If you’ve read the New Testament, you know that grace is a key element to living the way God calls us to live. Here are just a few key verses to that end:
“For the grace of God has appeared that offers salvation to all people. It teaches us to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age…” (Titus 2:1–11, NIV)
“But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’” (2 Corinthians 12:9, NIV)
“For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace.” (Romans 6:14, ESV)
“You then, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus.” (2 Timothy 2:1 NIV)
Grace is clearly connected to living the life God has called us to live. On one hand, we are clearly saved by grace. Passages Like Ephesians 2 make this absolutely clear. But passages like the ones you’ve just read above seem to point to the reality that grace is not just God’s forgiveness. It’s His empowerment. It’s an impartation of His divine ability to us that allows us to do what we cannot do in our own strength. It’s His power at work in us.
The question that naturally follows is this. If grace is God’s power at work in our lives, how does it work? How do we tap into it?
2 Peter 1 gives us some profound insight into this. In this passage, we read:
“May grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord. His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence, by which he has granted to us his precious and very great promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped from the corruption that is in the world because of sinful desire. For this very reason, make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, and virtue with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness, and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love. For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they keep you from being ineffective or unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. For whoever lacks these qualities is so nearsighted that he is blind, having forgotten that he was cleansed from his former sins.” (2 Peter 1:2–9, ESV)
In this passage, we see from the get go that grace is God’s divine power and that God has made us partakers of His divine nature. After telling us this, Peter goes on to tell us that “for this reason” we are to make every effort to supplement our faith with a laundry list of qualities that mark our maturity and growth as followers of Christ. But then he makes a shocking statement. He says:
“For whoever lacks these qualities is so nearsighted that he is blind, having forgotten that he was cleansed from his former sins.” (2 Peter 1:9, ESV)
There’s something so powerful here if we can just catch it. According to Peter, the reason people fail to grow in godliness is because they have forgotten they’ve been cleansed from their sins. Or in other words, they’ve forgotten grace.
Now Peter is clearly not opposed to effort. Toward the beginning of this passage, he urges us to “make every effort.” Effort is a critical component of living a godly life—we don’t just stumble into living the way God calls us to. It involves a large amount of intentionality. But Peter also gives us the source of our problem if we find that our efforts are not working. He says it’s because we’ve forgotten grace—forgotten that we are washed and clean.
Here’s the key idea you should walk away from today with. The motivation behind your effort matters. We don’t strive for godliness in order to earn our acceptance and forgiveness from God. We strive for godliness because God has already forgiven us and made us clean. When we get a revelation that no matter what we’ve done and no matter how many times we’ve fallen short, God in His mercy and grace has cleansed us from our sin and made us clean, it does not motivate us to go live in sin. It spurs us on to live godly lives.
If you are struggling to live clean, it may just come down to this one thing — are you taking time to remember what Christ has done for you, the forgiveness that He has so graciously given you, and are you letting that be the motivation for your effort.
As the Christian philosopher Dallas Willard reminds us, “Grace is not opposed to effort. It is opposed to earning.”
You can’t earn God’s grace. It is a free gift. But when we’ve rightly understood how beautiful the grace that God has given us is, we will not only make every effort to live a godly life—we will tap into the power to do it.
Day 18 Freedom Work
Scripture Reading — Read 2 Peter 1 several times slowly, especially verses 1–15. Take your time and do not rush through it.
Journaling Exercises — Answer the following questions at length in your journal. Aim to write for about 5 minutes per question:
- Do you see yourself as washed and cleansed from your sins, or as dirty and shameful? Be completely honest here.
- What reason does this passage give for why people struggle to live godly lives? Could this be the reason you struggle at times?
- Despite how you may feel at times, write down a prayer thanking God for washing you from your sin and for forgiving the wrongs you have committed. Do this even if it is a struggle for you. Then pray it out loud and ask God to help you believe He could be this good to you.
Prayer — Father, thank you that you love me as much on my worst day as you do on my best day. Thank you that there is absolutely nothing that I can do to earn your love or to earn grace. Thank you that while I was yet a sinner, Christ died for me. Though I may struggle at times, help me to live with an awareness of your grace, resting in the knowledge that you have forgiven all of my sins. Help me to know that I am clean, and let the truth of what you say about me dispel any lies the enemy throws my way. Amen.