Christianity is not an armchair religion from which we pontificate about the rest of humanity’s poor performance. Rather it is about rolling up your sleeves and loving God and your neighbour as yourself. This is your way of showing thanks to God for forgiving you your own poor performance. However, slavish commandment-keeping is for slaves. Christians are free, having been freed forever from God’s condemnation. The freedom comes with knowing that God knows you fail to measure up to His perfect standard. That is why He sent us a perfect Saviour who kept God’s Commandments as our representative and died to pay the price we owe for our breaking of His Commandments! This is what believers’ believe. This is the good soil into which we, as new shoots, have been planted.
The great Gardener talks to His plants as He feeds and waters them. Christians are to, ‘be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves’ James 1:22. Notice that the Christian is not to make it up as he/she goes along. First he/she is to hear the Word (i.e., understand, heed and apply what the Bible teaches), then he/she is to practice it. The whole Bible teaches us about God’s grace being extended to undeserving sinners, i.e., a humanity that keeps on breaking every one of the Ten Commandments. However, the Bible’s emphasis is on God’s grace! Grace is the sunshine in which Christians grow.
What does God’s grace have to do with growth? The Christian is to ‘grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ’ 2 Peter 3:18. To grow in grace is first to learn what grace is and secondly to practice it. What is grace? Grace is God giving you what you do not deserve while not giving what you do deserve. Without God grace is nigh impossible for human beings to begin to understand. Thus growth for the Christian begins when the meaning of God’s grace begins to sink into the heart and waters the good soil into which God has planted the seed of His Word. This is where the knowledge of Jesus Christ comes in.
Who is Jesus? Jesus Christ is God’s gift. He is God’s grace to fallen humanity. He is the Light of the World that is sitting in darkness. We remain in darkness without Him. We wither and die on the vine without him. We become straw and stubble without Him. If we are to be saved from the great bonfire on the Last Day we need to understand who He is and what He has done for us. Jesus is the only mediator between God and man. He is the ideal mediator, being God and man in one divine Person forever. Our sin separates us from God. If we are not reconciled with God we remain separated from Him forever in Hell. However, God and mankind have been united, reunited, in the Person of Jesus Christ. Jesus kept God’s Commandments perfectly as representative of those He is saving. God poured out His judgment on Him instead of those whom He represents. He represents, i.e., He is the Saviour of all who believe in Him alone for salvation.
New Testament believers are grafted into the same tree as Old Testament believers (Romans 11:16-24). All believers are to grow and to bear fruit. Jesus says, ‘I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch in Me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit He prunes so that it will be even more fruitful… I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in Me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from Me you can do nothing. If you do not remain in Me, you are like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned.’ John 15:1-2,5-6.