What you look like

17 August 2011 by Neil

Q. 31. With whom was the covenant of grace made?
A. The covenant of grace was made with Christ as the second Adam, and in him with all the elect as his seed.

Q. 32. How is the grace of God manifested in the second covenant?
A. The grace of God is manifested in the second covenant, in that he freely provides and offers to sinners a Mediator, and life and salvation by him; and requiring faith as the condition to interest them in him, promises and giveth his Holy Spirit to all his elect, to work in them that faith, with all other saving graces; and to enable them unto all holy obedience, as the evidence of the truth of their faith and thankfulness to God, and as the way which he has appointed them to salvation.

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. -- Galatians 5:22-23

And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules. -- Ezekiel 36:27

For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them. -- Ephesians 2:10

We've spent a lot of time dwelling on the utter turpitude of mankind. The catechism has harped on man's depravity, and so have we. The reason of course is that right out of the gate, we are lost sinners. The Bible tells me so. And so does observation. We're bad. We do bad things. Over and over. We can't stop. Even our "good" deeds are laced with poison.

That was before. But if you are something called “Christian”, then God has extended grace to you. There's plenty more to say about what a Christian is, but for now, let's describe what you look like, if you are truly a Christian.

You remember the Holy Spirit, right?  You, Christian, are not alone.  The Holy Spirit of God dwells in you, not once in a while or in wavering degrees, but full bore, all the time. You are always Spirit-filled.  Knowing God's holy standards, that sobering thought might sound paralyzing, but it's actually the opposite: it's the most freeing and glorious thing you've yet experienced.

The Spirit gives you power, when you yield and submit, to finally do good things.  By yielding and submitting to God, you are freed from the slavery of sin. And it's not haphazard; God's redemptive plan for you and for the world has always integrated a whole pre-planned suite of good things that you have done, are doing, and will do.  God is not foolish, far from it: he knows that you cannot do even one truly good thing on your own. That's why he extended you the grace of dwelling within you, so that you can be...good!

Sound intimidating?  Don't worry, you can't do it!  But the Spirit can.  Christian, when you yield with all your heart and mind and strength, then everything you do, say, think and desire will be rich in self-control, gentleness, faithfulness, goodness, kindness, patience, peace, joy, and love. You will be a good man (or woman as the gender may be), just like Barnabas (Acts 11:22-25).  There is no more amazing demonstration of the surpassing power of the Holy Spirit than the transformation of the wicked into the beautiful.

Now we're not being naive.  While still on earth, you will still sin, just like Paul and Peter and Barnabas did (Romans 7:14-19, Galatians 2:11-13).  Christian, you'll fall down, and you will temporarily lapse (Galatians 5:25-26).  But just like Paul, you will no longer be characterized or mastered by sin (Romans 6:13-15).   You won't wallow in the works of the flesh (Galatians 5:19-21).  You, Christian, will recognize yourself as Christian by your fruit (Galatians 5:22-24, 1 Corinthians 13:1-13).