The Role of Grace in our Transformation

In Galatians, Paul teaches us that eternal transformation comes through the grace of God.  We are sanctified the same way we were justified.

It is God’s LOVE for us, expressed through his scandalous GRACE the brings about the change that we need.

At the end of Galatians, Paul puts it another way by telling us to walk in the Spirit and we will produce the fruit of the Spirit.  Walk in the flesh and we will produce the works of the flesh.

But the question we are asking this morning is how does this work exactly?  Here we are, the start of a new year and we want to make some changes.  We want to get healthy, improve our finances, have a stronger devotional life, be better parents, whatever the case may be.

How do we get there from here?

How Transformation Happens:

How is grace applied to our hearts, in a way that brings this transformation?

I’m giving you 5 ways.  Maybe there are more that you can think of, but these are my 5 as comprehensive as I can be.

  1. Discipline
  2. Blessing
  3. Suffering
  4. Conviction
  5. Community
  6. Worship

1- Discipline

Discipline is kind of a dirty word with most people.  No one in this room this morning got excited when I said the word “Discipline”.

Hebrews 12:5-13

Discipline is often very closely connected to suffering, but by discipline here I simply mean “God’s correction through negative consequences.”

Discipline is not the same thing as punishment.  We have to separate the two in our minds. Punishment is payment for a wrong that was done.  Justice demands that a punishment be paid that equals the severity of the offense. The punishment fits the crime.  Punishment is about justice.

But discipline has little to do with justice.  Discipline is instruction. Discipline is for the one being disciplined.  Discipline is corrective. Discipline strengthens the soul, drives foolishness from the heart, and builds godliness.

A person cannot become Godly without discipline.  A lack of discipline from a parent is tantamount to a lack of love, according to Hebrews.  An abundance of discipline is a profound expression of love.

Discipline is training through negative consequences.  “I did this thing, it hurt. Now I want to do it less than I did before.”

In Romans 1 we see that God judges those that have rejected Him by worshipping other gods by CEASING TO DISCIPLINE them.  He lets them have what they want and it destroys them.

Hebrews goes on to say that we are to receive all hardship as discipline.  God is not punishing you! One has been punished in your place. Justice has been satisfied in Christ.  You are not under punishment, but under grace. All hardship is intended as discipline. Yes God will correct you, instruct you, through a slap on the wrist.  This is one of the ways we grow in godliness. But do not mistake his discipline for His punishment.

2- Blessing

Romans 2:1-4

God not only draws us to repentance and transformation through His discipline, but He also draws us with His undeserved goodness to us.

Prodigal Sons
This is wonderfully illustrated in the parable of the Prodigal Sons that Jesus told during His ministry.

In this story, the son takes his inheritance from his father early and leaves home, shaming his father.  He then spends all of his inheritance on wine and women. And he ends up eating with the pigs in a pig sty.

He comes to his senses and returns home hoping to be a servant in his fathers house.  This is discipline. He came to his senses because he was experiencing a spanking from God.

But then when he gets near his home, his father runs out to meet him.  He blesses him with an over the top party and celebration. It’s unwarranted and undeserved.  Both the pig sty and the party are ways that the Father draws us to repentance.

Paul’s warning in Romans 2 is to us to be careful not to miss the point of God’s blessing.  We can make the mistake of taking blessing as a sign of our own goodness instead of a sign of God’s goodness.

3- Suffering

Romans 5:3-5

3 Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, 4 and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, 5 and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.

Suffering transforms us into the image of Christ faster than anything I know.  It causes us to depend of God because we have no other choice. It brings us to the end of our own strength and forces us to submit to His strength in our weakness.  It’s the fast track to maturity.

The reason I want to distinguish between suffering and discipline is that I don’t want you to think that all suffering is because of something you are doing that God is correcting.  Quite often God allows us to suffer simply because He is more interested in our eternal transformation than He is with our temporary comfort.

4- Conviction of Sin

John 16:7-11

7 Nevertheless, I tell you the truth: it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you. But if I go, I will send him to you. 8 And when he comes, he will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment: 9 concerning sin, because they do not believe in me; 10 concerning righteousness, because I go to the Father, and you will see me no longer; 11 concerning judgment, because the ruler of this world is judged.

It is one of the Holy Spirit’s jobs to convict the world of sin.  But what is conviction?

The ancient Greek word that we translate as “convict” means: “to convince someone of the truth; to reprove; to accuse, refute, or cross-examine a witness.”

The Holy Spirit is like an attorney examining a witness.  He points to the evidence and convinces us that we need a Savior.  It is not a general feeling of shame or dirtiness. It is a specific conviction over sin as an offense against God Himself.

The Holy Spirit convinces us of the truth about ourselves, our sin, and the nature and character of God.

Conviction drives us to the feet of Jesus to repent.  It motivates us into the grace of God, not away from it.  And when intimacy with God is restored through repentance, the conviction of the Holy Spirit is replaced by joy in His mercy.

5- Christian Community

You really don’t have to look any further than Galatians 5 to see this dynamic in action.  Look at all the fruit of the Spirit he mentions.

Galatians 5:22-23

22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.

Most of these only make sense within the context of relationships.  It is in relationships that these things are manifested and challenged.

If these are the fruit of the Spirit, then we actually need each other to even know if we are producing fruit or not.  That’s how important Christian community is. I’d go so far as to say that you cannot produce the fruit of the spirit without being in relationship with other Believers.

James 5:16 tells us to confess our sins to one another so that we may be healed because the prayer we pray for each other is powerful.  We need each other for healing.  We need the listening ear of a friend, and we need the prayer of a friend.

6- Worship

Martin Luther made a keen observation in his commentary on the 10 commandments.  He said that if you keep the first 2 commandments (only worship God, and don’t make idols) then we will keep all the rest.  You have to break the first 2 in order to break any of the others.

In other words, you have to cease worshipping God in order to sin.  Sin is first a foremost an act of rebellion against God. You can’t worship Him and rebel against Him at the same time.  So, worship, is not just us giving God His due, it is also a power instrument that God uses to sanctify us.

Conclusion

In all of the se ways that God changes us, we are not the initiating force.  However, our response to these things are enormously important. We can rebel against God’s discipline, we can take for granted God’s blessings, we can grow bitter in suffering, we can harden our hearts against the Holy Spirit’s conviction over sin, and we can isolate ourselves from Christian community.

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