Shared Grace Is the True Transformation!


I’ve been thinking again a lot more about the power of the pure gospel of grace and forgiveness to transform us. The goal of the gospel of Christ and Him crucified is not to transform us, but to save us. It is “the power of God for salvation for all who believe” (Romans 1:16). Apparently the idea of salvation was exciting enough for Paul to put it front and center in his premier letter which explains the Christian faith, the book of Romans. Perhaps we too should forego our neglect of the central importance of salvation (Hebrews 2:3). It is indeed powerful, as foretold! In fact, although the power of the gospel is not primarily meant to transform us but to save us, it is the only path to genuine transformation.

How does this work? I’ve been thinking again about this passage:

5 This is the message we have heard from Him and announce to you, that God is Light, and in Him there is no darkness at all. 6 If we say that we have fellowship with Him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth; 7 but if we walk in the Light as He Himself is in the Light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin. 8 If we say that we have no sin, we are deceiving ourselves and the truth is not in us. 9 If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. 10 If we say that we have not sinned, we make Him a liar and His word is not in us.

Simple Forgiveness is the Transformative Doorway

When we come to believe that the blood of Jesus has the power to cleanse us from all sin, and when we understand this not as demanding a behavioral change but rather as forging a lasting forgiveness, there is a fundamental shift in the way we are able to approach God. If we think that we must stop our sinful behaviors before we can approach God, we must in isolation from Him craft a plan for behavioral change before we come to Him. This supposes that there are certain areas of sin which are too much, which we can’t approach God with until we have designed a promising path to permanent change. What this ends up meaning is that you can’t really confess because you don’t really have a certainty that there is complete forgiveness. So the scary underworld of the inner proclivities and evil attractions that drive these behaviors cannot be confessed unless there is a genuine belief that the blood of Jesus is sufficient to forgive all sin. The underlying sin that really drives these behaviors remains active, unconfessed and untouched if we believe that approach on the basis of a successful veneer of behavioral transformation.

When we have done with pretending to reform before we approach God, and we come in full faith that the blood of Jesus is completely sufficient. When you come with this assurance of a full and powerfully sufficient forgiveness, you can confess everything! You can’t confess everything until you are convinced that everything is forgivable. If there are things that might be beyond the possibility of forgiveness, then if you suspect you might have some seed of that lurking in you you will refrain from bringing this to God. In the end you either bring everything to God or you bring nothing to God, because you can’t really divorce your sinful behaviors from the sin which indwells you.

The Question of Honor

For instance, take the commandment to honor your father and mother. You might think that a young person could repent of this by stopping disrespectful argumentative speech with their parents. However, this does not reach down into the root of the issue. You can’t just stop arguing, you have to “honor” them even when they are imperfect. If you only honor them when they seem honorable in your eyes, there would be no need for the commandment. Honor is proven when honor is challenged. That means in your secret thoughts and in your speech with friends and others you never even want to say something which does anything but honor them, even when they seem to challenge your idea of honor. This might be something which seems impossible to promise and to repent of. It is impossible! That’s why the traditional fleshly notion of repentance doesn’t work. You can’t think that you are gaining favor with your parents just because you have promised to not argue with them any more; if you still despise them and walk around silent and resentful and sullen and you gossip about them and turn your siblings’ hearts against them, you have not really repented. The thin veneer of the promise to change means nothing to the parents, and even more the thin veneer of our “repentance” means very little to God.

Darkness and Unbelief

Walking in the darkness of the pretense of righteousness is closely linked with an underlying lack of belief in the power of Jesus’ blood to forgive sin. This lack of belief prevents us from true confession with God or with each other. It is a problem if you try to make the word “wash” mean something else than “forgive” or “justify”. If you try to read behavioral change into the idea of “wash” you have just robbed yourself of the ability to truly confess. Do you see that? It is utterly clear from Paul’s writings that the blood of Jesus justifies us. We mustn’t muddy the water by reading some kind of works into this, or we are suddenly back sewing fig leaves in order to approach God.

Radical Grace: The Welcome Sign to Genuine Confession

So the total washing from guilt that we have through Jesus’ blood is the gateway to genuine confession. This ability to truly confess gives God deep access to us to administer grace and revelation and power to change. It also gives Him leeway to change according to His agenda. When Israel was looking for the coming of the Messiah just prior to His appearance, they had a certain kind of person they were expecting. They were expecting a conquering hero, a political and military leader who would throw off Roman tyranny. They were not looking for a baby in a manger, or a wandering homeless healer who told strange stories. In the same way, we have strong expectations for what we want God’s work and cleansing to look like in our lives. We want old-covenant law-style success. If it doesn’t look like this we believe He hasn’t come to us, that our confession isn’t working. If we trust the power of Jesus’ blood, we are able to let go of these expectations. He may want to change our deep inner motivations and long-standing strongholds of mistrust even if we don’t initially care about these things. He may want us to fail until we despair of our efforts to reform ourselves, so the power can be seen as being all His. He may see that if we succeed in our promised behavioral repentance, like the builders of Babel we will only use our success to rebel and to bolster our own arrogance. Our failures may be the hammer and anvil that strip our fleshly and shallow notions of repentance away from us and bring us truly to the the foot of the throne of grace. This is true cleansing, and the confession of Christ as our savior is the true confession. When we despair of our own genius and power and control, and depend only on the power of Christ and Him crucified for pure forgiveness, we can begin to live from the simplicity of being loved instead of the complexity of proving and earning our worth.

