God changes us by grace
The following is an extract from our Foundation-level course in the Character stream, Gospel Change. Buy the full course here.
God changes us by Grace
The Scriptures make it clear that salvation in its entirety is God’s gracious work. Salvation in all its parts — what has already happened and what has yet to happen — is a gift. We do not accomplish it or make it happen in the least. God is the heart-changer.
Sanctification (the ongoing work of making us holy) is just as much a work accomplished by grace as is justification (the one-time act of making us right with God). It is God who accomplishes the work from first to last. Jesus is both the “the founder and perfecter of our faith,” (Hebrews 12:2). This leads us to the conclusion that this work of changing us and transforming us is ultimately mysterious. God is always graciously at work, changing us according to his plan and timing. His work goes on even though we may feel as though nothing is happening.
If we get this wrong, the consequences are disastrous. And yet many people go wrong at just this point. They begin the Christian life on the basis that their acceptance and entrance into a new status with God comes by grace and apart from anything they do, but they believe that maintaining that standing is dependent upon their own efforts: becoming a Christian is up to God; remaining a Christian is up to them. Paul strongly cautions us against this kind of thinking. The same grace by which we were justified is the grace in which we now stand (Romans 5:2). As we received Christ Jesus the Lord by faith, so we walk in him in faith (Colossians 2:6–7). At the very least, depending on our own efforts means that we will not experience a life of grace and joy.
Elsewhere Paul writes, “And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.” (2 Corinthians 3:18). Growth in the Christian life is always growth by grace and under grace, never beyond grace. Lose sight of this and living the Christian life becomes burdensome. Change takes place by grace through faith.