Our church has really been blessed by using The Gospel Project curriculum in our weekly small groups. One theme we discussed this past week is that, as Christians, our identity is in Christ and that identity empowers us to mission.
To properly understand our identity in Christ, we must understand the nature of grace. Grace is God’s unmerited favor. Grace seems unfair to our sinful hearts, because in reality we believe everyone should get what they deserve – except ourselves. As the writer of this Gospel Project lesson mentioned, we say we want everything to be equal but what we truly want is to be treated as the exception not the rule. Grace is unfair because it unites undeserving people, from incredibly different backgrounds, around the gospel of Jesus Christ.
Knowing the nature of grace allows us to know what a true believer looks like, and subsequently how they should act.
God’s people are sustained by grace alone through faith in Jesus Christ alone. Assuming that additional efforts help us to obtain, or even to sustain, salvation is a damaging lie. Christians are only saved by the atoning work of Jesus’ sacrificial death on the cross, not by any additional merit we can conjure up.
As we see in Galatians 2:19-21
For through the law I died to the law, so that I might live to God. I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God,who loved me and gave himself for me. I do not nullify the grace of God, for if righteousness were through the law, then Christ died for no purpose.
A Christian’s life that is marked by grace alone through faith in Christ alone will result in good works. Now, on the surface, a Christian’s life marked by good works may seem contradictory. Didn’t we just say good works won’t lead to salvation? Yes, we did. But let’s read what Scripture says:
But someone will say, “You have faith and I have works.” Show me your faith apart from your works, and I will show you my faith by my works. You believe that God is one; you do well. Even the demons believe—and shudder! Do you want to be shown, you foolish person, that faith apart from works is useless? Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered up his son Isaac on the altar? You see that faith was active along with his works, and faith was completed by his works; and the Scripture was fulfilled that says, “Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness”—and he was called a friend of God. You see that a person is justified by works and not by faith alone. And in the same way was not also Rahab the prostitute justified by works when she received the messengers and sent them out by another way? For as the body apart from the spirit is dead, so also faith apart from works is dead. (James 2:18-26)
Saving faith will always affect behavior. As James reminds us, even demons believe God is one. If our faith goes no farther than to believe in God, or even believe things about God, then we are no better off than a demon. That sounds harsh, but it’s exactly what James is saying. If your life isn’t affected by your faith, James says you have reason to ask why. A faith that places absolute trust in Christ for salvation results in a changed heart that will lead to changed actions. Works are not the cause of our salvation, but they are the fruit of our salvation.
Small groups are a wonderful opportunity to dig deeper into spiritual truths like this one. Not only that, but small groups are also a wonderful way to build biblical, Gospel-centered community. If you’re wanting to get plugged in to a small group in Madison County, or are interested in getting more information about small groups, please contact us! We would love to meet you.