The Sharp Edge of Grace

by Rick Hawkes, ruling elder

“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.” 2 Cor 5.17
Just to be clear, I’m all in favor of grace. I understand it is a good deal that I don’t deserve. I’m happy to get in on that. However, you don’t necessarily learn everything about grace up front. There are some kickers in the deal.
So, the Holy Spirit is at work in me and through me. That’s nice. Sin no longer has free rein. I still find myself doing things that my regenerated heart hates, but I also find myself doing good things I would never have thought of before. It is so encouraging to see that.
Now for the twist. The Spirit working through me can be helpful to other people. And these other people form expectations of me. They see me as helpful and reliable. And I’m thinking, “Uh-oh. I’m just a selfish sinner. Don’t look to me to be helpful or reliable.” But I can’t really say that because that would be suggesting the Spirit is not able to transform me.
The Spirit doesn’t let people down, but I do. It is painful to fail people when they were looking to me for help. Thank you, Holy Spirit, for making my failure so obvious against the contrast of your good work.
Now, you might be thinking, “So this is the sharp edge of grace, that the Holy Spirit’s work in us shows us our sin for its true sinfulness.” But the still sharper edge is that I know I did not have to sin (1 Cor. 10:13). It is a comfortable fiction to say that I am just a sinner and will inevitably fail. The truth is that God in Christ has moved heaven and earth so that I am holy to the Lord. When I fail, I have to work at it, work against the hand of God pulling me to himself.
The new creation in us is not a static but a growing, living thing. Each day I live in Christ, he is growing me, and sin in me is becoming more despicable and my participation in it more hateful to me. Not only is there no turning back, there is no standing still, only the upward call of God in Christ. Grace eventually cuts off every comfort, every hope, every prospect, but one: He who calls is faithful and shall surely complete his work in me and for me.