If you are new to Christianity, or if you have been walking with God since you were in short pants, each day is your next opportunity to grow as a Christian. Perhaps the true test of whether you are in-tune with the Holy Spirit within you is whether or not you face each day wondering what opportunities God will give you to grow that day, or if you are so busy taking care of the material things in your life that you don’t really think about God at all.
Grace is such a wonderful gift. For those who accept the gift of grace that is acknowledging the deity of Christ and the purpose of His crucifixion on the cross to save all of us sinners, grace means two very important things that all Christians, but especially those new to the Christian walk, should realize up front:
Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, . . . who do not live according to the flesh but according to the Spirit (Romans 8:1 and 4b, NIV)
In Him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in Him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit . . . (Ephesians 1:13a, ESV)
In other words, beyond going back on believing that Christ died for your sins, there is nothing that can separate you from God as far as God is concerned. As long as we repent of our sins, He will forgive us. Even when we aren’t talking to Him directly, He hears us. Especially when we ourselves have hardened our hearts to His callings, He knows the cracks through which to read our souls’ secrets.
Grace means there is nothing we can do to earn our salvation, but it does not mean there is nothing for Christians to do. Jesus told his followers it was a “narrow way” to the Kingdom of Heaven. Study your copy of the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew chapters 5-7), and you’ll discover very quickly just how narrow that way can be.
Does the narrow way mean God expects us to be perfect? Of course not! He who knows us best knows that perfection is beyond us. That is why Christ came with the gift of salvation through grace in the first place. But, truly loving God and having the Spirit of God in us means we are compelled to get as close to perfection as a human can get–with the help and support of God all the way.
Romans 8:15 reads:
The Spirit you received does not make you slaves, so that you live in fear again; rather, the Spirit you received brought about your adoption to sonship. And by him we cry, “Abba, Father.” (NIV)
My Ryrie Study Bible note for this verse explains:
His [those of us adopted into the family of God through our belief in Christ] position is one of full privilege; his practice involves growth in grace.
After accepting the gift of grace, which is a privilege we do absolutely nothing to earn accept bow down in obedience to the ONE who deserves our whole selves, the gift of the indwelling Holy Spirit that is part of the grace package helps to guide us in our next step, which is to grow in that grace.
Have you ever played Monopoly? Remember how you saved the “Get Out of Jail Free” card to save yourself from lost turns and stiff fines? When you used the “Get Out of Jail Free” card, as a game player, was your first action to stop on the first property on which you landed and stay a while? Or did you continue to play the game, buying properties, improving properties, and trying to win? If you weren’t going to continue to play, why not just sit in jail and let the Monopoly game continue without you, right?
The first practical step to a Better Christian Walk, then, is acknowledging that grace is not a “get out of jail free” card to be wasted! God loves us enough to give us life after death. He certainly loves us enough to pick us up when we fall. He already knows how many times, in fact, we are going to fall in our walk with Him.
But He does expect us to keep moving forward. The Old Testament prophets are filled with the dire consequences that occurred when God’s chosen people, the Israelites, refused generation after generation after generation to follow God with all their minds, and all their spirits, and all their bodies. Do you think that just because He offered the ultimate sacrifice to free us from the impossibility of perfection that He actually also had in mind freeing us from growing in Him?
This is the first in a series of posts I plan to write on walking with Christ and being better Shiners of the Light in this world of darkness in which we live. So, let me end it with something practical you can do with the information I just wrote:
My Shine the Light Practice for this week: I will get in my quiet space and talk to God. I will acknowledge His gift of grace and what it means in my life. I will be honest with Him about the way my life would be if I didn’t have grace. I will ask Him to help me grow the Holy Spirit muscle in me by making me a better listener this week, revealing the quiet moments in my life when He is trying to tell me something. I will admit that growing in grace takes practice and dedication on my part, and I will ask Him to show me the way.