The fruit of the biblical grace message is confidence in the gift of God’s love combined with a spirit of obedience.

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 Corinthians 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 penalty of sin nor its dominating power.

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 those today who teach a distorted grace message. They choose to emphasize only God’s love and forgiveness, while practically ignoring Jesus’ call for His people to walk in wholehearted obedience to Jesus. They preach mostly on forgiveness without repentance and on receiving God’s blessing on their circumstances without any call to obedience.

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 loyal relationship with Him, in agreement with His leadership and Word.

Jude’s exhortation is a significant warning for the Body of Christ today. When believers embrace a distorted message, then other things in their spiritual life become 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
The number of believers who have already embraced this distorted grace message is clearly increasing—it is a growing crisis. So how can we stand strong in the face of this widespread spiritual crisis? It starts by being 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 (Mark 12:30).

The core reality of the grace message empowers us to walk with God in a relationship of wholehearted love. Jesus called this commandment “the first commandment” (Matthew 22:38). In other words, 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 understand the grace message in context to this quality of loyal love. We must love Jesus on His terms, and He defined loving God in terms of a spirit of obedience to His commandments (see John 14:152123).

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 His 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
It is important that we understand the difference between our legal position before God and our ongoing living condition as a response to what Jesus has done on the cross for us. There is a key difference between who we are in our legal position and how we respond in our living condition. This is often confused by those promoting the distorted grace message.

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 as those who freely possess His very own righteousness (2 Corinthians 5:21).

The gift of righteousness that we receive the day that we are born again 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 includes freely receiving His righteousness instantly on the day that we are born again.

Our living condition, on the other hand, relates to progressively growing in righteous character 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. We may apply this righteousness in three tenses:

  1. justification: our legal position—past tense, we instantly received the fullness of God’s righteousness in our spirit;
  2. sanctification: our living condition—present tense, we progressively grow in righteousness in our soul;
  3. glorification: our eternal exaltation—future tense, we will enjoy the fullness of God’s righteousness in our body and soul.

One part 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” (James 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 Romans 12:2).

How to Receive God’s Grace
Grace can be “taken in vain” by not properly responding to it. 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 Corinthians 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 (distorted 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 hang in the balance.

The good news, however, is that the Holy Spirit is highlighting this widespread 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 Revelation 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 biblical grace, check out Mike Bickle’s series The Gospel of Grace.

Mike Bickle


  • Founder, IHOPKC

Mike Bickle is the founder 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’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. He 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 and his wife, Diane, have two married sons and six grandchildren.

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