Today’s post follows yesterday’s post By His Grace We Can Live A Holy Life. Yesterday, I had an experience that was humbling, and I needed to be humbled. We truly can’t live a holy life if we are prideful. And we can’t give the devil a foothold with anger. I had to give these to the Lord and repent. What follows below are excerpts from a couple of chapters of “Good or God? Why Good Without God Isn’t Enough” by John Bevere.
When it comes to empowerment, the gift of grace is not a one-time occurrence at the moment of salvation. It is something we need continually; we need “more and more grace.” This is why we are told, “So let us come boldly to the throne of our gracious God. There we will receive his mercy, and we will find grace to help us when we need it most.” (Hebrews 4:16).
Now listen to what James says to believers after exposing their self-seeking, adulterous lifestyle: “You adulterers! Don’t you realize that friendship with the world makes you an enemy of God? …But he gives us even more grace to stand against such evil desires… So humble yourselves before God.” (James 4:4, 6 NLT)
Read these words again carefully: “He gives us even more grace to stand against” selfish desires. The Amplified Bible renders it as, “But He gives us more and more grace.” This unmerited empowerment gives us the ability we didn’t previously possess: the capacity to live a holy life.
This grace, extended to those who humble themselves by believing His Word, infuses the strength of His divine nature into our being. The proud focus on their ability; the humble depend on God’s empowerment. David’s oldest brother, Eliab, was a proud man who didn’t depend on God’s empowerment but faced the giant Goliath in his own strength (see 1 Samuel 16–17). David was a humble man who confronted the giant in God’s strength. We know what the outcome was in each situation.
Jesus exemplified depending on God’s grace. In the Garden of Gethsemane, He was in the middle of a huge fight. His flesh wanted out of what His Father commanded, but He humbled Himself in prayer while His disciples slept. He cried out for the fuel to get through His greatest battle against selfishness. It was a time of need, and He came boldly to obtain His Father’s empowering grace to get through the fight. The disciples failed, but not without first being warned by Jesus: “The spirit is willing, but the body is weak” (Matthew 26:41 NLT)!
Let’s revisit Paul’s words to the Ephesians. They’ll take on greater meaning after what we’ve just discussed. “With the Lord’s authority I say this: Live no longer as the Gentiles do, for they are hopelessly confused. They have no sense of shame. They live for lustful pleasure and eagerly practice every kind of impurity. Put on your new nature, created to be like God— truly righteous and holy.” (Ephesians 4:17, 19, 24 NLT)
There should be a distinct difference between the lost and believers, not just in what we believe but in the way we live. This is because we have a new nature. But we have to put it on. In other words, we have to humble ourselves by believing in and yielding to grace’s empowerment. Look at it like this. My dad could give me a lawnmower, but it would be no good if I didn’t put gas in it, start it, and use it. This is putting on our new nature. We use it!
Paul continues to describe what this looks like practically: “So stop telling lies. Let us tell our neighbors the truth, for we are all parts of the same body. And ‘don’t sin by letting anger control you.’ Don’t let the sun go down while you are still angry, for anger gives a foothold to the devil. If you are a thief, quit stealing. Instead, use your hands for good hard work, and then give generously to others in need. Don’t use foul or abusive language.” (Ephesians 4:25-29 NLT)
I’ve heard it said, “The Old Testament is filled with dos and don’ts, but the New Testament is all about grace.” It’s even taught now in conferences and churches that the grace of God frees us from commandments, and many firmly believe it. Yet Jesus said only those who hear and keep His commandments will experience His manifest presence. These teachers think they are freeing their audiences, when in reality they’re steering people away from what brings us into the presence of God. It’s heartbreaking.
It’s a fact: Jesus gives us commandments. He commissions us, “Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you. And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:19–20). Not “all things I’ve suggested to you.”
In these days, many love His words that speak of sovereignty but take lightly His words that call for godly conduct. God truly is sovereign, but without an awareness of humankind’s freedom of choice, we can reach the place of viewing His words commanding godly behavior as mere suggestions.
The apostles gave Jesus’s commandments to us. Let me repeat John’s words: “We can be sure that we know him if we obey his commandments” (1 John 2:3 NLT). Then he goes on to say, “Loving God means keeping his commandments, and his commandments are not burdensome.” (1 John 5:3 NLT).
Paul writes, “For you know what commandments we gave you by the authority of the Lord Jesus.” (1 Thessalonians 4:2). His very next words: “God’s will is for you to be holy” (1 Thessalonians 4:3 NLT). We are expected to keep Jesus’s commandments in order to live holy.
Peter makes crystal clear the command to live holy. He identifies the tragic reality that people will fall away from the faith in the latter days. He writes that they will “reject the command they were given to live a holy life” (2 Peter 2: 21 NLT). Not only are we given commandments in the New Testament, but they specifically fall under the label of “the command… to live a holy life.”
If we examine the apostle Paul’s words in Ephesians 4: 25–29, we see direct commands to live holy: Don’t tell lies. Don’t sin by letting anger control you. Don’t steal. Don’t use foul or abusive language. Can we honestly say there are no don’ts in the New Testament? These certainly sound like don’ts to me. Do they to you?
Look at it like this. When I was a child, my dad told me, “Son, don’t run out in the street to get a ball without looking both ways.” That was a don’t, but he wasn’t being hard or negative. He was simply giving me this command so that I wouldn’t be suddenly killed and could live a long life.
God is simply telling us what not to do so that we can live full, productive, and long lives. And what’s even better, we have the divine nature and the fuel of grace to fulfill the commands.