“In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of His grace, which He lavished upon us” (Ephesians 1:7-8, ESV).
I feel that we in the church have not begun to scratch the surface of grace. We take a few sips from the cup of grace from time to time in our walk with God, and then we gradually start to rely on our abilities the rest of the way.
We cannot pick and choose our areas of obedience. We are required to do what the Lord calls us to do. When Jesus says we are to be born again, to have faith, to pray and seek His face, to love our neighbor, to love our wife as Christ loves the church, His every command is yes and amen. Yet some churches prefer certain areas of obedience over others. They emphasize evangelism, or social justice, or political activism, or serving the poor, or prayer. They may not admit it, but they see other churches’ emphases as lesser in God’s eyes.
No church is pleasing to God when it runs on one cylinder instead of eight. He simply will not allow us to ignore certain of His commands. Read Revelation 3 to get a picture of His displeasure when we do that. Any person or church who is not obeying God’s commands is living in disobedience. Yet, perfect obedience is not within the realm of our ability. The reason we tend to emphasize certain areas of obedience in our lives is because they are easier to fulfill than others. We may even get rewarded for doing them. But that misses the point completely.
Having a life of joy and victory does not hinge on whether we succeed or fail at obeying God’s commands; it has everything to do with how we go about obeying God’s commands. I was taught as a child in church that I could manifest spiritual changes by my own will. Youth leaders told us, “You can change yourself so that temptations don’t return. You can pull yourself up out of anything.” It does not take us long to see how futile this is.
The point is not to make changes in ourselves. The point is to allow God’s grace to empower us to transformation—in ourselves and in our world.