By: Megan Evans
I’ve often struggled with reconciling the relationship of grace and obedience.
I look at a particular sin in my life and flippantly think, “Oh, God’s grace covers that!” Or I look at what I have been sacrificing and think, “I bet God is proud of this!”
Within minutes of those exact thoughts, though, I look at that specific sin and think, “There is not enough grace in the world to cover this.” I look at what I have been sacrificing and think, “This can never be enough.”
When does this dissonance end? The better question to ask is, “In whom does this dissonance end?” Jesus Christ.
In Union with Christ, Wilbourne explains that we need to hear both grace and demand at full volume.
We need to hear Ephesians 2:8-9, that we have been saved by grace and not works. We need to remind ourselves of this daily. Hourly.
No sin can take us too far gone for God to love us. And there is nothing on earth we can do that could ever take away our need for dependence on him. Wilbourne says,
“Therefore, the remedy to our deepest wound and the antidote to Satan’s most venomous lie is a sure and certain confidence in the goodness of God toward us. Only those who believe in his grace will have the power to obey him.”
Where does this obedience part fit? “Only those who believe in his grace will have the power to obey him.” But I thought it was just grace alone that gave me faith? Hebrews 12:14 says, “Without holiness, no one will see the Lord.” Wilbourne contends,
“…because we are prone to excuse ourselves with the consolations of grace, and because we are awash in a sea of consumerism that leads us to define the gospel mainly in terms of the practical benefits it brings us, and because we can be given to sloth – we need to hear these voices that turn the call to follow Christ all the way up to full volume. Undiluted. The only way to know God is to follow him.”
Receiving grace and the benefits of sins washed clean requires faith. I have to believe that I am a sinner saved by grace. But because I believe in Christ, I believe that he is still making me new and that I still need him to turn from sin.
I can’t do this without obedience. I can’t worship a God because I am thankful for what he did for me in the past. No, I worship him by obeying because I am grateful for what he is continuing to do in my life.
We can’t do both on our own, though. We can’t live up to the standards of obedience God calls us to. We can’t give ourselves enough grace to cover our sins.
The joining of 100% grace and 100% obedience is met in the person of Jesus Christ. And because of Christ living, dying, resurrecting for us, and sending his Spirit, we now are in union with him.
Union with Christ means “the work of Christ for us cannot be separated from the person of Christ in us (Wilbourne). He didn’t die an arbitrary death; he died so that he could be working in us with us.
Because of our union with Christ, obedience no longer feels like something we can’t reach. Grace no longer feels like something we can’t obtain. We can turn toward him, run to him, and be a part of what he has done and is doing.
Our sins are fully paid for by grace. We have all the power we need in Christ to continue to turn from sins toward Godliness: obedience. We have Christ dwelling in us.
“Our union with Christ is real but invisible. We must use “the eyes of [our] hearts” (Eph 1:18) to look not at what is seen, but what is unseen (2 Cor. 4:18). When temptation comes, you can say, “That’s not who I am anymore. I’m in Christ and Christ is in me. Christ, help me to be the person I am in you – by grace” (Wilbourne).