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Living by Grace

I had breakfast with some new friends this week and we got into a discussion about the advantages of living by grace. We all agreed that trying to do everything by self-effort feels good for a while but ends up being disappointing and exhausting. We also agreed that we are drawn to self-effort like bats to a dark cave so we constantly need to study and be reminded about what it means to live by grace.
By grace, I mean the freedom that comes to life through the forgiveness of Jesus. It was a major theme in Paul’s writings because he was intensely aware of his own personal need to be forgiven and redeemed from his former way of life. So, what does a life of grace look like?
Grace transforms us from death to life. “As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins.” (Ephesians 2:1) We were physically alive but we lacked spiritual life. Our souls were active so we thought, felt and made decisions. In the absence of spiritual life, however, we had no choice but to be self-centered, short-sighted and proud. As a result, we got caught up with “the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air,” (v. 2) “gratifying the cravings of our flesh and following its desires and thoughts.” (v. 3) In essence, we were bound to these behaviors and had no choice but to fall short in life.
Then God “made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions.” (v. 5) He put His Holy Spirit in us and caused us to come alive spiritually. As a result, we have a new option now. We have the power of Christ in us to live similar to the way He did. We have the wisdom of Christ in us to make decisions the way He did. We have the love of Christ in us to serve others the way he did. We have the moral strength of Christ in us to live with excellence the way He did. We will never get it perfect here on earth the way He did but we have the same skill set to draw upon.
Grace creates a new self-image. “God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus.” (v. 6) We are no longer just human beings living a short life in this world. We are assured that we will be raised to new life. We will be given new bodies. We will be given the inheritance of Christ. We will also rule with Christ as He takes authority in the world. Since God operates outside of time, it is as if it has already happened and is therefore secure. We are free to view ourselves as eternal, significant, and valuable. We are free to think through long-term consequences and rewards. We are free to make decisions that do the most good for the longest amount of time.
Grace gives us purpose. “For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” (v. 10) You were not born again just to rescue you from judgment. You were set apart to make a unique contribution to life. God has a plan for you that was created by Jesus Himself, was designed to have a positive impact, and was planned out in detail.
We all agreed that a life of grace is better than a life of self-effort and we vowed to be students of what it means to live by grace for the rest of our lives.

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