9I am the door. Anyone who enters through me will be saved, and he will enter or leave, and will find pasture. 10Thieves come only to steal, kill, and destroy. I, on the other hand, have come so that they might have life, and that more abundantly. — John 10:9-10
17And if you call upon the Father, who everyone impartially according to their works, you should conduct yourself with awe during your temporary stay here. 18You know that it was not with perishable things like silver and gold that were used to ransom you from your useless way of life passed down from your ancestors. 19Rather, it was with the precious blood of Christ, as of a faultless and pure lamb. — 1 Peter 1:17-19
Many of us have trouble combining grace with holiness or purity of life. If we’re saved purely by grace, and we can’t earn it, how is it that we can talk so much about how we ought to live?
The Bible has many statements that sound like heresy when viewed from the doctrine of grace. That’s probably why Martin Luther disliked James so much, and called it an epistle of straw. And for Luther, who had a strong tendency to want to earn his way to heaven, it probably was an epistle of straw. All passages of scripture are inspired, but they are not all equally applicable to all people all the time.
Our two texts today combine the concepts of grace and of the Christian life, and I think they do so in an important way. In John, Jesus is using the analogy of the shepherd. Jesus is there as the gate. If you enter through him, you will find safety, and you can go in and out, find pasture, and be with the shepherd. In this analogy, the door is grace, and grace leads you into the flock, and Jesus is the shepherd. Once you’re in the flock, you will be led to good pastures, you will learn and grow.
Grace lets you in, yes, but grace doesn’t stop there. Grace wants to keep you safe, help you to grow, and make you more and more Christlike in your life.
In 1 Peter, we have a warning of the judgment. Because of grace, you have the opportunity to grow. Make your life live up to the gift that was given. If you don’t do that, you are going to lose something.
I like to use the analogy of gifts we receive from others. I got a Christmas gift once of a gift card to a bookstore. Now anyone who knows me knows I’m unsafe in a bookstore, even if I don’t have money. So people who give me gifts know that such a gift card is a great blessing. But in this one case I put the card on a shelf, and forgot I had put it there. A couple of months later I was going through my things and there it was.
I had received the gift at Christmas, but I didn’t receive its benefit until I picked it up, carried it to the store, and used it.
The wonderful thing about God’s grace is that it offers so much more than a â€œget out of hell free card.â€ It offers us the opportunity to become better people. Why not pick up the gift and use it?