On Your Right … No Your Other Right.

As I write this from the window of a coffee shop, the traffic is driving by on the right side of the road … because I’m Canadian. If you’re reading this in Pakistan, Kenya, Fiji or one of 75 other possible countries and territories, then the traffic outside your coffee shop is  driving by on the left … which for you, is right.

If you were to move here, we would say “Welcome to Canada – we drive on the right” and if I were to move there, you might say, “Welcome to the UK, we drive on the left.” In either case, becoming a citizen in a new country means learning to live under the laws that govern it’s citizens.

Learning to think and act in ways that are contrary to patterns that have been engrained in us over time can be a real struggle – even painful. We may even find that while we are operating in new ways externally, we continue to battle our old ways internally.

I once had the opportunity to drive a Nissan Skyline GTR with a manual transmission that was imported from Japan. The wheel was on the right and the gear shift was on the left.  Years ago I did a racing school and have some track experience, so I am not unfamiliar with performance driving  – but I could barely drive this car. At first, I ground the gears – twice. Even though I was doing the right things, driving didn’t feel natural – it actually felt like work. Then, gradually, I grew accustomed to my new environment and the exhilaration began.

In the beginning, I was in a significant struggle against my engrained driving habits. The more I drove right-handed (which felt wrong-handed), my sins behind the wheel lessened noticeably, though they never went away totally. Such is the lifelong process of forsaking our sin and following our Saviour.

Numerous times throughout the New Testament, Christians are called to “walk” in a new way. The Scriptures tell us that by grace, we have been adopted and given a new citizenship. [1]

This citizenship is not earned on the basis of our faithfulness or our progress, it is given by grace on the basis of Christ’s faithfulness and His perfection. That announcement is the extremely good news we call ‘gospel’. [2]

Therefore, the New Testament’s continual calls to the obedience of Christ do not instruct us in how to secure our citizenship, but guide us in how to flourish as we learn to live in congruency with it. [3]

There is no contradiction in being saved by grace and being called to “walk worthy” of that grace. Our call has nothing to do with earning from Christ and everything to do with imitating Him. [4]

“Walk” in Greek is  πολιτεύεσθε, which refers to the “walk of life” or the “walk” that one walks as a particular citizen.

“Worthy” in Greek is ἀξίως, which means to be suitable so as to match value. Well, it goes without saying that us Christians are sinners and therefore we do not “match the value” of the grace of Christ or walk perfectly worthy of the gospel of Christ. Nevertheless, this call is given because “walking worthy” is what the recipients of God’s grace actually want.

Therefore, the New Testament gospel logic is this: In believing the gospel, we are made children of God and citizens of the kingdom of God – that’s what grace is. As children and citizens, we will increasingly desire the guidance of law of God – that’s what grace does. 

Justification is being handed a new citizenship, by grace. Sanctification is having our hearts reformed over time to live into the implications of our new citizenship, by grace.

While it is true that inevitably, something in the guidance of God’s law will confront us, challenge us, convict us or be counterintuitive to us – the ongoing work of God’s grace makes the guidance of God’s law desirable to us.

Yes, we all struggle with sin, abandon the good guidance of God’s law and yank the wheel, ending up in some sinful ditch – but God’s grace stretches further than our sin.

God’s grace does not only cover us when we revert to old patterns and drive on the wrong side of God’s law, God’s grace teaches us to live in our new citizenship so we enjoy life as God intends us to enjoy it, being guided by His law. [5]

God’s rescuing grace has a reforming trajectory.

Press on,

Paul


[1] John 1:12-13, Romans 8:14-17, Galatians 3:26, Ephesians 1:5, 2:19, 3:6, Philippians 2:15

[2] Ephesians 2:10, 4:1,17, Colossians 1:10, 2:6, 1 Peter 2, 1 John 1:7, 1 Thessalonians 2:12, 4:1, Romans 6:4, Ephesians 5:8

[3] 1 Peter 1:4, Colossians 1:2

[4] Philippians 1:27, Ephesians 4, Colossians 1

[5] Titus 2:11-14

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