This book is a strong call to the life of obedience that necessarily follows faith in Christ. But anytime a strong call to discipleship and obedience is issued, it can be misunderstood. I wanted to post a quick look at the underlying assumption of the book: the grace of Almighty God as demonstrated in the life, death and resurrection of Christ. This grace is the righteousness of God that is earned for us in Jesus and credited to us through faith (Romans 3:21-31).
Our constant and consistent sin against a Holy God is a source of guilt and shame among Christians. Chan describes the problem and provides help:
So why, when we constantly offend Him and are so unlovable and unloving, does God persist in loving us? … I do not have an answer to this question. But I do know that if God’s mercy did not exist, there would be no hope. No matter how good we tried to be, we would be punished because of our sins…God’s mercy is a free, yet costly, gift. It cannot be earned. Our righteousness…certainly did not help us deserve it. ..sin is paid for through the death of Jesus Christ, instead of the death of you and me.
Elsewhere: “In the midst of our failed attempts at loving Jesus, His grace covers us…The Scriptures demonstrate clearly that there is room for our failure and sin in our pursuit of God.” (87). The Christian life is lived in constant sin and imperfection, but those failures do not jeopardize our relationship to God because that relationship is guaranteed by Christ’s work credited to us through faith.
Chan points us to love for God as a motivator for Christ-like living (102). He tells us what the solution to our constant, guilt-ridden felt need to justify ourselves before God with our works is not: “…The solution isn’t to try harder, fail, and then make bigger promises, only to fail again. ..When loving Him becomes obligation, one of many things we have to do, we end up focusing even more on ourselves.” And the best solution? “The answer lies in letting Him change you…Jesus didn’t die only to save us from hell; He also died to save us from our bondage to sin” (103).
We need God’s help to change, and we are assured of that help when we turn to Christ in faith. Christ has already purchased everything we need to live for Him.
We run toward Christ, and we are “freed up to serve, love, and give thanks without guilt, worry, or fear” (104). We run to Christ because of what He has done for us, not to earn His favor. As we run to Christ, “we begin to focus more on Christ” and “we are satisfied in Him.” This satisfaction helps us to avoid sin, the satisfaction of our desires with things God condemns. (104)
Do we then sin with impunity? Of course not. No one who has any understanding of their sinfulness and God’s grace can fail to live differently.
When we are focused on loving Christ, it doesn’t mean we do less. I used to do many of the same things I do now, but I was motivated by guilt or fear of consequences. When we work for Christ out of obligation, it feels like work. But when we truly love Christ, our work is a manifestation of that love, and it feels like love. / In reality, none of us will ever be worthy. It is useless to attempt earning it; you will never feel ready…But there really is a God who forgives everything and loves endlessly. (110)
We can stop trying to earn God’s favor and start enjoying the favor Christ earned for us in His life and death. We don’t have to live in guilt and shame. We no longer live in fear. We move forward into new life motivated by our love for God in view of His love for us.