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Any Wonder We Fall Short?

February 20, 2011

To be sure there is unconditional grace. And it is the glorious foundation of all else in the Christian life. But there is also conditonal grace. For most people who breathe the popular air of grace and compassion today, conditional grace sounds like an oxymoron – like heavy feathers. so, for example, when people hear the promise of James 4:6, that God gives grace to the humble,” many have a hard time thinking about a grace that is conditional upon humility. Or, if they hear the precious promise that “all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose” (Romans 8:28, KJV), they scarcely allow themselves to ponder that this promise of grace is conditional upon our being called and our loving God.

And yet conditional promises of grace are woven all through the New Testament teaching about how to live the Christian life. “If you forgive men for their transgressions [condition], your heavenly Father will also forgive you” (Matthew 6:14). “Pursue . . . sanctification [condition] without which no one will see the Lord” (Hebrews 12:14). “If we walk in the light [condition] as He Himself is in the light . . . the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin (1 John1:7). I find that the biblical thinking behind these kinds of conditional promises is uncommon in the minds of Christians today. Some popular conceptions of grace cannot comprehend any role for conditionality other than legalism. But if God meant these teachings to help us live radical lives of Christian love, is it any wonder that we so often fall short?

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