Saved by Grace, Live by Works?

Written by Karl Dahlfred on .

I’ve noticed that much teaching in Thai churches focuses on some variation of offering yourself to God or seeking God’s blessings through obedience.  Somehow, the Gospel is seen as useful for “getting saved” but not for living the Christian life.  Once you’ve heard about grace and “accepted Christ,” the next thing you need is a steady diet of moral exhortation to be good and to give yourself fully to God so that you get his blessings.  Or at least that’s a lot of what I’m hearing.  Of course, this is nothing unique to the Thai church, as it shows up in some form in every country, every culture, every age.

Since a neglect of the Gospel of grace is such an entrenched problem in churches, whether that be Thailand or elsewhere, I found the following passage from Jerry Bridges to be particularly applicable.  Even if we don’t think we are trying to live by good works, the temptation to rely on self tends to sneak up on us.  Because our hearts tend to deceive themselves, here’s a good reality check from Bridges:


'Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh?' (Galatians 3:3)

One of the best kept secrets among Christians today is this: Jesus paid it all. I mean all. He not only purchased your forgiveness of sins and your ticket to heaven, He purchased every blessing and every answer to prayer you will ever receive. Every one of them - no exceptions. Why is this such a well-kept secret? The core issue is that we don't believe we're still spiritually "bankrupt." Having come into God's kingdom by grace alone solely on the merit of Another, we're now trying to pay our own way by our performance. We declared only temporary bankruptcy; we're now trying to live by good works rather than by grace. After we become Christians, we begin to put away our more obvious sins. We also start attending church, put money in the offering plate, and maybe join a small group Bible study. We see some positive change in our lifestyle, and we begin to feel pretty good about ourselves. We're now ready to emerge from bankruptcy and pay our own way in the Christian life. Then the day comes when we fall on our face spiritually. We lapse back into an old sin or fail to do what we should have done. And we assume we've forfeited all blessings from God for some undetermined period of time. Our expectation of God's blessing depends on how well we feel we're living the Christian life. We think we can and must "pay our own way" with God. Try this test: Think of a time recently when you really fell on your face spiritually. Then imagine that immediately afterward you encountered a terrific opportunity to share Christ with a non-Christian friend. Could you have done it with complete confidence in God's help?”

Jerry Bridges. Holiness Day by Day: Transformational Thoughts for Your Spiritual Journey Devotional (Kindle Locations 101-111). Kindle Edition.



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