The most powerful, significant, and liberating message ever given to the human race is the gospel of grace.

The Transforming Power of Grace

by Mike Bickle
8/25/15 Teaching

The most powerful, significant, and liberating message ever given to the human race is the gospel of grace. The Christian life is established on the foundation of this wonderful truth, which emphasizes what Christ did for us on the cross and what the Holy Spirit does in us in our daily life.

Paul’s dramatic declaration that we have become new creations in Christ has vast implications for our lives: “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away . . . all things have become new . . . that we [our spirit] might become the righteousness of God in Him” (2 Cor. 5:17–21).

The “he” that Paul refers to is our spirit man. We possess the very righteousness of God in our spirit (v. 21). This describes our new legal position in Christ—how God sees and relates to us. In Christ, all things have become new pertaining to our spirit. This includes being fully accepted by God, receiving the authority to use the name of Jesus, and possessing the indwelling Holy Spirit. All of this enables us to resist sin, sickness, and Satan; to walk in victory; and to release the works of God through prayer.

Under this legal shift, the “old things” have passed away, meaning we are no longer held under the power or penalty of sin.

So what is the problem if we’ve been given such freedom as new creations?

The Crisis of Our Time

The apostle Jude confronted the great spiritual crisis of his day when he exhorted believers to contend earnestly for the “faith,” or the message of grace originally delivered to them through the first apostles.

In Jude 3–4, he writes: “I found it necessary to write to you exhorting you to contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints. For certain men have crept in unnoticed . . . ungodly men, who turn the grace of our God into lewdness.”

Jude warned of certain men who had crept into the fellowship of the church unnoticed—that is, their error went unnoticed by most of the leaders and the people. These men turned the message of grace into a message of lewdness, or one that affirmed various compromises—even sexual immorality. These men with persuasive teaching abilities twisted what the Bible said about grace, thus empowering many to confidently continue in sinful activities without feeling any urgency to repent.

The same is true with hyper-grace teachers today. They choose to emphasize only God’s love and forgiveness, while practically ignoring Jesus’ call for His people to walk in wholehearted commitment to the Lord. They preach mostly on forgiveness without repentance and on receiving God’s blessing on their circumstances without any conditions.

It is a glorious reality that we are freely forgiven by Jesus and that He blesses our circumstances, but these truths are given in context to seeking to live in a real relationship with Him, in agreement with His leadership and Word.

Jude’s exhortation is a significant warning for the Body of Christ today. When the grace message is distorted, everything else in one’s spiritual life becomes blurred. In fact, there is no spiritual battle more significant in the Church today than contending to keep the grace message faithful to Scripture.

Grace: The Power to Love and Obey Jesus

If countless sincere believers have already succumbed to the rising tide of this distorted grace message, how can we stand strong through the crisis? It starts by remaining grounded in biblical truth. We must approach the biblical grace message through the lens of God calling us to love Him with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength (Mk. 12:30).

The core reality of the grace message empowers us to walk with God in a relationship of wholehearted love. Jesus called this “the first commandment” (Mk. 12:30). Thus, the Holy Spirit’s first agenda is to establish the first commandment in first place in the Church.

This must also be our first agenda. Wholehearted love is to be “first” in our response to God, because it is how the Father relates to the Son and how the Godhead relates to us.

We must see grace through the lens of this quality of love. We must love Jesus on His terms, and He defined loving God in terms of a spirit of obedience to His commandments (see Jn. 14:15, 21, 23).

There is no such thing as loving Jesus without seeking to obey His Word. Some seek to love God on the terms of a humanistic culture that has no reference to obeying the Word. But loving and seeking to obey Jesus are synonymous. All of His commands are based in His love. Thus, the biblical message of grace teaches us to live righteously and to deny ungodliness as the way of expressing our love to God.

Titus 2:11–12 says, “The grace of God . . . has appeared to all men, teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly.”

If you hear a teaching on grace that doesn’t call you to deny ungodliness, it’s not a biblical grace message—it’s a distorted one.

