Grace, by English definition, refers to "a disposition to be generous or helpful; goodwill" (link). In our Greek New Testament the word grace (charis) refers to "a gift or blessing brought to man by Jesus Christ"; "favor," "kindness," "gratitude" (link). In a theological but practical sense, of what is called "the Lord's favor," charis refers to God being "freely extended to give Himself away to people (because He is 'always leaning toward them')" (link).
Though God is, without doubt, angry at sinners and at sin, because of Christ Jesus, He is also gracious toward sinners; He is especially gracious toward those who are redeemed in Christ. While the grace of God does not grant us permission to continue in sin (Rom. 6:2), God's grace is certainly extended to us in Christ when and after we sin (1 John 1:9). Too often some of us think -- or at least we seem to live and think -- as though God has more grace on us before we come to Christ for salvation than when we are actually in Christ and in the sphere of salvation. This ought not to be so.
In our union with Christ Jesus, by grace through faith in Him, God blessed us with every spiritual blessing that can be named (Eph. 1:3). Of those spiritual blessings includes the forgiveness of our sins. We are taught to confess our sins, and that when we do so, God will "forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness" (1 John 1:9). The Greek word "confess" (homologeó) refers to agreement in acknowledgment: lit. "to voice the same conclusion" (link). We acknowledge our agreement with God about our sinful act(s). When we agree with His righteous judgment, asking for forgiveness, He forgives us through and in and for the sake of Christ Jesus.
For me, I become troubled not as much for doing wrong as for wanting to do wrong. In other words, I become even more frustrated and angry at myself because I want to do wrong as when I actually commit a wrong act (whether in speech, attitude, or other sinful behavior). I want to be rid of the "want to" factor of my sin nature. But I am not convinced that such a wish is even possible to be lived out in this life. My sin nature always seeks its own selfish, sinful desires; while my renewed, spiritual nature always seeks a hereafter reality of holiness (cf. Gal. 5:17).
Granted, were I to, each moment of every day, live "by [or in] the Spirit" of God (Gal. 5:16), I would not seek to fulfill the desires of the sin nature. But such seems easier said (and read) than to actually live out. "The spirit is willing," I remember Jesus saying, "but the flesh [or fallen nature] is weak" (Matt. 26:41).
I think, though, that I am getting off track. Because when and after we have sinned, though we may realize that we chose not to live according to the standards of the indwelling Holy Spirit, we then have to cope with the guilt of our sin; and with guilt comes shame, and with shame comes despair. What then? Here, I think, is where the theological rubber meets our practical road.
I find comfort in a few spiritually uncontested facts. First, God's love for me is not only eternal (Jer. 31:3), but also inseparable (Rom. 8:35) and irrevocable (Rom. 11:29). This love of God for me does not depend upon my righteousness, for I have none, nor upon my obedience, since Christ is both my righteousness and obedience. Again, this truth in no way grants me permission to live a disobedient life (Rom. 6:2-3). But God's love for me to whatever degree is not dependent upon the level of my obedience.
Second, since by grace through faith in and union with Christ I have been justified, I therefore have peace with God (Rom. 5:1). I am no longer at war with God, and am no longer abiding under His wrath (John 3:36). A proper fear of God's wrath has been replaced with a respectable honor, trust, and love for Him that was previously unknown.
Third, if I am justified in and through Christ, then I am, from a positional perspective, viewed as sinless. Though I sin -- though I am guilty of sin and though I even at times want to sin -- in and through Christ, God views me as having fulfilled all righteousness. While this truth could inspire an apathetic lawlessness, and promote sinful living to some people, I think the opposite holds much potential as well.
In other words, because of the immeasurable grace of God through Christ Jesus in declaring us sinners justified -- as though we had not sinned -- such carries the potential for living in true gratefulness, whereby we are inspired to live godly lives. Only when we fail to achieve godliness do we regain a sense of failure (coupled with guilt and shame).
In those times is when we avoid despair by reminding ourselves of all we have gained in and through Christ. May we, by the leading of the Holy Spirit, look not upon our failures but to the grace of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. Only then will we truly be free from the power of guilt, shame and despair, and "grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be the glory both now and to the day of eternity. Amen" (2 Pet. 3:18).
This post was written by William Birch. You can find the original post at: http://www.classicalarminian.com/2013/03/do-yourself-favor.html
BE A MAN.