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The World, the Flesh, and the Devil Confusing the Grace of God

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Everyone needs a little grace in their lives. Really, everyone needs a lot of grace in their lives. It is an odd sort of thing that when coming into the faith, it is readily accepted and exclaimed that, “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God” (Eph. 2:8). However, as one gets going in his walk with Christ, there can be a subtle shifting back to the law in an attempt to be right with God. Sure, the commands do, in fact, play their part. Nevertheless, it would seem as though in the heart of many Christians, the law becomes more than what it was intended to be.

As one enters into the sheepfold by way of the door (Jesus) in their minds and hearts, it is clear that their sins are forgiven in Christ. It is the very heart of God’s saving message to sinners. As this same person continues on in his faith and he continues to read the Bible, he then sees passages that tell him all of the behaviors, attitudes, and thoughts that he either must practice or put to death.

When this understanding starts to grow and flourish in the heart of a believer, he will desire to perform the commands of God, only to find out often that he is still falling short. This can leave Christians feeling down, discouraged, hopeless, in despair, lonely, bitter, angered, frustrated, and much more.

It is as though somewhere along the way they have forgotten their first love and the very attraction to Christ that captivated their hearts from the beginning. The reality that the Christian is saved by grace through faith and that it is a gift from God is monumental in the ongoing pursuit of Christ and the believer’s well-being.

In properly dealing with this battle to stay in the grace of God, we must understand the enemies that war against us.

The world

To properly understand the grace of God and the salvation that He offers as being a gift, understanding the ways in which the world shapes the mind is important. For starters, grace is properly defined as unmerited favor. There is also an acronym that can help: (G)od’s (R)iches (A)t (C)hrist’s (E)xpense. When analyzing these definitions, what is clear is that grace involves getting something that we do not deserve.

This type of relationship with God is counterintuitive to the system of the world. Each day, millions of people across America go to work. As they go to work, they work long hours – and often on weekends or overtime. Much of the adult life is filled with work. It is because we work that we then earn money and make a living.

People are used to working to get what they either want or need. As result, the mind is adjusted to this way of life, and the mind becomes quite unfamiliar with the thought of not having to work to gain that which is desirable.

The flesh

The flesh also kicks in and wages war against grace. There is an unfortunate dynamic of life that is a beast which even the most devout of Christians must fight against. It is called pride. The flesh wants reasons to boast. The flesh wants reasons to say, “Look at what I accomplished,” or, “Look at what I did.” For this very reason, there will be times in the life of a Christian when he may feel as though to get somewhere with God, he’s going to need to somehow pull it off.

Let us not forget the next verse after Eph. 2:8: “Not of works, lest any man should boast” (Eph. 2:9). The basis of a Christian’s relationship with God is not of works. Therefore, it must be about something else. It is about grace: ongoing, never-ending, inexhaustible grace.

The devil

Finally, there is yet another foe that will lead you to believe that you are not in a grace-based relationship with Jesus. The reason for this is that if the devil can get you to believe this lie, then the only conclusion that you will draw is that you are not in a relationship with God at all.

Think about it. When you see the challenges you face in your life, the challenges in your relationships with others, the challenges at your job, the challenges in your attempts to do the right things at all times, you will easily see (if you are being honest with yourself) that you are simply not measuring up. It is easy to see as one inspects his own life and heart that he is the chief of sinners. It was for this very reason that the apostle Paul thought himself to be the worst of sinners. He knew his own life and heart better than he knew anyone else’s. Paul needed the grace of God and so do you.

But the devil does not want you to know about the grace of God. Rather, we see his tactics in Zechariah chapter 3. A scene is depicted in this portion of Scripture that consists of Jesus, the devil, and Joshua the high priest. Scripture says, “And he shewed me Joshua the high priest standing before the angel of the Lord, and Satan standing at his right hand to resist him. And the Lord said unto Satan, The Lord rebuke thee, O Satan…” (Zech. 3:1-2).

In this passage, it is said that Satan was “resisting” Joshua. This means that Satan was accusing Joshua. The accusations could only find a firm footing if, in fact, Joshua’s right standing with God was dependent upon law keeping. Joshua would not have totally obeyed the law. No man has ever done such a thing. It would seem as though Satan did, in fact, bring to Jesus (the angel of the Lord) ways in which Joshua had sinned against Jesus.

Think about it. Satan sinned one time and was cast out of heaven like a bolt of lightning. He must have believed that he would get somewhere with Jesus as he brought what was probably a list of sins that Joshua had committed to Jesus’ attention. Nevertheless, Jesus rebukes Satan for his demonic attempts, and later clothes Joshua with clean garments and a turban which said, “Holy to the Lord.”

You will hear Satan’s accusatory attempts at times. He is, after all, the accuser of the brethren. But what does the Bible say?

Personal application

Scripture says, “I do not frustrate the grace of God: for if righteousness come by the law, then Christ is dead in vain” (Gal. 2:21). Paul does not set aside the grace of God; he does not think it meaningless. Rather, he believes that there is a way, the only way, to be right with God apart from the law: it is by grace and through faith.

In the book of Galatians, Paul is speaking to a number of churches in the area who are falling back into a system that involved works plus Jesus to gain a right standing with God. A large number of these people would have been believers who subtly became influenced to believe their relationship with Christ depended upon their own personal performance.

Later on in the book of Galatians, Paul asks them a question. He basically asks, “If you have in fact begun by the Spirit of God (grace), are you now no longer in this grace-based relationship? Rather, are you now required to maintain your right standing in your own strength?” (Gal. 3:3). This is the subtle shifting that occurs in the heart of man on display in the book of Galatians.

In can be all too easy to fall prey to the lie that grace must be coupled with the law. However, you are saved by grace. This is more than a one-time act. Instead, it is ongoing, and you can find your place of rest in the loving arms of a grace-filled God.

Final prayer

Father, I thank You for the ways that You have continued to realign my thinking. Please help me to trust in You more and to see the sacrifice of Christ as more than enough to forgive me for my sin. Help me to believe that I am secure in my relationship with You and that You will never leave me nor forsake me. In Jesus’ name, Amen.