The entire foundation of our Christian life and the foundation of the Church – is GRACE. Literally speaking, grace means a free gift. The name of that free gift is Jesus Christ. Jesus lived His life perfectly for us as one of us, completely obeying the law of God and now His performance is credited to us.
God’s free gift to us is not only the life, but also the death of Jesus Christ. Our sins are punishable by death and that punishment was endured by Jesus when He died on the cross. That is also a gift given to us – His death is also credited to us. It’s as if we suffered the punishment for our sins. Jesus’ resurrection is also a gift to us. In Him we have risen above the power and penalty of sin. In Christ we have conquered death. Then after His resurrection, the Lord Jesus poured out His Holy Spirit Who made all this real to us and continues to do so today.
The free gift of God’s grace is that Jesus lived a life pleasing to God and He now empowers us to live a life pleasing to God after Him, or more accurately, in Him. Another way of saying it, is that Jesus lived His life for us, and now He lives His life through us by the power of His Spirit – and all of this is free. The great Baptist Preacher Charles Spurgeon put it best when he said:
‘You stand before God as if you were Christ, because Christ stood before God as if He were you.’
So now we are no longer subject to sin and the laws governing sin. We are no longer necessarily subject to the results of sin. Sickness can be healed; demons can be driven off; depression can be cured; relationships can be reconciled; offences can be forgiven. It’s not guaranteed because we are still broken, but it is all now possible. What Satan has sought to do since the fall can be undone, by the free gift of God’s grace – His empowering presence. It’s a gift in the beginning; it’s a gift in the end; it’s a gift all the way through.
Not only is this grace radically free to us, it is radically different to the way things were. The difference between the way things were and the way things are now after the giving of that gift, produces in us gratitude that motivates us to live the lives that we are meant to live. Why is this truth so important for our relationship with God? Well, part of that answer comes when we see what happens in our lives and relationship without it. Unless we know the truth of who we are in Christ; the foundation of His grace in our salvation and sanctification; what God has done and how we are supposed to live out that salvation, then any exhortations to holy living will result in works of the flesh, our feeble attempts to do in our own power and strength what only God can and has done.
It is so important we understand that there is nothing that we can do to save ourselves or pay for our sins. The Bible says, “… there is none righteous, no, not one. For all have sinned, and fallen short of the glory of God and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.” (Romans 3:10,23-24). So since we could not come to God, God came to us. Let’s look at some words of the Apostle Paul in the Amplified version of the Bible:
Ephesians 2:8,9 “… it is by free grace that you are saved (delivered from judgment and made partakers of Christ’s salvation) through your faith. And this [salvation] is not of yourselves [of your own doing, it came not through your own striving], but it is the gift of God; Not because of works [not the fulfilment of the Law’s demands], lest any man should boast. [It is not the result of what anyone can possibly do, so no one can pride himself in it or take glory to himself]. What you and I could not earn, God gave to us freely by His grace.”
And in his letter to the Church in Rome, Paul wrote this:
Romans 1:16-17 “I am not ashamed of the Gospel, because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile. For in the Gospel a righteousness from God is revealed, a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written: The righteous will live by faith.”
Religion says the righteous will live by keeping the law. Paul says very clearly the righteous are not only saved by grace, through faith, but that is also how they must live each day. Now I am sure that you have heard some ‘I’m not ashamed of the Gospel’ sermons. The most common way I have heard these verses preached is something like this: ‘If you’re afraid to go knock on doors and witness – if you’re afraid to preach on street corners – if you’re afraid to share your faith in Christ with every non-believer the Lord leads your way… then you’re ashamed of the Gospel … and you should not be ashamed of the Gospel because it’s the power of God unto salvation.’
What’s so amazing about that nonsense is firstly, it’s not what Paul is trying to say – but secondly, it undermines the very thing that Paul is trying to accomplish! Paul is saying: ‘What I’m about to tell you is going to free you from shame.’ So what do we do? We heap shame on ourselves and others with the very verse that is supposed to free us from shame! Does that make sense to you? Religion is so powerful in its brain-fogged, spirit-deceived ways of doing things that it actually takes liberating Bible verses and turns them into oppression and heavy loads.
If you understand the Gospel of God’s amazing grace – like Paul did – you will never be ashamed of it, and let me go further and say that when that happens, you will never again experience shame of any kind for any reason! If you know shame there is still a lot you can learn about the Gospel of Jesus Christ – and when you do – when it comes to you not just in your mind, but by revelation from His Spirit to your spirit, then you are going to be free from all shame for all time. The Gospel delivers you from shame of every description.
The key is found in verse 17. Paul says, he is not ashamed of the Gospel, because in the Gospel ‘a righteousness from God is revealed.’ When you look at your own righteousness, you’re ashamed, right? When you see how it measures up to God’s standards, you should be ashamed. Shame says: ‘you don’t measure up. There’s something wrong with you.’ Now if that could be taken completely away, you would never have any shame, would you? Well that is what the Gospel does! Paul says, ‘I’m freed from shame because a righteousness has been given to me from God. I don’t depend on my righteousness for how I feel about myself. I have a new standard by which to judge.’ So understand at the outset that if there’s any shame in your life, you still haven’t fully understood or embraced the Gospel.
In the Gospel we discover a righteousness from God – a goodness and an acceptability from God that is not dependent upon our performance. It is dependent upon the performance of Jesus Christ. It is a righteousness that is by faith from first to last. You start off with the gift of God – you end with the gift of God. The righteous shall live (not just get born again) by grace. We are meant to live each and every day by the good news which says: ‘You don’t measure up, but God has made you measure up through this incredible free gift!’