Grace Alone Accounts for God’s Faithfulness

Only when believers act with a conscious awareness that God accepts them in their works solely a result of the work of His Son does their righteousness have the potential to glorify God. If our works or feelings were the basis of God’s faithfulness, then obedience could only be a means of buying blessings from a stingy divinity and the goal of our righteousness would be some form of selfishness — self-protection or self-promotion. But since grace alone accounts for God’s faithfulness, believers can respond to God with confidence of His abiding and unconditional love. Loving service results as our hearts fill with the desire to glorify the One whose goodness, mercy, and love never cease. Instead of trying to barter our blessings by fulfilling distasteful duties, we discover that the properties of God become our greatest pleasure. True repentance results as our hearts increasingly reject the priorities of the world, acknowledge and sorrow for the evil and emptiness our sin, and delight in glorifying our Savior with the gifts His Spirit bestows.

Bryan Chapell, Christ-centered Preaching (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2005), 318.

The Purpose and Power of Spiritual Disciplines

The true efficacy of spiritual disciplines is not their power to bribe God but their usefulness in opening hearts to the perception and exercise of His power. Spiritual disciplines enable those made righteous by Christ’s work to breathe more deeply the resources that God freely and lovingly provides for the wisdom, joy, and strength of Christian living. Through disciplines, we inhale more deeply the air God provides for the Christian race, but such disciplines do not produce or maintain the oxygen of God’s love…. Disciplines become regular refreshment for those who hunger and thirst for ever deeper fellowship with the God they love (Ps. 19:10). The same disciplines, however, will become distasteful duty or bitter pride for those who think that their devotion keeps them on the good side of a God whose measure of love is determined by the grade of their performance.

Brian Chapell, Christ-centered Preaching (Grand Rapids; Baker Academic, 2005), 293.

The Effects of Grace

Grace does not merely aid righteous conduct; it also aids in the apprehension of the never-diminishing and nondeterred love of God that makes human righteousness possible. If obedience were merely a defensive posture that [Christians] assume to avert divine wrath or to curry divine favor, then human holiness would be but a euphemism for selfishness. When self-protection and self-promotion become the primary motivations of Christian obedience or preaching, then we have inadvertently made self-satisfaction the Lord of our faith.

Brian Chapell, Christ-centered Preaching, p. 314.

Morality Preaching vs. Biblical Preaching

A message [sermon] that merely advocates morality and compassion remains sub-Christian even if the preacher can prove that the Bible demands such behaviors. By ignoring the sinfulness of humankind, which makes even our best works tainted before God (Isa. 64.6; Luke 17.10), and by neglecting the grace of God, which make obedience possible and acceptable (1 Cor. 15.10; Eph. 2.8-9), such messages necessarily subvert the Christian message. Christian preachers often do not recognize this counter-gospel impact of their preaching because they are simply recounting a behavior clearly specified in the portion of the text in front of them. But a message that even inadvertently teaches others that their works merit God’s acceptance inevitably leads people away from the Gospel. By themselves, moral axioms and advocacy of ethical conduct fall short of the requirements of biblical preaching.

Brian Chapell, Christ-centered Preaching (Grand Rapids; Baker Academic, 2005), 220.

Grace Makes True Obedience Possible

The motivations that spring from full apprehension of God’s grace do not change the rules but do change the reasons for our obedience.  Grace encourages and enables us to serve God out of love for Him and desire for His glory.  Grace makes true obedience possible because a thankful response to unearned merit is motivated more by love for God than by love for self.

Brian Chapell, Christ-centered Preaching, p. 220