Living by grace and being led by the Spirit are synonymous. You cannot truly embrace one without the other.
I stated in “Grace in the balance between the prodigal and elder brother response” that spiritual orphans don’t understand 100% pure, undiluted grace. They will either abuse it or dismiss it.
The rebellious orphan will abuse this undiluted grace by using it as a pretext for their self-indulgent version of freedom, throwing off the shackles of religious confinement they’ve perceived as a threat to doing whatever they please. The religious orphan will dismiss this pure grace and warn everyone else to stay away from it, insisting on the shackles of their legalistic mixture of grace and law.
Grace supernaturally empowers a fruitful lifestyle that’s fully free from the shackles of both sinful indulgence and legalistic religion. The difference between grace and legalism is the difference between being managed by the Spirit and being managed by outward restraint. One produces freedom, the other only heightens sin consciousness.
Those who are led by the Spirit are the sons of God (Rom.8:14), for it is His love that compels them to live His other-centered life (2 Cor.5:14-17), not the threat of punishment. They understand pure grace because, rather than coming to God for self-preservation (fear of hell or fixing their life), they’ve embraced Jesus Himself, and He is full of grace and truth.
For the law was given through Moses, but grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. No one has seen God at any time. The only begotten Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, He has declared Him. (John 1:17-18 NKJV)
Jesus was full of grace and truth, not because He was a moral person, not even because He was God the Son. It is because He “exists at the very heart of the Father” (vs. 18 MSG). He did then, He does now. And we have been placed there by Christ (Eph.2:6; Col.3:3). It is from this place in the Father’s embrace where He told us to live (see John 15:1-11). When we live our life from there, we are also full of grace and truth.
Paul stated succinctly in Galatians 5:16, “I say then: Walk in the Spirit, and you shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh.” What is the answer to the overcoming life in Paul’s mind? More rules? More restraint? Keep the Law? No! Walk in the Spirit! Grace empowers what the Law could never do, which is why when we’re led by the Spirit we are not under the Law.
I love the way the Message Bible paraphrases this whole passage (Gal.5:16-18).
My counsel is this: Live freely, animated and motivated by God’s Spirit. Then you won’t feed the compulsions of selfishness. For there is a root of sinful self-interest in us that is at odds with a free spirit, just as the free spirit is incompatible with selfishness. These two ways of life are antithetical, so that you cannot live at times one way and at times another way according to how you feel on any given day. Why don’t you choose to be led by the Spirit and so escape the erratic compulsions of a law-dominated existence?
This also implies that we have the choice to walk in freedom. We can either be empowered by the Spirit or live by our own self-redemptive power. If we want to walk in freedom we will abandon our foolish endeavor to become righteous and holy and choose to walk in the Spirit, thereby receiving His righteousness and holiness as a free gift. As the Message Bible puts it, “Why don’t you choose to be led by the Spirit and so escape the erratic compulsions of a law-dominated existence?”
To walk in the Spirit means that we choose to live everyday in the Father’s embrace. Not that we have “get there” but we believe that we’re there already in Christ. Our renewed mind is then able to receive these heavenly realities (I wrote about this here).
When we’re filled with the Spirit we’re filled with grace which is the fullness of God Himself.
[That you may really come] to know [practically, through experience for yourselves] the love of Christ, which far surpasses mere knowledge [without experience]; that you may be filled [through all your being] unto all the fullness of God [may have the richest measure of the divine Presence, and become a body wholly filled and flooded with God Himself]! (Eph.3:19 AMP)
Paul is telling us to know a love that cannot be known. In other words, it’s not something we study or get from hearing a sermon. We “get it” by opening our heart, receiving His love, and letting Him flood our being with His light. When we do this, we are experientially filled with the Spirit.
Grace is not a thing. It’s not even really a doctrine. Grace is Jesus Himself. When we receive Him, and walk in His Spirit, we receive grace. The more we are filled with His Spirit, the more we will walk in Grace.
I really enjoy reading your blog. I just discovered it about a month ago when I was doing some research on “Work from Rest” for a huddle group on discipleship. Like you, I have a Catholic upbringing. I joined a non-denominational church about 7 years ago, mostly because my wife felt the need to be nourished by more than what the Catholic church was offering. I am glad we made the switch for lots of reasons, not the least of which is that my wife now has a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.
I was always a bit jealous of my non-Catholic friends who “knew” they had been saved by “grace” – where the Catholic church pushed “works”. I like to think I was “smarter” than the average Catholic, understanding the very large role grace plays. However, I have to admit I am coming to a new understanding what it means to live a spirit led life. (I don’t want to say I have it all figured out just yet.)
