God’s grace in Christ changes everything, including how you approach discipleship. Here are three things that make grace-based discipleship different.
There’s a Different Goal: Most views of discipleship make eternal salvation their goal. You become a faithful disciple to ensure you go to heaven when you die. By contrast, under grace, whoever believes in Jesus already has eternal life as a present possession (John 3:15-18). Your eternal destiny is already settled. You’re not working for salvation you do not yet have, but working out the salvation you have already received as a gift (cf. Phil 2:12; Eph 2:8-10). So why be a disciple? Because it helps you and those around you. When you live a holy life, you can experience abundant life and produce all the life-enhancing fruits of the Spirit. You can also help your neighbors, like how the Good Samaritan saved his neighbor’s life. Even though you’re not trying to earn your way into heaven, those are still worthy goals.
There’s a Different Logic: Legalistic views of discipleship usually have an if/then logical structure. “If you want to be saved, then you will obey,” or “If you want God to love you, then you should try harder to deserve it.” It is conditional. You can’t avoid that reasoning entirely since actions aim at goals, and you must think about what to do to achieve them. However, I believe the grace message changes the deeper logic of discipleship to because/therefore. The believer is motivated to act based on his secure identity in Christ. “Because God first loved you, therefore you love others” (cf. 1 John 4:19), or “Because God forgave you, therefore you forgive others” (cf. Eph 4:32). Under grace, you act out of the spiritual blessings and resources you already have in Christ (Eph 1:3).
There’s a Different Walk: Legalistic spirituality is lived by self-effort. You might invoke God for His help, but you assume that your spiritual success ultimately depends on white-knuckling your discipleship and always trying harder to get the results you think you’re supposed to achieve. By contrast, the grace-filled life is lived by faith. Paul said, “So then, just as you have received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to walk in him” (Col 2:6). How did you receive Christ? By faith (cf. John 1:12). So how should you walk? By faith: “I have been crucified with Christ, and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me” (Gal 2:20). Knowing that Christ lives in you, and allowing Him to live through you, will not change your daily routines very much. You’ll still have to get the kids ready for school, go to work, shop for groceries, mow the lawn, and pay your taxes. But now you’ll live self-consciously relating every moment to Christ, trusting Him with each situation, leaving the results up to Him, and expecting God to take care of His own plans. The result of walking by faith is finding rest in God.
Grace is not only the key to being saved but to living out your salvation.
Send your questions or comments to Shawn.