“People do not, will not drift towards holiness, apart from grace driven effort. People do not grow and delight in the Lord. Instead we drift towards compromise and call it tolerance. We drift towards disobedience and call it freedom. We drift towards superstition and call it faith. We cherish the indiscipline of self-control and call it relaxation. We slouch towards prayerlessness and delude ourselves into thinking we have escaped legalism. We slide towards godlessness and convince ourselves that we have been liberated.” – D.A. Carson (Volume 2, For the Love of God)
This morning, I listened to a message from Matt Chandler, head pastor of the Village Church. He taught out of Colossians 3: 1-11 on what grace driven effort looks like; in his series through the book of Colossians. These are some of the notes I took from the message and couldn’t resist the urge to share them with hopes they will enrich, convict and encourage your hearts as they did mine.
Grace driven effort
No one accidentally becomes godly. No one stumbles into godliness. It just doesn’t happen by accident. But how do you pursue growing in godliness without falling into a checkless version of Christianity where you step outside of grace and begin to earn once again what was freely given to you?
That’s the question. Because what we know about Christian living is that it’s not static; it moves – it requires movement. But how do we do that? How does that work?
6 Things that mark grace driven discipline as contrasted to legalistic mortification:
1) Grace-driven effort comes from a new heart. (Colossians 1:13; Ephesians 1 and so on talks about the eyes of our hearts being opened by the Father and how he rescued us when we were dead in our sin).
Regeneration. Grace-driven effort cannot be manufactured; it is from a new heart that grace-driven effort is born out of. That’s how those who have been raised with Christ receive a grace-driven effort; they have been given new hearts.
Not so with the legalist – the legalist pursues God out of a sense that simply doing the “right things” gives you a lot of clout. In the Bible belt you can become a very powerful leader simply by living by a certain laid out standard that at the end of the day really has nothing to do with Jesus Christ. So really the motivation is not a new heart but the applause of men.
Or people pit sin against sin. EXAMPLE: Men struggle overall with lust, pornography and masturbation. So in the end, here’s what they do: by their own will, by their own power, they set out to beat – and here we have in the gladiator arena – lust versus self-righteousness. Now regardless of who wins, sin won! The female equivalent is that women will put in the ring fear and anxiety with control and manipulation. But in the end sin still wins.
2) Grace-driven effort uses the weapons of grace.
Three primary weapons of grace: (1) the blood of Christ (Ephesians 2:13), (2) the word of God and (3) the promises of the new covenant.
It is the mark of Christian maturity that when you stumble and fall that you run to Him and not from Him. It is sign of Christian immaturity when you stumble and fall and run away from Him and try to clean yourself up and then come back.
The legalist however, uses his own vows and resolutions – uses his own might, his own effort – his own creative “I’ll do this, I’ll do that” “I won’t do this, I won’t do that.” He also uses the law as in if: I’ll keep the promises of the law I’ll gain eternal life. He uses the law to try to conform himself to perfection. Some people are going to try to find freedom by breaking all the rules and some are going to try to find freedom by keeping all the rules. Both of them scream out: I DON”T NEED YOU, GOD!!!
3) Grace-driven effort attacks the roots and not just the branches.
What’s wrong with us is not our behavior but our hearts. You don’t change the behavior to get to the heart.
4) Grace-driven effort fights for a reason that goes way beyond conscience and peace.
So grace-driven effort isn’t about ‘when I do that,’ I feel bad about ‘me.’ Grace-driven effort is built upon ‘I have grieved the Holy Spirit and I have sullied the image of the God of the universe.’
Conviction is a great indicator of a heart issue but our motivation to transform is not “I hate this about me, I hate this about me, I hate this about me.”
Worldly sorrow vs. godly sorrow. Worldly sorrow is: Oh, I’ve made a mess of my life and I got busted and I hate that I’ve made a mess of my life. The motivation for killing sin in our own lives is not so that we can ease our own conscience, but so that we might not dirty our souls and in so doing make light of the God of the universe and belittle his name.
5) Grace-driven effort comes by being dead to sin and not just forsaking it.
6) Grace-driven effort is violent (towards that residual sin inside of us).
The legalist more often than not won’t really want to kill sin but to control it. They run towards that sin for comfort and not to the God of the universe. That’s why some of you get caught up in this vicious cycle of sin. Because you’ll do well for a season and then fall right back into it. That’s because you’ve simply tried to train it.
To listen to the full message: click here.
Rachel B. Duke