Are You Living from the Inside Out or the Outside In?

Tuesday, August 22, 2023

For centuries, because the church had so little understanding of the heart, the entire emphasis was on externals—what they did for God, how they lived for God, how they served God, and what they built for God.

For almost two thousand years, the church related to God externally when the Lord designed us, regenerated us, and chose to dwell within us so we could relate to Him internally.

What would it look like if we started living from the inside out rather than the outside in? What could we become if we broke the religious pattern passed down from generation to generation, which focused on the externals?

What could we accomplish if we exchanged working with our hands to working from our hearts—waiting on the Lord to change our hearts, empower our obedience, and give us His precise instructions and directions?

The only way to find out what this would look like corporately is to begin individually. One person at a time learning to live from their heart, empowered by God’s grace.

Grace to Live from the Inside Out

If you want to make a radical change in your life—from living from the outside in (like most of the church) to living from the inside out (a much smaller remnant)—then learning to live by God’s empowering grace is essential.

As I have pursued a lifestyle empowered by God’s grace, I have discovered this: When grace changes your heart, you do things because you want to rather than doing them because you have to.

Grace doesn’t just change your actions. Grace changes the motives and intentions behind your actions.

Grace makes obedience to God’s commandments as natural as breathing, causing sin to be appalling rather than appealing and righteousness to be beautiful rather than boring.

Grace is the triumph of desire over the burden of demand—inspiring obedience from a transformed heart yearning to obey God, evicting the legalistic tendencies of external compliance and outward conformity.

Divine Influence Upon the Heart

Strong’s concordance defines grace as “divine influence upon the heart, and its reflection in the life.”

When grace influences your heart, you develop new desires that want to obey God fully. As a result, your new godly desires affect your thinking, motives, behavior, and actions.

Grace changes the obligation to obey God to the desire to obey God.

Grace gives you a new want to in your spirit, which eventually works its way into your heart, soul, and body (see Rom. 7:22 NIV).

When you live by grace, allowing the Spirit of grace to dwell in your heart fully and live His life through you, your spirit’s intrinsic desire to obey God’s commandments begins permeating your heart. This enables you to be obedient from the heart, changing robotic compliance to external commandments to a burning passion in your heart to obey God’s commandments and voice fully.

Grace Gives You New Desires to Obey

Paul said, “You are not under law but under grace” (Rom. 6:14).

Being under grace does not minimize the need for obedience. Rather, grace changes the way you obey and the depth at which you obey.

Instead of external compliance, behavior modification, and bodily restraint produced by the law, grace transforms your spirit and heart, giving you the desire to obey God fully.

Grace changes obedience from a grin-and-bear-it obligation in the power of the soul to a delight and joy in the power of the Spirit. Grace doesn’t make obedience optional but possible.

When grace transforms your heart, it gives you new desires to prize humility above pride, meekness above stubbornness, peace above anxiety, and obedience to God’s Word above the passing pleasures of sin and conformity to culture.

How, then, do you receive more grace so your heart can be transformed, and you can obey God fully? By welcoming the Spirit of grace to dwell fully in your heart and allowing Him to live His life in you and through you (see Eph. 3:16-17).

Grace Motivates You to Respond

Grace motivates you to respond to God’s prior work in your heart with full and complete obedience.

Don’t forget that the Holy Spirit is the helper not the doer. The indwelling Spirit will do His part, but He expects you to do your part as well. You have a vital role in working out your salvation.

When it comes to living by grace, many believers make the grave mistake of becoming passive. After realizing grace is unmerited and is received not achieved, many fear nullifying God’s grace by their effort and end up doing nothing. This is a catastrophic mistake.

Grace is not opposed to effort; grace is opposed to earning. And there is a huge difference between the two.

Many sincere Christ followers think if they obey enough, pray enough, fast enough, read the Bible enough, or witness enough, then God will like them, accept them, endue them with power, and bless their circumstances.

This mindset hinders God’s enabling power from flowing into their lives because they are trying to earn grace.

On the other hand, effort revolves around doing your part in cooperation with God’s enabling grace. In this partnership of grace, the Lord will not do your part, and you can’t do His part.

Take note of the following statements:

  • God doesn’t give you His grace because you pray but when you pray.
  • God doesn’t give you His grace because you fast but when you fast.
  • God doesn’t give you His grace because you read the Bible but when you read the Bible.

This means prayer, fasting, and reading the Word are spiritual disciplines positioning you to receive more of God’s endless supply of abundant grace. These practices do not put God into a corner, demanding His favor because you performed up to some religious standard.

Your Responsibility in Grace

Even though God is at work in you for His good pleasure, living by grace is all about respond-ability. You are responsible to respond to God’s ability.

Corrie Ten Boom said, “It is not my ability, but my response to God’s ability, that counts.”

Under grace, you are responsible to respond in obedience to the new desires God works into your heart. Living by grace is working out by obedience what God has already worked into your spirit.

Many believers who understand grace misunderstand their responsibility in grace.

Clearly seeing how God has taken their responsibility under the law and fulfilled it Himself, they mistakenly believe they have no responsibility but to worship. But Paul made it clear you do have an obligation under grace and that is to live from your spirit and put to death the sinful deeds of your body by the Holy Spirit’s power (see Rom. 8:12-13).

Under grace, you are commanded to not let sin reign in your body and to consecrate your body to God as a living sacrifice (see Rom. 6:12; Rom. 12:1).

You are called to cooperate with grace by denying yourself, taking up your cross daily, following Jesus wherever He goes, and obeying all of His commandments.

Grace motivates you to respond to God’s prior work in your spirit—to work out the salvation in your spirit fully into your heart, soul, and body.

The Lord does not just mandate your obedience. He mandates that you also rely on Him to fully obey. This is why Jesus’ yoke is easy and light, for whatever God’s truth demands, His grace provides.

When you respond to God’s prior work in your heart, asking Jesus for the grace to obey Him fully, you will discover the joy of being yoked to Christ in moment-by-moment, relational dependence upon Him.

More Information

If you want to read more about God’s enabling grace, my book Indwelling Life has an entire chapter focused on God’s grace. You can also watch my two-part teaching about God’s grace, Enabling Grace – Part 1 and Enabling Grace – Part 2, to hear more about God’s amazing grace.

Bryan Kessler