If a person enters into a relationship with Jesus Christ, shouldn’t there begin a transformation in their life? Yet I read in your book The Grace & Truth Paradox and have been told by other people that “good works don’t save us, and bad works won’t kill us.” I strongly believe in eternal security, but I fear that some are going to stand face to face with the Creator of the universe and he will say, “I never knew you.”
It is quite amazing how often the term “legalism” comes up when there is a serious discussion about obedience or its result, holiness. Jesus said that the Pharisees were “whitewashed tombs,” not revived souls. I agree completely that saving faith results in transformation of life. But for a long time in America, many have explained the gospel as “accepting Jesus Christ into your heart as your personal Savior,” perhaps inadvertently communicating that salvation is a business transaction by virtue of which you receive a “get out of hell free” card in exchange for praying the sinner’s prayer. I often want to ask, “How could a relationship with the Sovereign Creator of the Universe possibly fail to change you in ways you can neither anticipate or control?”
Jesus left us no option of subdividing His person according to our preferences: “I like the Savior part, but the Lord and Master thing seems a little extreme!” The failure to preach this and help people understand God’s majesty and holiness through the unfolding of His Word (Psalm 119:130), including the lofty demands of the Law (Romans 15:4), result in many professions of belief without supporting evidence. John Piper has said he fears that as many as 70-80 percent of people in evangelical churches do not in fact belong to Christ; interestingly, it has become an accepted fact that 20-30 percent of congregations will do the work and financially support the church in a significant way.
It was my rare privilege to hear Steve Saint (the son of martyred missionary pilot Nate Saint, and Mincaye, the Auca [Waodani] tribesman who actually killed Steve’s dad and then came to faith in Christ) speak, along with Randy Alcorn at our church. Steve said that among the Christians in this tribe, there is no concept of a nominal Christian. Mincaye explained, “You are either walking on God’s trail, following His carvings marked in blood, or you are walking your own trail. At the end of your trail, your name is not there, and there is no place for you; but at the end of God’s trail, your name is already written and there is a place that is ready.” What wonderful simplicity!
God’s law helps us to see our real need in clear terms and cry out to Him in faith for the transformation that you then experience. David speaks to this reality in Psalm 51 after being confronted by Nathan the prophet with God’s truth. It is not your resolve to keep the Law that changes you; it is transformation by God’s Spirit in response to grace—supplied faith that allows you to see the beauty of God expressed in His Law and be motivated by love to obey Him.
To live for God’s glory is our great source of joy. Jeremiah 15:16 says “Your words were found, and I ate them, and your words became to me a joy and the delight of my heart, for I am called by your name, O LORD, God of hosts.” When we, by grace through faith accept God’s gracious offer of adoption as His own through Jesus, we take on His Name, giving up the pretension of an independent identity, and then find the joy and delight that He meant us to find in the revelation of Himself in His whole Word.