Many of us in the church still struggle with sin and addictive behavior. We may find it hard to believe that Jesus can give us total freedom from those addictions here on earth. I find much comfort knowing that, when I look at my own weaknesses and past failures, God can still fill me with the fullness of His character. (See Ephesians 3:19) I find it encouraging that, even though I can’t picture myself as a complete overcomer, Jesus can still do more for my spiritual growth than I can presently picture or even try to imagine. (See Ephesians 3:20) With God all things are possible! Nothing is too hard for the Lord. (See Matthew 19:26 and Genesis 18:14)
When we fall and get discouraged and ask Jesus for forgiveness for the umpteenth time, we find it hard to believe we will ever have total victory this side of heaven. We sigh and think it will be like this as long as we live here on earth. It’s not that we want a “cheap grace” that will allow us to freely sin. We don’t. We just can’t imagine life any other way. God says He would rather that we obey than sacrifice. I believe millions of us agree with God. We would prefer to obey rather than to crucify Jesus. We are sick and tired of breaking God’s heart and the hearts of those we love.
A few years ago I went to my regular Bible study with a young man who had overcome a sinful addiction. He was very upset because after several good months he had a relapse. He was beyond discouraged, thinking he had out sinned God’s grace. I shared with him how Psalm 51:17 tells us God will never despise a broken and contrite heart. The number of times that heart has been broken or contrite before does not matter. God will never despise a broken and contrite heart, no matter how many times sin has broken that heart before. That is good news. I have more good news!
Grace saves us from sinful living.
For the grace of God has been revealed, bringing salvation to all people. And we are instructed to turn from godless living and sinful pleasures. We should live in this evil world with wisdom, righteousness, and devotion to God, while we look forward with hope to that wonderful day when the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ, will be revealed. He gave his life to free us from every kind of sin, to cleanse us, and to make us his very own people, totally committed to doing good deeds. Titus 2:11-14 NLT
One day I was walking in a nearby park that had a path for those fighting cancer. Every few feet there was a marker with an inspirational quote on how to cope with cancer. I remember one marker had a quote that simply read, “There are people who have survived every form of cancer.” Those simple words give hope to everyone who has been diagnosed with any type of cancer. There are people who have survived the most deadly cancers. Titus 2:14 reads, “He gave his life to free us from every kind of sin.” You may be struggling with an addiction that is overwhelmingly embarrassing to you. Don’t despair. Jesus has freed people from every kind of sin.
Grace produces obedience.
Through Him we have received grace and apostleship for obedience….Romans 1:5 NKJV
A preacher from the General Conference office (sorry I forget his name) was preaching years ago at an Oklahoma camp meeting. He told the story about how he was going to a breakfast diner before work one morning and saw an empty parking space close to the restaurant. He also saw a car coming from the other direction towards the same space. His first reaction was to step on the gas and get the space before the other car could. However, he explained that He had submitted himself to Jesus that morning. Thus he eased off the gas instead and let the other car take the space as he parked much farther away. When he entered the restaurant the man who got the closer space was waiting to be seated. He thanked the preacher for letting him have the closer parking space. The preacher told him, “That wasn’t me.” The man inquired, “Then who was it?” The preacher replied, “It was Jesus. I would have taken the closer parking space!” Galatians 2:20 tells us it is Jesus who lives in us and does all the good things. It is not us. Salvation by grace is a practical salvation, giving us real and practical obedience.
Grace gives us good works.
For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast. For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them. Ephesians 2:8-10 NLT
In the 90’s I watched a documentary by Oprah Winfrey on child abuse. Abuse victims gave their testimonies. In many cases their abuser had been abused as a child. In several cases the abuser was a “pillar” in the church. I observed that this epidemic was handed down from generation to generation even in the church. Around this time I had seen bumper stickers reading, “Christians aren’t perfect, just forgiven.” I wondered if that alone was really good news. If Christians are only forgiven, that means the child abuse epidemic is doomed to continue from generation to generation in the church.
But God’s grace can free us from the cycle of abuse. It does not have to continue from generation to generation in the church. I have met more than one person who was abused by their parents, but by God’s grace took good care of their parents in their old age. More than that they created a wonderful loving home environment for their own children. They did this by following the pattern Jesus gave of crying out ‘Father forgive them” instead of retaliating or passing on the abuse epidemic to the next generation. I have met grown children of alcoholics who have never drank a single drop of alcohol because they saw what it did to their family growing up, and by God’s grace they refused to allow alcoholism to destroy the family they married into. This can only be accomplished by God’s grace, but by God’s grace the victories are practical and real. By grace Christians are more than just forgiven. By grace we are saved from sinful addictive behavior. By grace Jesus lives His obedient life of Good works through us.