Grace is not bought.
No amount of good works can buy me a spot in God’s Kingdom. No number of indulgences I buy from the church can guarantee me quicker admittance into Heaven. No measure of good thoughts or empty prayers or claims of goodness can ensure me a soul saved from the eternal wrath of God and a fiery berth in hell.
What horror this is for the rebel non-Christian, the unbelieving soul!
What comfort this is for the weary Christian, the believing soul!
But, my friends, grace is not an excuse.
No amount of hemming and hawing about my sin can stall God-sent consequences. No amount of shrugging and the admittance of my sin can ease God’s jealous and perfect nature. No amount of “I just struggle with [anger, pride, slothfulness, foolishness, vanity, untruthfulness, slander]; this is my life right now” can keep me from apostasy.
What startling and harrowing truth for the saved sinner! Grace has washed me clean, but does that mean I take advantage of it? Paul writes:
What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin so that grace may increase? May it never be! How shall we who died to sin still live in it?
Many Christians today scoff at the Puritans, accusing them of legalism and harshness. And, for the most part, the accusations are true. A majority found security in legalism, finding it easier to follow strict morals than to examine their heart. But the Puritans had one thing right:
Do you mortify? Do you make it your daily work? You must always be at it while you live; do not take a day off from this work always be killing sin or it will be killing you.
John Owen, The Mortification of Sin
Therefore consider the members of your earthly body as dead to immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and greed, which amounts to idolatry. For it is because of these things that the wrath of God will come upon the sons of disobedience, and in them you also once walked, when you were living in them. But now you also, put them all aside: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and abusive speech from your mouth.
I have been saved, yes, by grace alone, but man’s free will still abides. God no longer condemns me under His Law, now that I am clothed in Christ’s righteousness. But I am commanded to compare my conduct with Christ’s, who followed the Law perfectly. I am called, as a believer, to align my desires with His.
Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its lusts, and do not go on presenting the members of your body to sin as instruments of unrighteousness; but present yourselves to God as those alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness to God. For sin shall not be master over you, for you are not under law but under grace.
Would He want me to prefer the comfort of simply glancing sideways at my sin, instead of facing it headlong and mortifying it with constant study of God’s word and prayer?
Would He expect me to claim grace when pride refuses to acknowledge sin, sin that has made a nest in my heart?
Would He shrug with me at my besetting sins, falling back on God’s grace as if it was a “Get Out of Jail Free” card?
No. He desires me to don His armor and daily plunge into the fight against sin.
Lord, let my soul never rest in mortifying my sin. Let my focus never stray from Your beautiful sacrifice, and let it be my motivation to live a pure, holy life for You, killing my sin with Your sword, wearing Your righteous breastplate, trusting in Your saving helmet, and girding my feet with Your truthful shoes. Your grace has saved me, can it be? Let me not give the world foothold to call Your work in me mere vanity.