Divine Contrasts: Grace vs. Works

While I was away on vacation, I couldn’t help but feeling that I needed more of a rest than what I was being granted. Going to the beach in September is not the best of choices, but we didn’t have a choice since we were traveling with others. I got sick the first day there and ended up in the urgent care center only to discover I had a common cold. Problem with me is what starts out as a common cold ends up as walking pneumonia! I was concerned, so I rested by sitting in the hotel room feeling sorry for myself. But once I submitted that attitude to the Lord, I opened my Bible and started reading Jeremiah. I shared this in service this past Sunday, but Jeremiah 20:7-11 says,
O Lord, You have deceived me, and I was deceived; You are stronger than I, and You have prevailed. I have become a laughingstock all the day; everyone mocks me. For whenever I speak, I cry out, I shout, “Violence and destruction!” For the word of the Lord has become for me a reproach and derision all day long. If I say, “I will not mention Him, or speak any more in His name,” there is in my heart as it were a burning fire shut up in my bones, and I am weary with holding it in, and I cannot. For I hear many whispering. “Terror is on every side! Denounce him! Let us denounce him!” say all my close friends, watching for my fall. “Perhaps he will be deceived; then we can overcome him and take our revenge on him.” But God is with me as a dread warrior; therefore my persecutors will stumble; they will not overcome me. They will be greatly shamed, for they will not succeed. Their eternal dishonor will never be forgotten (emphasis mine).
Verse 11 is where the divine contrast takes place. Verses 7-10 is the crux of Jeremiah’s complaint against God’s decision to send him to an idolatrous and disobedient people and proclaim “Thus says the Lord.” But verse 11 is Jeremiah’s acknowledgement of God’s abundant grace and mercy, but here specifically His justice. Everyone is against Jeremiah, even his so-called friends…but, God is with him as a Warrior,
the greatest warrior one could have on their side. I’ve often said it: God plus me is a majority, and it doesn’t matter what others do or, in many sad cases, don’t do.
 
Last week, the divine contrast took place in Ephesians 2:1-10, where Paul contrasts our complete deadness in sin with the life that is only found in Christ Jesus. This coming week, I’m going to stay in that same theme by looking at Romans 3:9-26 and the contrast between Man’s self-righteousness and God’s righteousness. Look at this passage and how rich it is in theology and practical application. I know I’m ahead of myself but I wanted to give the few who read this blog something to study in advance of Sunday:
What then? Are we Jews any better off? No, not at all. For we have already charged that all, both Jews and Greeks, are under sin, as it is written: None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands; no one seeks for God. All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one. Their throat is an open grave; they use their tongues to deceive. The venom of asps is under their lips. Their mouth is full of curses and bitterness. Their feet are swift to shed blood; in their paths are ruin and misery, and the way of peace they have not known. There is no fear of God before their eyes.” Now we know that whatever the law says it speaks to those who are under the law, so that every mouth may be stopped, and the whole world may be held accountable to God. For by works of the law no human being will be justified in His sight, since through the law comes knowledge of sin.
 
But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it— the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction: for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by His grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God’s righteousness, because in His divine forbearance He had passed over former sins. It was to show His righteousness at the present time, so that He might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.
 Beloved, this is the Bible. Grace through faith in Christ alone is the way to salvation and it’s also the way to sanctification and a healthy, joyful Christian life and worldview. The problem is we leave grace at the alter where we submitted to Jesus, and yet grace is supposed to stay with us constantly throughout our whole lives! How do we extend grace to others when we’ve forgotten the grace that saved wretches like us? We can’t leave grace for the conversion of our hearts and then forget about it when it comes to sanctification. Sanctification is a lifelong journey, not a one-time work of grace. I’m sorry, but I disagree with that doctrine. Sanctification is a process, not a destination. We will never be sinless and therefore there will always be a need for the sanctifying work of grace in our lives. It’s a molestation of the beauty of grace that leads entire churches and even denominations into great error and legalism. This free gift of salvation is delivered through the vehicle of grace, NOT WORKS, so no one can boast. And once you know grace, you will know mercy and love for others who struggle in this world with the veil of sin. Remember, church, where you’ve come from. If you’re reading this and you’re a child of God, you should be – without question or compromise – a student of grace, and all the gifts that spring from it.
 
Do you love mercy and grace? Ask yourself and be honest. Repent if necessary for the wrong worldview; celebrate if you know full well the mercy and grace of our Lord Jesus Christ.
 
Thanks for reading, and God bless you.
 
Pastor Branden T. Robertson

Leave a Reply