting is involuntary, but God did not say I will forget their sins which would be an involuntary act, instead He says I will remember their sins no more. Remembering is a voluntary action; therefore not remembering our sins is a voluntary act that God has chosen. He can choose to see our sins, but He does not, because of our faith in the blood of Jesus. So once again I would want to repeat, some find this offensive because it looks like I have a licence to sin, but is that what I am saying? No. Like Paul, I say, how can I who am dead to sin live any longer in it?
When I became a new creation I changed from the inside, I received a new spirit, the Spirit of God. Because of this, I do not or cannot have a desire or lust for sin. If I do then I am not a new creation and no change has taken place in me. If that is clear to you then you would understand that my sin is an act of folly which that got the better of me. However I do not love to sin, because if I do, then I would be inevitably serving a different master, the father of sin. And Jesus said that I cannot serve two masters, I can only be loyal and faithful to one. So either I love the father of lies and sin, which means I am not a new creation or I love the Father of lights and I am His son and He is my Father.
So my sin which is a foolish thing I have done, does not cause God to turn His face away from me, but He continues to remain pleased with me, not because of my act, but because He has made a decision to remember my foolish acts no more. This does not mean I should not do anything about my foolish acts. Instead I am well aware that I must repent and admit (confess) to God that I made a mistake and he is faithful and just to forgive these mistakes [1 John 1:9]. The reason why I have chosen to use the words “mistakes” and “foolish acts” is so that we do not get confused that our sins are not yet forgiven. Our sins have been forgiven past, present and future 2000 years back. But now when I foolishly do sin it is not because I have a sin nature that loves to sin, but rather it is because I have not been sensitive to God’s Spirit that teaches me to avoid these mistakes. It’s like a new baby learning to walk, it will fall a few times if it has to learn to walk.
Having said that, I can say for sure, that when I concentrated on defeating sin by myself in the past I fared worse. But now that I understand the grace of God, I have accidentally overpowered more of my sins than I have ever thought of.