When God commands us, does He actually expect us to obey Him? Or does He command us knowing full well that we won’t really do a very good job at it?
Is the point of His commands then to show us how much we fall short and need His grace? Or is the point that He actually thinks we can obey?
And if we do try to obey, how good do we need to be? Is 90% to 95% obedience good enough? Or does He expect 100% obedience?
If He has already totally forgiven our lack of obedience, then what is the point in trying? Are we simply to try to please Him out of love with some measure of obedience, or is all our works and efforts pointless, or even worse a hindrance to our relationship with Him?
Should we expect to be convicted of our sin? Or should we expect only love and acceptance knowing He has forgiven every sin?
If we are to obey Him, are we all to obey at the same level and to the same degree, or is He leading each of us on our own path where we learn what obedience He expects from us one step at a time?
Well, consider the woman caught in adultery (John 8) who Jesus told, “go and sin no more”. Jesus doesn’t ignore or excuse her sin. He clearly indicates that she has sinned, but in His love and grace He forgives her, and then just as clearly, He voices His expectation that she should not sin again.
Jesus wasn’t saying, “hey, try not to do that again, but if you do, don’t worry, it’s no big deal”. Neither was He saying, “Now that I forgave you I suspect you’ll want to express your love for me, so here’s what I’d like you to do”. No, He simply commands her not to sin.
Or consider the story of the Passover, where applying the blood of the lamb caused the angel of death to pass over a house and not bring death. Interestingly, the Israelites were also commanded to remove all leaven from their house. Applying the blood saved the household from death, but failure to remove leaven (a symbol of sin) was cause to be “cut off from Israel”. I’m thinking that if we want to be part of God’s kingdom, then we need to obey his commands and remove the leaven from our lives, whether we feel like it or not.
The key here would be knowing you have leaven in your life but doing nothing about it, i.e., deliberately ignoring sin.
In the parable of the prodigal son, the Father runs out to accept His wayward son back into His household, but certainly He does not do this with the expectation that His household will now become a household of sin. Rather, in His righteousness, He expects the son to live a new life free from the leaven of sin.
I remember listening to Sergio Scataglini, who struck me as an incredibly good pastor, who talked about how in the midst of revival God came to him and showed him that 98% holiness was not good enough. Wow! As hard as it is for our minds to get around that, it seems God actually wants 100% holiness from us. You can read about this in his book: The Fire of His Holiness.
Also, I recently heard Michael Brown interview David Ravenhill on his radio program (here). And this led me to some good articles on the grace subject by David Ravenhill here and here. David Ravenhill also has a book out on the subject: The god of Grace (is not the grace of God). Finally, here is an excellent video interview where he discusses another book of his Blood Bought: