This is a continuation of our series on “A Call to Obedience,” how a Christ-follower should respond to his commands.
Obedience does not earn us the status of children of God and heirs to his kingdom. It flows out of that status. Yet, to both the antinomian who would take this dependence on God’s grace and make it cheaply-received, and the legalist who would claim to earn God’s grace through human effort and thus make it cheaply-bought, Paul asks, “do you presume on the riches of his kindness and forbearance and patience, not knowing that God’s kindness is meant to lead you to repentance?” (Romans 2:4)
If grace comes from the riches of [God’s] kindness of forbearance and patience, it is not something we can purchase with our own righteousness – can one buy pure gold with filthy rags (Isaiah 64:6)? Nor is it something we can receive as if it were worthless. No, it is a gift from his richness into our poverty, and such a gift should elicit the intended response: repentance.
This is not to say that we should receive God’s gift as an unpayable debt on our account, or an unbearable burden on our shoulders. His yoke is easy and his burden light (Matthew 11:30). No, this gift should exhort us to joyful obedience, not whip us into reluctant compliance, and even more so because we understand we have received a gift we cannot purchase, due to a sacrifice we did not make, given in love we do not deserve. Obedience to our Creator becomes an exercise of joy versus drudgery.
But it gets so much better! Even though this undeserved, unearned, and unparalleled gift of God’s grace should be more than enough to move us worship God, to honor him, and to serve him in joyful obedience (and it certainly should be), we are told that he wants to shower us even more generously. We find this in his promises that this practice of joyful obedience will lead to an even deeper experience of God’s love and presence.
“Whoever has my commandments and keeps them, he it is who loves me. And he who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and manifest myself to him.” – John 14:21
In that same chapter we see also his promise to send the Holy Spirit in response to our obedience, and we find that we have a promise of the immersion in God’s presence through that obedience: The love and provision of God the Father; the love, intercession, and presence of God the Son; and the indwelling presence and help of God the Spirit. It is a gift exclusively to those blessed with the gift of obedience to God, from God (John 14:15-21).
In the midst of this joy, however, in understanding that God’s grace leads to our obedience, we must also acknowledge a difficult corollary. If God’s gift of saving grace is so miraculous, so supernatural, that it compels its recipients into this joyful obedience, then just as the presence of such obedience in our lives is evidence of our having received that saving grace, the absence is evidence we have not.
That will be the topic of my next post in this series, “Obedience: The Evidence of Saving Faith.”
Thank you for reading, and I do hope you will comment (whether you agree or not!).