God’s Work For Us Versus In Us

In the grade exchange, Jesus does the work and we get the credit. He studies; we succeed. This is called justifying grace, where God works for us. However, there is another kind of grace that takes place when God begins to work in us. This is called sanctifying grace, where God indwells his people in the person of the Holy Spirit and produces from within them the fruit of new life.

In Galatians 5 we read about what Paul calls “the fruit of the Spirit.” He is referring to the virtues that begin to be displayed in the lives of those who have experienced the grade exchange—fruit such as love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, self-control, etc. This fruit is evidence that these folks now have the indwelling presence of God in their lives, the Holy Spirit. As they continue to believe who they are in Jesus (newly minted A+ students), the Spirit flows like sap in their lives to produce fruit, as if from a vine into a branch. This is how God works in us. We could say that as grace becomes the internal, spiritual life-blood of the believer, fruit begins to grow. That is the dynamic of grace.

If someone wants to intentionally reject following Jesus in practical ways, he reveals that he really has not understood grace in the first place. He probably has experienced nothing more than religion, which doesn’t have the power to transform anyone at a deep level, especially not the motives of the heart.

If someone intentionally rejects following Jesus in practical ways, he really has not understood grace in the first place.

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This is because there are essentially two ways to motivate change—one is by fear and shame, the other is by love and grace. When I have been loved, it compels love in return. So, if I have no desire to love Jesus through following his ways and will, it reveals that I really do not know what it means to be loved by Jesus.

In 2 Corinthians 5:14, Paul said that he had a new motivation that was driving his life. No longer was he compelled to follow God out of fear or shame, but rather because of the love and grace of Jesus. Paul now wanted to serve and love the Savior—not out of guilt or duty, but out of gladness and joy. As John said, “We love him because he first loved us.”

Therefore, the way to experience life change is not to beat the horse harder in order to get more obedience out of it. The solution is to go back to understanding how God has worked for us. When we begin to get it and believe it, God will begin to work in us. Not only will we see new fruit, but also, we will begin craving it. In this light, both justification and sanctification are all of grace, and both serve to magnify the greatness and glory of God.