Grace and the Pursuit of Holiness: What a Difference it Makes When We Get it Wrong

If you grew up in a legalistic family, and then came to understand the destruction of that later, you might be confused about how grace fits into our pursuit of holiness. You might have fallen into another ditch: uber grace (a term I made up).

I define that as an ideology that is so centered on the truth that we can do nothing to earn or improve on our salvation, that Christ has completed the work that leaves us standing completely justified before God, we forget about the rest of Scripture and the command to live holy lives, to seek to imitate Christ, walk in obedience to Him, and show forth good works to a dying world. Uber grace can even cross over into treating sin lightly or indifferently altogether, forgetting the Gospel-driven message of “repent.”

Uber grace is taking the church by storm–“Let’s not really talk about sin because, ‘judge not,’ and we can all be safe and happy and fuzzy if we just love Jesus.” It’s a half truth that makes the good news of the Gospel a lie. Without our own hatred (or admission) of sin, we can’t really love Jesus or understand the profoundness of the cross.

On the legalistic side of things, one does what he does, believing it will make him more righteous, not out of a sincere desire to obey from love and humility. The legalist lacks the important things–love, justice and mercy–while fervently practicing the easier things that can be seen and calculated.

Scripture teaches (commands) something different than either of these.

We are to bask in the sovereignty of God’s work on our behalf, believing fully that we have received Christ’s righteousness NOT because of anything we’ve done, or anything we are, or do, but solely because He loved us enough to crush His Son in our place. It is finished.

And that is the beginning. We are redeemed to good works, not because of them. We are given power and a new life so that we can live differently, be more like Him, and pursue holiness until we are perfected in Heaven.

Most of us are frankly scared to live righteously for fear of being thought legalistic. Few, though, seem to be scared of trampling the cross of Christ by treating sin lightly. Both are condemned by God.

Let’s live rightly, in the middle of these ditches, with a faith that is alive.

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6 Responses to “Grace and the Pursuit of Holiness: What a Difference it Makes When We Get it Wrong”

  1. MrsD says:

    Good post. I especially liked this part: “And that is the beginning. We are redeemed to good works, not because of them. … Most of us are frankly scared to live righteously for fear of being thought legalistic. Few, though, seem to be scared of trampling the cross of Christ by treating sin lightly. Both are condemned by God.” My husband and I were talking the other day about what is and isn’t preached. Usually, what isn’t preached is what’s actually wrong with the church.

  2. Sheila, Mom 2 Seven says:

    Excellent post, Kelly. I live in an area heavily populated with people of the Reformed theology. I once told a friend that we lean more toward Wesleyan theology, and she said, “Oh, so based on works?” No, no, no, not at all. (I think we may each have a skewed version of each other’s “theological persuasion”)but how you worded this was perfectly Biblical.

    • I agree how easily (and willing) we are to misunderstand each other’s “persuasions.” I was an enemy of many of the reformed teachings before I became reformed, simply because I had heard and been taught false ideas about it.

  3. […] Grace and the Pursuit of Holiness describes two different and equally detrimental extremes that people can fall into.  I am guilty of occasionally falling into both (at different times of course)! […]

  4. tammy says:

    really good stuff! I have been keenly aware recently of my *law* mindset. not for salvation mind you, but in my expectations of myself and others. If this is done…then this will be the result. really some deep prayer and discernment needs to take place in my heart before i speak or carry out my duties. not sure if this makes sense, but know, you are confirming what God is workin on in my heart with this post. while completely believing in God’s sovereignty somehow i have in past years developed an *i need to do this* mindset. thank you for the post.

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