The mystery of Christian life is a matter not of law keeping and observance, but a life of the Spirit by faith through the cross. You learn eventually that your very desire to serve God will actually strengthen the principle of sin in your members and you must die to the demand. Most people, even the ones who are burdened to contend for grace, eventually unwittingly articulate the classic “reformed” position on the Christian Life – which is actually a works based sanctification.
Sanctification is worked out the same way that the initial faith that saves is worked out. It is through a greater vision and apprehension of the fact that Christ has undertaken to do EVERYTHING in my Christian life and taken all the responsibility, and my job is to believe. From start to finish it is faith, not commitment, vows, personal responsibility, giving my best or effort.
This is however a mystery that one grows in. We all start with a works based view of sanctification, that ultimately undermines our view of justification. “now that I’m saved I need to do something for God or maybe I wasn’t saved to begin with.” This comes from the assumption that salvation is a matter of making a commitment to God, which is actually a works base.
Remember, what saves is not a prayer, or a vow or a commitment – but the FAITH (belief and conviction that God’s word is true) that Jesus died for my sins and rose from the dead for my justification. I didn’t start by committing myself to God, giving myself to Him, surrendering Him, choosing Him or anything like that. One day He revealed Himself to me, and I could not escape the conclusion that Jesus is real and He is risen, and He died for my sins, and rose from the dead. That faith saved me – I was regenerated. Behind that the triune God was drawing me and receiving me into Himself. I made no commitment. I was simply rescued out of the dunghill. Every day, I learn to live from this position – that I am ruined, wrecked, and He must save me. If He does not, I can do nothing and will only fall into coldness, hardness, disobedience and sin.
The delusion of a works oriented concept of sanctification is that “now that I’m saved I need to do something for God or maybe I wasn’t saved to begin with.” And as we set about to do something for God, we leave our position of weakness before Him, which is to practically leave the cross as the way to be positioned before God. This will practically mean we won’t partake of the Spirit, we will only partake of the flesh, and eventually its works will eventually be manifest. (First religious works, then all of the sinful works.) Believe me I know. It was my ZEAL for God that eventually was used to show me what a sinner I really was.
The Christian life is not “God did His part and now I need to do mine” and Justification is certainly not “I committed myself to God and now need to show that I mean it”. The truth behind Baptism shows us that God was done with us. We had been condemned to the cross, and He buried us with Christ in His death, so that He might be manifested in us. As Paul says “Through the law, I died to the law, that I might live unto God. I am crucified with Christ, it is no longer I who live but Christ who lives in me. And the life that I now live I live by faith of the Son of God who loved me and gave Himself for me.”
If you want to articulate grace, and articulate the Christian life, you HAVE to be Pauline. We simply don’t have the language for it apart from Paul’s ministry, and there’s a certain prerequisite experience of failure, it seems, to start to see Christ as life.
We are not following Christ like the disciples did when Jesus was outside of them telling what to do. We are now living Christ – and He is living in us, and the Christian life is entirely a matter of Christ being magnified in my mortal body. This is a matter not of commitment or effort, but of really learning what the flesh is, and seeing my need to die with Him.
He is trying to get ME out of the way so that He might live His life in me, and the PROBLEM is actually my zeal for the things of God!! I hope this doesn’t come across offensively.
If you can get your hands on it, I strongly recommend Miles Stanford “The Principle of Position.”