Frustrating Grace

(Col 2:20-23) “Wherefore if ye be dead with Christ from the rudiments of the world, why, as though living in the world, are ye subject to ordinances, {21} (Touch not; taste not; handle not; {22} Which all are to perish with the using;) after the commandments and doctrines of men? {23} Which things have indeed a show of wisdom in will worship, and humility, and neglecting of the body; not in any honour to the satisfying of the flesh.”

One of the greatest tragedies in this world is the believer that has returned to the trough of religion to satisfy his old sinful flesh rather than living in our new identity in Christ. Many, mistakenly, think of the worldly as those who are given to fleshly pursuits, but fail to realize that the greatest efforts to appease the flesh lie in the realm of religion and human good. 

Religion, and human good, takes mankind down a path of denial, having as a goal the controlling of the impulses of the flesh. It is an exercise in futility as it is impossible to quit sinning. In Christ, the believer is equipped to replace the deeds of the flesh with the works of righteousness. This replacement principle is basic to the intrinsic nature of the life of Christ in the believer (Galatians 2:20-21). Religion does bring a sense of order to many people’s lives, but it does so at the price of stepping onto an ever turning treadmill of religious activity. It is constantly striving to attain the unattainable which, on the one hand, pleases us for our self-effort but, on the other hand, leaves us dissatisfied for our lack of ever having done enough. The apostle Paul describes this as “frustrating the grace of God.”

Indeed, the only satisfaction that is derived from religion is that which is gained by comparison. Those who are somewhat more successful in controlling the impulses of the flesh look at others, who are less successful, and feel superior. Within they are unfulfilled and, consequently, must look to external evidences to define their worth and success.

This formula of self-worth is that which is basic to this evil world we live in. It is the mechanism the ungodly employ in their efforts toward self-righteousness. It is sad that saints often fall back into the same program because of their feelings of inadequacy and failure. The truth is, the Christian walk is not one of denial, but one of affirmation. There is a verse in Titus that reads; “This is a faithful saying, and these things I will that thou affirm constantly, that they which have believed in God might be careful to maintain good works. These things are good and profitable unto men.” (Titus 3:8) 

Titus 3:8 does not teach that “good works are the product of careful maintenance.” It does teach that there are “things” which when “constantly affirmed” enable the believer to “maintain good works.” There is a big difference between the two. One relies on our diligence and willful intent to perform, while the other is the result of affirming Biblical truth. The first seven verses in Titus 3 speak to this. Verses two and three highlight the need for us to remember who we were before our conversion. Verses four through seven speak of (1) God’s kindness and love toward us. (2) Our inability to save ourselves. (3) God’s mercy, regeneration and renewing are abundant to us through Jesus Christ. (4) We are justified on the basis of grace and we are the heirs of eternal life.

When we affirm these positive truths we are motivated, and energized, toward living in light of our identity in Christ. Paul told the Thessalonians this; “For this cause also thank we God without ceasing, because, when ye received the word of God which ye heard of us, ye received it not as the word of men, but as it is in truth, the word of God, which effectually worketh also in you that believe.” (1 Th 2:13) The Word of God works in the believer in a powerful way. So much so, that its’ profit to us is that we are “perfect” and “throughly furnished unto all good works.” (2 Timothy 3:16-17) A religious agenda will never replace the power of the Living Word in the life of a believer. Religion is the path to spiritual death but the affirmation of God’s grace is Christ in us, the hope of gory.

We can never satisfy our flesh with any amount of regimentation. No matter how much religion we throw at our flesh, it will always demand more effort. The grace of God is sufficient. It empowers us to mortify the flesh and to live unto God. Happiness and success for the saint, living in this present evil world, is in realizing that it is only in human weakness that we find the strength of grace. The delusion of religion is one of human ability and only leads to frustration.

(2 Cor 12:9) “And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.”

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