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The true grace of God

by Jacob Ninan

There is a false doctrine called hyper-grace. It is called that because it exaggerates grace beyond the truth. Grace is truly amazing. Grace is about the mercy and favour God shows to us even though we donít deserve it at all! If we deserved anything good from God because we have been so good or have done many good things, then we could have gone to God and claimed things from Him. But what we really deserve Ė each one of us Ė is eternal separation from God, in hell. Instead of giving us what we really deserve, but giving us what we donít deserve at all is grace. It is truly amazing. The more we understand our true nature and also Godís nature, the more we will praise Godís amazing grace.

But the hyper grace doctrine goes wrong where it gives a wrong impression. They say God forgives our sins because of His grace, and so if we fall into any sin we donít have to worry because there is grace to forgive. Since grace doesnít depend on what we do or how we live but entirely on Godís goodness, we should not be focussing on how we live but we should just be praising God for His grace! If we fall into sin, we donít have to ask for forgiveness because all our sins Ė past, present, future Ė have already been forgiven when Jesus died on the cross. We just have to praise God for His love and go on! But this is false. The Bible says, 1Jn.2:1, ďMy little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. And if anyone sins, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous.Ē God gives grace to forgive our sins, but He also gives us grace Ė help Ė to stop sinning.

Why are teachings like hyper grace popular? Because they sound very attractive by saying we donít have to do anything from our side. As they say, we all like to have the cake and eat it too. We like to do whatever we like, enjoy ourselves, and at the end of our life we like to go to heaven too. But that is falsehood.

All the problems in this world have come from sin Ė our personal sin for which we are suffering the consequences, other peopleís sins which affect us and the fact that we are living on this earth which was cursed by God when Adam sinned. Godís solution is not to tell us, ďItís all right. Just believe me, Iíll forgive you and take you to heaven.Ē God has to deal with sin first. God is holy, He hates sin, He is just and righteous. His justice demands that sin must be punished. At the same time He doesnít want to punish us because He loves us even though we have all sinned, because He has created each of us personally. We know what He did by letting Jesus take our punishment on the cross Ė the sinless One dying in the place of sinners. When we go to God on that basis Ė admitting to Him that what we deserve because of all our sins is death and punishment and receiving His forgiveness on the basis of His grace Ė our sins are forgiven.

But forgiveness of our sins is only one part of the story. God has to still deal with the fact that we continue to sin. One provision which He has made is that if we confess our sins He will forgive us (1Jn.1:9). But we cannot be going on sinning and asking for forgiveness. As we read in 1Jn.2:1, He wants us to stop sinning. That is where denying ourselves comes in.

Adam and Eve sinned when they chose to please themselves instead of God. To break that chain of sin in our lives, we need to make a choice to please God and not ourselves. This freedom from sinning must be by choice Ė our choice. God will not force it on us. If, after He forgave our sins He just took away all our sinful desires from us, then we just become reprogrammed robots. Then we cannot sin. We have no choice. It becomes impossible for us to sin. But in the same way that God gave freedom of choice to Adam and Eve to obey or disobey God, He gives us the freedom to choose between pleasing ourselves and pleasing Him. Now He wants us to choose not to sin.

God strongly supports us in our desire to stop sinning. When we are born again, God gives us a new heart and a new spirit (Ezek.36:27,28). Earlier we liked to sin because it gave us some pleasure or gave us some advantage; our main desire was to avoid getting caught. When we are born again, we find a new desire has come into our heart that hates to sin. Now we want to be pleasing to God. Also, the Holy Spirit has now come into our heart and gives us strength to say no to sin and yes to God (Rom.8:13;Gal.5:17). In other words, the Holy Spirit is our Teacher and we now learn to deny ourselves in order to follow Jesus (Lk.9:23).

We can see that there are two types of denying ourselves. The usual denying of ourselves is what everyone does to some level or other because we want to get some advantage for ourselves. We start to diet in order to lose weight so that we can become healthier, enjoy life and live longer. We study hard when the exams are coming and we give up our usual pastimes. We donít do certain things we feel like doing because we donít want to be caught. Some people come to church because they want to meet people! In all these examples, there is self-denial involved. But we are denying self in order to get something better for self!

But denying ourselves in order to please God and do His will is different. God tells us to do something or not to do something. We feel differently. We want to do something else. God wants us to get up and read the Bible. But we want to sleep for some more time. God wants us to apologise to someone we have hurt. But we think it is not necessary. Immediately after saying something we realise it was not correct. God tells us to correct it, but we think it is not necessary. If we sign a false statement, we can make some money. But God reminds us it would be false. We are tempted to give it back to someone who has been troubling us. God asks us whether it is a kind word we are going to say. We are fascinated by something we see is on a discount sale. God asks us if we really need it. Etc.

If we fear or respect God, we will seek to obey Him. Jesus said also that if we loved Him we would obey Him (Jn.14:15). But we think because He loves us, He will forgive us! We think He would not mind Ďsmallí deviations as long as we Ďbelieveí Him. But if we do that we are only fooling ourselves. Godís holiness will not allow Him to show us partiality just because we are His children.

Of course, sometimes obeying God is not easy. Sometimes we may lose some earthly benefits by holding on to Godís standards. Sometimes our friends or relatives may leave us. But that is when we show God what and who is valuable to us. It was when Abraham was willing to sacrifice his son Isaac that God told him He knew Abraham respected Him. Just because it is difficult, we cannot choose to disobey God. Jesus said if we loved anyone or anything more than Him, including ourselves, we could not be His disciples (Lk.14:26,33).

One reason for our difficulty is that we donít understand God properly and believe that His plans are always for our good (Jer.29:11). Satan wants us to think that God is a spoilsport, He always wants us to put us in trouble, He will give us the ugliest person for us to marry if we ask Him for His choice, etc. These are not true. There is no one who loves us like God, no one who can plan and execute any plan better than Godís.

The second reason is that we are usually looking only at the earthly life. When we think of good plans, we think of earthly wealth, fame, position, pleasure, etc. But God knows that our life in eternity is more important. This life here is only for a short while, while eternity has no end! God also knows that some difficulties on earth are necessary for us to turn away from the earth towards God.

Once we understand the goodness of God and His plans for our eternal good, it becomes easier for us to deny ourselves in order to do Godís will. Whether we agree with God or not, whether we can understand where He wants to take us or not, whether things are easy or difficult for us, we will learn to deny ourselves and do Godís will. This is to walk by faith. We believe in Godís wisdom, goodness and love for us, and so we decide to walk by faith and obey Him even though we may have some fears or questions in our mind.

Slowly we find that denying ourselves in order to obey God becomes a habit for us, and it is no longer a big sacrifice for us usually. There may be times of special testing, when choosing God involves a big sacrifice, humanly speaking. But God is no manís debtor. He will bless us not only in eternity but also in this life, in an overflowing way.

People like to hear the Gospel about blessings Ė wealth, health, pleasure, thrills Ė where they can continue to do whatever they like. Very few like to hear about denying themselves and following Jesus. But that is the way to the true blessings that Jesus offers. Now we can see why very few choose the narrow way that leads to life, while the majority are choosing the broad way that finally leads to their destruction.

So let us learn to trust God and obey His promptings. He has given us His word which we will use as our baseline. Then based on that word, the Holy Spirit may interpret things to us in our practical life.

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