Legal Position vs. Living Condition

As we correctly view the grace message through the lens of the first commandment, we can also begin to understand the difference between our legal position before God and our ongoing living condition as a response to what Jesus has done. Not only is there a key difference between these two, but it’s often the element that hyper-grace adherents conveniently overlook.

Our legal position is what Jesus accomplished for us on the cross, while our living condition is what Jesus requires of us in our response to Him. In our legal position, we stand before God and possess His very own righteousness (2 Cor. 5:21).

Our legal standing before God is so glorious that it will never be improved upon—not even with the perfection of a resurrected body—because we received Christ’s very own righteousness. Our legal position relates to receiving His righteousness instantly on the day that we are born again.

Our living condition, on the other hand, relates to growing in righteousness progressively as our mind is renewed, causing our behavior and emotions to be transformed by the Holy Spirit in us.

The gospel is the good news about receiving God’s righteousness and can be seen in three tenses:

Justification: our legal position—past tense, focused on our spirit

Sanctification: our living condition—present tense, focused on our soul

Glorification: our eternal exaltation—future tense, focused on our body

One-third of our salvation is complete (the salvation of our spirit), but the other two parts are not yet complete in our experience (the salvation of our soul and body). All believers have received the fullness of grace in their spirit (legal position), and yet they can still live far below it in their daily experience (living condition).

Much misunderstanding about grace can be traced to misunderstanding the distinctions of these truths. Many confuse what Jesus did for us in our legal position with what He requires of us in our response to Him in our living condition.

Jesus’ finished work on the cross makes His grace fully available to us as a gift.

However, our regular interaction with the Spirit causes us to experience the transforming power of this grace in our daily life. James wrote about this when he urged believers to walk in a greater measure of grace because God “gives grace to the humble” (Jas. 4:6).

James wrote this to born-again believers, calling them to receive more grace. A believer already has the gift of righteousness and therefore can’t receive “more grace” in his or her legal position. However, each of us can receive “more grace” in our living condition—and this is what James was referring to. We can always experience more of God’s grace to transform and renew our mind and emotions (see Rom. 12:2).

How to Receive God’s Grace

Grace was never intended to be abused, but as our current Church crisis proves, it can be. God gives us the freedom to choose relationship and obedience to His Word—and thus benefit from the true liberty found in grace. Yet this is also why Paul urged the believers in Corinth “not to receive the grace of God in vain” (2 Cor. 6:1).

The gospel of grace is distorted in two main ways: by presenting God’s love as something we can earn (legalism) or by refusing to call people to respond in wholeheartedness to God (hyper-grace). The fruit of the biblical grace message is confidence in the gift of God’s love combined with a spirit of obedience. If either of these two elements is missing, then it isn’t the true message. Thus, a distorted grace message doesn’t produce either confidence in God’s love or the resolve to respond wholeheartedly to Jesus’ leadership. Either distortion is disastrous for our spiritual life.

Like Jude in the first century, we must earnestly contend for the truth about grace. The very souls of the youth in our nation hangs in the balance.

The good news, however, is that the Holy Spirit is highlighting this spiritual crisis and is committed to the recovery of the biblical grace message. We can be confident that He will release His power to establish the first commandment in first place in the Church before Jesus returns for His fully prepared Bride (see Rev. 19:7). Let’s come alongside Him, rather than opposing Him, when it comes to receiving, understanding, and walking in grace.

To learn more about grace, check out Mike’s series The Gospel of Grace »

Mike Bickle

position

  • Director, IHOPKC
  • President, IHOPU

Mike Bickle is the director of the International House of Prayer, an evangelical missions organization based on 24/7 prayer with worship. He is also the founder of International House of Prayer University, which includes full-time ministry, music, and media schools.

Mike is the author of several books, including Growing in Prayer, Passion for Jesus, God’s Answer to the Growing CrisisGrowing in the Prophetic, and Prayers to Strengthen Your Inner Man. Mike’s teaching emphasizes growing in passion for Jesus through intimacy with God, doing evangelism and missions work from the place of night-and-day prayer, and the end times. Mike and his wife, Diane, have two married sons and five grandchildren.

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