I have been a rule follower all my life. And as much as I hate to admit it, I have been shackled with my own legalistic mixture of grace and law. And here is an example of why it has been confusing to me. In your post above, you refer to the beautiful scripture of John 15:1-11. Verse 10 begins “If you keep My commandments”. How easy it is to jump to the conclusion that Jesus himself instructs us to “keep the law”.
There are other such seeming contradictions in the bible. And maybe I will bring them up when it is appropriate to something you are writing about. But, for now, I would appreciate hearing your comments / words of encouragement on references to keeping the commandments.(Again, in John 14:15, Jesus says “If you love me, keep my commandments.”)
Thanks so much. I look forward to your response.
Thanks for your comments and sharing your testimony, Dan. I will try to answer your question about John 15:10 here with a few brief points. I may elaborate sometime later with a separate post.
First, we need to always read Scripture through the lens of the finished work of Christ on the cross. Otherwise, we create doctrines that are contradictory, as you pointed out. In other words, Jesus never disagrees with Paul, or vice versa. So, whatever conclusions we make must make both agree with each other. Jesus, in His teaching on the Law, buried the religious community in the absurdity of trying to attain righteousness by the Law. Jesus fulfilled the Law on the cross and established a “new and living way,” which is by His Spirit living in us. This is how Jesus lived, and the whole point of His last discourse in John (John 13:31-17:26). If we don’t see this, we miss the whole point of the New Covenant.
Second, Jesus didn’t say if we obey THE commandments, but if we obey HIS commands. The Greek word here is “entolē,” simply meaning injunctions or precepts. What were Jesus’ precepts? John 15:1-9 gives the context. To abide in Him as He abides in the Father. Furthermore, Jesus “obeyed” His Father by being led by Him (John 5:19-20). This is why there is no law against the Spirit. This is obedience under the New Covenant, walking by faith, led by the Spirit.
Third, as Paul said, if we try to please God by obeying the Law, we have actually fallen FROM grace (Gal.5:4). He called this “another gospel” and a “bewitchment” (Gal.1:6-9; 3:1-5). Paul saw trying to obey God by the Law as disobedience under grace. We can only please God by faith (Heb.11:6), not by our performance. True moral restraint and self control is a fruit of the Spirit (Gal.5:22-23). In this way, following the Ten Commandments or being led by the Spirit are polar opposites. As I said before, one is a “ministry of death engraved on stones ” (2 Cor.3:7), only heightening our sin consciousness (Rom.7:5), the other actually frees us from sin’s power.
Paul said that Jesus fulfilled the Law and established the New Covenant, so now we’re married to another (See Rom.7:1-6), which is Christ Himself. We are to now walk in “newness of life” in Christ on this side of the Cross. When we read Jesus’ statements on this side of the cross, through the lens of His finished work, there is no contradiction. I hope this clears it up for you. Blessings.
Thank you very much for responding so quickly, thoroughly and convincingly. I very much want to lead a spirit led life. I don’t want to say “I will try harder”….because that just reinforces the concept of “works of my own doing”. Instead, I simply pray to be filled with the spirit of God and eagerly await to see where that leads me.
Thanks again. God bless you, too.
You’re welcome, Dan. The best thing you can do is renew your mind by His Word. This will help you understand God and be led by His Spirit. I wrote about that here. Enjoy your sojourn with God!
Reblogged this on The Life of Living Above and commented:
Lets pray we can find the revelation of this!
Reblogged this on sevennotesofgrace and commented:
This is full of grace and encouragement.
“The rebellious orphan will abuse this undiluted grace by using it as a pretext for their self-indulgent version of freedom, throwing off the shackles of religious confinement they’ve perceived as a threat to doing whatever they please. The religious orphan will dismiss this pure grace and warn everyone else to stay away from it, insisting on the shackles of their legalistic mixture of grace and law.”
Wow Mel! Bringing the truth with one of those sharp surgical instruments. Bone and marrow and all that. Your awesome! Yay God!
Thanks, Lance. That is actually a quote from the book I just finished writing so I’m glad it works. 🙂 Blessings.
Once again, Mel, pure brilliance in understandable prose. And great distinction in your reply to Dan; Jesus said to follow HIS commands, far different than following Mosaic Law. Jesus’ commands have to do with our motivation, our heart, our willingness to allow the Spirit to lead us, to deny ourselves (pick up our cross daily) and follow Him.
Thanks, Susan. I really appreciate you gracious comments. 🙂
Amen, Jesus’ way is definitely a very different way to live. We accept that we died with Him and His life is now our life. We now walk in “newness of life” in Him. (Rom.6:2-6; Gal.2:20). It’s not the way of self effort but the way of faith empowered by grace. A much more effective way to live! Blessings.
And Amen to that, Mel.