True Transformation is Relational

In the end the important transformation is that we enter the community of the beloved and redeemed. Anyone can be personally holy if they section themselves off from all society and influence. Anyone can say they are holy and call others to holiness when they themselves are not holy. We are not called to the darkness and isolation of theoretical holiness, we are called to the light of relationship with real imperfect people. This overcoming persistent one-way love is the light by which we see each other, and our sanctification is to learn to live in persistent edifying overcoming togetherness. It is the new commandment to love one another which begins to welcome us into interpersonal safe confession. This is the wandering story-telling disappointing miracle He has brought us: each other. It is a far greater gift than we could possibly know.

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  1. Please pray that I will see Jesus and his kingdom as more desirable and beautiful than anything. That he will fix my heart to hate self righteousness and let it go and gladly depend on Jesus. That he will help me humbly receive. Please pray he won’t let me continue in foolishness but will give me right desires! That he will give me a heart of flesh that gladly fears Him and loves and receives his gift and can trust it is mine and BE GLAD. That he will remove any resistance for me! That I won’t have hard feelings toward him that he doesn’t seem to be. That he still will! And soon! Please plead all this for me

  2. Someone once told me God only grants salvation to those who know they don’t deserve it. Please pray for me until I am one of those people and can receive in joy!

  3. Sorry for the many comments, please pray The Lord will not let me continue in foolishness but will hem me in and make me a lover of grace!

  4. That he will help me repent and receive grace! That he will helps heart open to grace and not be like a Pharisee! Oh, please pray this transformation is coming in my mind and heart. That when I try to meditate on what he’s done my heart will OPEN and my mind will be quieted. That any obsessions I have will be crushed and replaced with a new grace obsession. Oh, please pray he will make me a lover and receiver of grace and convince me it’s mine and that it’s joy to me!

    • Kathryn,

      I love your comments so don’t worry about that! have you thought about this saying from Jesus:

      Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied. Matthew 5:6

      You really do hunger and thirst for it. If you hunger for something, it means you don’t have it but you want it really bad. Otherwise you wouldn’t be hungry. That is you! You hunger and thirst. He already has died and already has redeemed you. I remember I went through a phase where I was beating myself up that I didn’t have the right feelings of awe and gratitude and such for Jesus’ death for me, and then it hit me. It doesn’t hinge on my feelings about it. He did it quite apart from that! That is belief.

      So I think you already are so hungry for grace. I think you have it. Just say thank you! Let me ask you another question: would you ever be comfortable saying, “I’m a really good person. I don’t need saving, not too much. That’s all hooie.” I bet you feel like you wouldn’t ever be caught dead saying that. I bet you have a very keen sense of your sin and your need for salvation and mercy and forgiveness. That means you really do believe! So if you are crushed enough or not, it doesn’t even matter. You don’t save yourself by having grand enough feelings about it. Jesus saves you even from not having the right obsession and feelings of being crushed and not loving the right things or loving Him the right way.

      You’re not asked to believe by loving Him enough or appropriately. “We have come to know and have believed the love which God has for us. (1 John 4:16) You don’t love Him well, you aren’t grateful enough, you are a bad receiver, you don’t fear enough or rightly. That’s the whole point: He loves YOU. You’re OK.

      • The question you asked is the problem; I feel like that defiant thought is exactly what goes through my mind all.the.time. But I don’t want it! And I don’t want to believe it! And I don’t want it to grow stronger!

      • Will you please plead for me that I will believe his love for me and that He will remove any feelings of offense about my deadness apart from him? I don’t want to be offended! I don’t want to turn from him in pride! Will you please pray He will daily help me know my need and not take offense or have that obsessive thought that I do?

  5. Kathryn, I have spent many years where you are thinking and re-thinking and analyzing and diggind and investigating…… I am still there more than I even realize. I have finally come to the point, where I quit asking so much, and just start trusting in the finished work of Jesus. To me, without even thiking about it, when I am banking on/betting it all on him, I am expressing (maybe even silently to myself) but no less real, that I am a sinner who knows it and in the very act of simply clinging to him, I confess my inability and rest on him. Faith expresses trust, and an acknowledgement that I am lost without having to analyze if I feel convicted enough. Bottom line is Christ asks us to believe him and trust him and that is what saves and gives rest. Getting out of ourselves and realizing the forgiveness and righteousness we crave is in another completely. Faith forgets itself and is content with the work of another, namely Christ. Hope this helps I will pray for you.

  6. And my husband has told me just to think on, “I am a child of God bc of what Jesus has done for me,” but then my mind says, “if you believed that you wouldn’t fear! If you believed that you would WANT to confess him before men and be baptized

  7. And then I think, “well, being his child hinges on faith and repentance and I don’t have that. So I can’t believe that I’m his.”

  8. Does the Spirit lead you to believe he will hear that and save me and eventually heal my mind? I don’t want to feel against anything true! I confess to you that I need the salvation found in the blood of Jesus. I confess I WANT to receive, no matter how much my mind says I don’t/take offense. I WANT to love Jesus and be a child of God and depend fully on Him, no matter what my mind says about desiring my own righteousness. I don’t want those thoughts! And they’re growing stronger and worse and will swallow my mind up without God’s help. Will he please still own my soul no matter what my mind says?
    and if I have to trust that he’s done it for me even with these thoughts in order for it to be mine, please plead for faith in my salvation

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