God’s gift of salvation is a gift of grace. It is an unmerited gift. We didn’t earn it because we can’t earn it. Sin is a stain we can’t erase. Only God can. This is central to the Gospel message. However, we have to be careful to understand the implications of that grace. That grace doesn’t permit us to sin all we want, thinking that we’re secure because Jesus died on the Cross for our sins. I’ve seen this taught and preached and when I hear it I want to scream because this is a heresy the early Church dealt with in various forms. If God’s grace is upon us, then that means we acknowledge and accept His Lordship over our lives. That means change, real change, to be more like the people God wants us to be. A friend of mine, when remarking about someone she knew, said, “I just don’t see any fruit.” She was referring to someone who said she was saved, but for whom there were no outward signs of change.
Now the law came in to increase the trespass, but where sin increased, grace abounded all the more, so that, as sin reigned in death, grace also might reign through righteousness leading to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord. – Romans 5:20-21, ESV
Sin leads to eternal death – separation from God forever. As a result, sin reigns in death. Sin is something we’d expect to see prominently in someone who is perishing, and truth be told, it is something we all struggle with second by second. We all sin, and moreso than we’d like to admit. Paul, however, draws a contrast between those who are still facing death and those who are redeemed by grace. He makes the point that grace reigns through righteousness. Does grace reign in our lives? If so, there should be the righteousness of God visible in those very same lives. We cannot say grace reigns within us if we are not doing our utmost to be righteous. In other words, if we’re disobedient to the Word, we cannot lay claim to the fact that grace reigns in us. Maybe it does. After all, if I were to take just a snapshot of any Christian at the worst possible time, I’d sin the evil ugliness of sin bold and in control. One snapshot does not mean grace isn’t in control. However, when we examine the life of a Christian, one who is a disciple of Jesus Christ and not just wearing the title, then we should see where righteousness is visible and present. If we don’t see that righteousness as a regular aspect of our lives, then we better investigate what the truth us.
When you take the time to examine yourself, do you see righteousness more than you see sin? Do you have a desire to be righteous because it is pleasing to the One who saved you? A bigger question: are you examining yourself honestly? You can’t do this alone. The flesh causes us to lie to ourselves. Sometimes we can’t see the sin we are in. Do you have someone who will tell it to you straight when you’re not doing things the right way? When was the last time you talked with such a person?
We want to let grace reign. Grace reigning in us will shine the light of Jesus upon a world that needs to see Him. Grace reigning in us means we are better able to handle this life and all its challenges. Grace reigning in us means God is glorified and He is pleased. But for grace to reign we must seek righteousness. We must look to be obedient to God’s Word even when it’s hard, and I would say especially when it is difficult. Only by the obedience will we come to know God better and draw closer to Him. Only by obedience to the One in whom true joy is found will we be able to partake in that joy. Let grace reign in you. Let grace reign in me. Let us pursue righteousness and glorify the God who loves us so much.