Is It Possible for Christians to Disregard God’s Grace? Apparently, St. Paul Thinks It Is.
If we truly understand what being a Christian is, then it’s a no-brainer to become one. Freeing Christianity from insipid moralistic codes and confusing theological constraints and focusing our soul towards Jesus Christ and our union with Him, the gloriousness of what it is to be in Christ is slowly revealed to us. (Don’t gloss over that last sentence. It’s full of significance to being a Christian.)
When a beautiful vision of Jesus Christ fills our being, we cannot help but follow Him, letting Him transform us into His likeness. The reason we are not more like Jesus or even want to be is that our eyes have become accustomed to pervasive spiritual dimness resulting in unrecognized blindness. We settle for interests other than Him, less glorious and detrimental to our soul. The light of Christ’s radiance is shining in us but we can’t see it. We live in darkness even though the light is present.
So, why doesn’t the light of Christ simply overwhelm us “forcing” us to know Christ? For reasons of love, God designed salvation to involve our will. Not ONLY our will, of course (Romans 9.16) for confidence in our own desire spurns God’s mercy, the primary worker of our salvation.
It is never a good idea to disregard God’s grace and mercy. I know this because I’ve done this for years. In my self-sufficiency – relying on my own reasoning, will, and skills – I missed out on the glorious life of the resurrected Christ in me available only by God’s grace. I thought once I “accepted Christ” (by grace through faith) I was capable of ably managing my life. The hard part was taken care of. I could handle the rest. Foolish man!
St Paul writes: We appeal to you not to receive the grace of God in vain [for no purpose]. For he says, In a favorable time I listened to you, and in a day of salvation I have helped you. Behold, now is the favorable time; behold now is the day of salvation.” (2 Corinthians 6.1-2)
Most modern Christians have a human-centered (anthropocentric) view of salvation. We say, “I made the decision to trust Christ.” “I surrendered to God.” “I gave my life to Jesus.” “I asked Him to come into my heart.”
We think we are saved by making a decision. In reality, however, we are saved by God’s grace integrated with a faith given to us by God. The thief on the cross did not decide to trust Jesus. He saw who Jesus truly was and accepted that reality as his. St. Paul did not decide to trust Jesus. He was knocked to the ground and blinded by the revelation of Jesus and believed Him.
Is there a difference between making a decision and exercising faith?
Wikepedia describes “decision” in this way: In psychology, decision-making is regarded as the cognitive process resulting in the selection of a belief or a course of action among several possible alternative options. Decision-making is the process of identifying and choosing alternatives based on the values, preferences and beliefs of the decision-maker.
This decision-making process is how most of us think of “getting saved.” It’s a person-centered view.
Contrast this with a God-centered (Theo-centric) understanding of salvation. In reality, to be saved is to see Jesus Christ in His glorious being and be so attracted to Him that we have no choice. We participate in His salvation to which we are drawn in faith. God has done everything necessary to “save” us. We need to believe Him, that is participate in Him, and what He has done.
Perhaps this is why a person can say, “I’ve always believed.” She never made a “decision” to believe because from infancy she knew Jesus to be real and good. And, it’s as true today as then.
Thinking that salvation is something I’ve done by responding positively to what Christ has done – a decision to follow Christ – engenders a certain self-fixation or self-orientation which diminishes God’s working of grace in the heart. It places all things related to salvation and the Christian life on the level of logic, reason, and cognition. It fills a person with self-sufficiency and security. “And wherever self-sufficiency and security exist, the grace of Christ cannot act.” (The Illness and Cure of the Soul, p. 72)
It is easy to talk about God’s grace without understanding it. And, apparently, it’s also possible to possess God’s grace without experiencing it.
Grace is God’s action within us. Grace is not an object or someTHING God gives to us. Grace is God Himself doing His work in us. The Church Fathers call this work of God His “uncreated energies.” These “energies” (workings) are uncreated in the sense that they are not outside of God but are part of His very being. The energies are who He is and what He does. Thus, they are uncreated.
Yet, He does not force His grace on us. We are to cooperate with His working, to participate in His energies.
However, we can give God’s grace the cold shoulder. We can turn a blind eye to it; pay no attention to it. Even a Christian can take no notice of God’s grace and despise it.
Again, St. Paul talks about this possibility: We appeal to you not to receive the grace of God in vain. For he says, In a favorable time I listened to you, and in a day of salvation I have helped you. Behold, now is the favorable time; behold now is the day of salvation.” (2 Corinthians 6.1-2)
We see from what St. Paul writes that the “day of salvation” is not simply the day to “get saved.” But, the “day of salvation” is every day. It is “now.” Every day is the “favorable time” – a time of welcome into the life of God. This happens daily when we receive the grace of God for its intended purpose – to deliver us from whatever seeks to take us from God.
In faith, trust the Lord Jesus Christ today. Trust the Lord Jesus Christ again tomorrow. Trust the Lord Jesus Christ again the next day. And do this for the rest of your life.
When I say trust, I mean, open wide your heart to God’s work in you (His uncreated energies) accepting that work as for your good.
Don’t spurn God’s grace. Accept His working in you every day. And see what a glorious difference it makes in you.
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