Sample One—Excerpt from Chapter One Real Grace for Real People
Man, it is said, can contribute nothing to the salvation process, nothing toward his own salvation. Any human cooperation with God is ruled out by defining cooperation as “works-salvation.”
We agree, of course, that the works of fallen man can never buy him salvation. Yet, it remains true that if man is not willing to receive the gift of God, he is not willing to receive His grace. Those found holding mistaken notions concerning salvation are often discovered to have made an a priori decision to rule out cooperation. Many never have previously studied or seriously examined this question. That is how subtle changes in belief systems come. Truth is redefined in tiny slices until there is none left. Sometimes this is done willfully, while on other occasions the changes develop only as one who has not dealt thoughtfully with an issue transmits the error forward to another. Either way, why accept this revising? Who told us that we have to sit back quietly while someone spin-doctors the teaching of the Bible?
We are free to rightly divide the Word of God! The Bible warns us about the traditions of man. These traditions come to us not only wrinkled and aged, but often in a dangerously updated and glossy guise. Why is it that people can be led so readily to write off the commandments of God and replace them with the traditions of men?
The best example of divine-human cooperation on record is Jesus. He was divine—He was God—but He came in the flesh of a man; the humanity that He took was identical to our own, having no special exemptions or exceptions (see Romans 8:3, 4; Hebrews 2:16-18). He commanded the sea and the grave, and they always complied. Yet, before He came, He “made Himself of no reputation” (Philippians 2:7, 8). The underlying Greek here reads literally that He emptied Himself. He set aside His divine power and in His life relied upon the Father just as we must rely on upon Him (John 5:19, 30).
Because He walked so closely with His Father, Jesus’ will harmonized with His Father’s, and the miracles that were wrought came because of that intimate harmony—that intimate cooperation. Imagine it! He possessed the power to do miracles—He had, after all, made the worlds (see Hebrews 1:2). However, He set that power aside in order to give to humankind the example of His life. He gave us the pattern for living by grace (see John 13:15; 1 Peter 2:21; John 17:19).
Jesus did not need the grace of pardon as we do, but He did need the grace of power. He sought the Father in prayer, as we do. He was strengthened by angels as we sometimes are. Then, should we be surprised that the day-by-day grace He received as He lived in our world is for us too?
Jesus was not guilty of sin, nor does guilt or condemnation reside strictly in the nature of man. A hand is not guilty for stealing or a foot for kicking; such actions begin in the mind; the extremities have no say. These actions result from hearts unsubdued by the Spirit of God, but Jesus’ mind was always subdued to the Spirit of God. Jesus never developed the habit patterns of sin that we have, for although tempted in all points like as we are, He never sinned (see Hebrews 4:15).
While He never needed the grace of pardon, He did need the grace of power. He lived an uncondemnable life and thus could challenge,“Which of you convinceth Me of sin?” (John 8:46). He is exactly what we need in a Savior: “Holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners” (Hebrews 7:26). Notwithstanding all this, the Father “hath made Him to be sin for us,Who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him” (2 Corinthians 5:21).
He lived without sinning but took upon Himself the penalty
of the sinner. He came to break sin in its lair, to conquer sin in
the same flesh that constitutes man’s broken nature (see Romans 8:3). He overcame by the power of Heaven, even grace (see
Hebrews 4:16) so that the strength that God would make
available to us would have in it the power to condemn sin in our
flesh as well. Some would say that this is not
Grace makes a difference. Grace is not license. Some see grace as a license to sin (even though, they will say, you should not sin). Jesus did not grant us the privilege of sinning, but the privilege of winning. He came not to give us a placebo, but to give us power. He came, not to please man, but to glorify the Father through a life of purity. Jesus did not come with cheap prizes from some mail-in sweepstakes, but to cleanse the house of religious cheapskates. He came to break the hold that sin has on you and on me, and His real grace exposes the charlatans and fakes and their teachings.
The real gospel truly cleanses the temple by combining divine strength with human effort. The result of this combination is a righteousness from God that fills the life of man with richness, growth, and moral beauty; a righteousness that we could properly say has in it not one thread of human devising; a righteousness that is all of God, containing no merit originating with man. Real grace means that God's power changes those who cooperate with it. We discuss real grace for real need. Jesus is our only Source; He came to bring real grace for real people.