Over the time of writing this blog, I have written many posts demonstrating that the true transformation is brought about by unrestrained grace and not conforming to the law. One such post, Need, Rest, and Reasonable Service… was written back in February of 2010. I just recently received a comment on it and I thought the exchange would be very beneficial. It was written by someone who thought grace alone was not the transforming power and posited a view similar to the evangelical party line. I am going to post the discussion in its entirety. You may want to read the original post for background.
“I do not think Christians need to be told to stop "striving to please God, striving to love each other...". This is all Christians ever hear anymore. It’s not unloving, legalistic or contrary to the Holy Spirit to "work out our salvation with fear and trembling"...It is the same Spirit who said "faith without works is dead"... and "those who love me will obey my comandments..." not to mention Galatians 5:19-21.
"Faith expressing itself through love" is indeed all that counts but genuine faith is rooted in the indwelling Holy Spirit which "compels" us to obey God's Torah/commands. If we have the Holy Spirit wont we be compelled to strive to please God, love others... and aren't we obligated by the nature of a covenant relationship with God to obey Him whether we feel like it or not? As someone who personally has struggled with addiction in the past, I know that this "God does it all we just wait around for it to happen ("rest") mentality" does not work. In fact I continued to struggle no matter how much I begged God to remove my addiction. It was when I seriously intended to stop sinning that my recognition of my powerlessness over sin could begin to open the door for the Holy Spirit to change me. We are called to strive to align our wills with God's through the empowerment of the Holy Spirit. That involves effort on our part and is our "reasonalbe service".
In other words I think that, in the Spirit of love, that we as Christians should be warned that our behavior is the only indication of our salvation. What else is there? Words? Professions of belief? Those are meaningless without concrete change. There simply can not be a change in heart with out a change in behavior.
Thanks for the comments. I intend to turn these into a blog post. What I think you miss is the idea that the catalyst for obedience is love brought about by unrestrained grace. I can appreciate that you overcame addiction. The fact is that Atheists do that also without any faith at all. So overcoming addiction is not a sign of spiritual transformation, but rather could be merely moral reformation. What this blog post is driving at is how the gospel will/does transform people. Yes, gospel not law. You said that the gospel will not work in that way and I say that you cannot possibly know that because there are no fellowships that emphasize grace as the transformer. If there were, then perhaps you could have received help to stop your addiction by brothers and sisters that would lovingly help you with accountability.
As it stands now, most fellowships put the addictive personality in a position where they have to doubt their salvation. They are forced to either change, hide or leave. That is not the way the bible explains the working of the Spirit. The Spirit transforms. The read and do mentality brings about reformation not transformation... it is not trans-formative, and getting free from addiction by the “read and do” method is not a testament to Spiritual transformation. No one is saying that people should not obey God from love. The problem is obedience that comes from a place of fear. It does not promote real love for God and does nothing to transform lives over the long haul.
The Christian life should be known for uncommon love and not strict moral obedience. Certainly a moral, ethical life is an important goal to reach but not to assure salvation and our eternal station with God.