Is Grace a Work Free Zone?

Is Grace a Work Free Zone?

Is Grace a Work Free Zone?

The Bible often presents truths that seem somewhat contradictory but are really truths in tension.  God is completely sovereign yet gives man free will.  Jesus was fully God and fully man.  God is trinity Father, Son, Holy Spirit, yet God is One.  We are justified by faith apart from works according to Paul but James says faith without works is useless.

I remember when I first began to study the history about the origins of controversial doctrines.  The great teachers like Calvin would indicate when presenting an extreme position based on certain passages an acknowledgement of other ones in tension.   They would use phrases like “I’m saying this” based on a passage, “but I am not saying this” based on other passages.  Authentic teachers have a humility and a fear of the Lord that is reflected in Ecclesiastes 7:18. 

Ecclesiastes 7:18 “It is good that you grasp one thing and also not let go of the other; for the one who fears God comes forth with both of them.”

This is what Paul exhibited in passages like Romans 6 in speaking about salvation through grace alone when he twice said, “shall we continue to sin that grace will increase, GOD FORBID! (Romans 6:1, 15).   I find this humility and fear of God often missing in some of the extreme teachings today. 

Today more than ever we live in world of sound bites that people use to spin ideas in certain ways in accordance with their own views and desires.   Both conservative and liberal news sites use quotes and sound bites from the same speeches and interviews then spin them in completely different directions.  They obviously have a perspective they believe to be true and look for bits of speeches to use to reinforce their narrative.   In doing these types of things they completely miss the context of the view the people speaking intended. 

We live in a marketplace of spiritual messages.  There are well over 550 million Christian based web sites along with multiple times that number of social media sites.  We must remember that there are 3 things at work when it comes to God’s word.

  1. His truth.
  2. What we believe to be true.
  3. What we want to be true. 

What we believe to be true should always be a result of pursuing what is true, not what we want to be true. 

When what we believe is guided more by what we want to be true we will do what Paul warned against, (which is easy to do with all the online marketplaces of spiritual messages) find “teachers in accordance with our own desires.”  2 Timothy 4:3  For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but wanting to have their ears tickled, they will accumulate for themselves teachers in accordance to their own desires,

This can be very true when it comes to the idea of grace wand works.  You can Google “grace and works” and find over 152 million responses.  You find catchy slogans like “Grace +  works = legalism, Grace – works = salvation.”   Is grace a work-free zone?

Philippians 2:12-13  So then, my beloved… work out your salvation with fear and trembling;  (13)  for it is God who is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure.

Anything good that we do in our lives is only a result of God’s wonderful working by grace.   Our works apart from Him were unable to earn His approval.  What we couldn’t do on our own God did in sending Jesus.  Salvation is God’s free gift beyond our works.  God liberated us from a works based salvation but did He liberate us from works? Ephesians 2:8-9“For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; (9) not as a result of works, that no one should boast….  

Unfortunately people often stop at verse 9 and forget the completion of Paul’s thought in Ephesians 2:10  For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them.  We are never working to earn acceptance by God but that doesn’t mean we are not working.  Some people interpret the idea of God’s grace as a “work-free zone.”  Nothing is further from the truth. 

Dallas Willard said it well, “Grace is not opposed to effort, but to earning. Paul writes in Philippians to “work out our salvation” but he isn’t telling us to earn it, but rather, to “live it out.”

People do a similar thing with what Paul said in Titus 3:4-7  But when the kindness and love of God our Savior toward man appeared,  (5)  not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us, through the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit,  (6)  whom He poured out on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Savior,  (7)  that being justified by His grace, we should become heirs according to the hope of eternal life

Again people stop there (use that sound bite) and make bold assertions regarding grace and freedom from work but again we must allow Paul to complete his thoughts.   Titus 2:8 This is a trustworthy statement, I desire that you strongly affirm that those believing God might be careful to maintain good works. These things are good and profitable…

Self-Generated or Spirit-Generated works

While God has liberated us from self-generated religious works that earn our salvation He does come to dwell in us to inspire and enable good works.   When we are saved Holy Spirit becomes a living reality in our lives.  He both inspires and directs.  This will result in works, Spirit inspired ones.   This is what Paul was saying in Philippians 2 “work out your salvation…for God is at work in you, both to will and work for His good pleasure.”  

Paul had no concept of a lazy grace that would result in a work-free zone.  He considered that posture “receiving grace in vain (empty, futile, without purpose)

1 Corinthians 15:10  But by the grace of God I am what I am, and His grace toward me did not prove vain; but I labored even more than all of them, yet not I, but the grace of God with me.

2 Corinthians 6:1  Working together with Him, then, we appeal to you not to receive the grace of God in vain.

Over the years I have noticed that people that are the most emphatic about grace not being about works are often the ones that work the least.  They tend to be the least sacrificially serving and the most self-serving.  They consistently justify behaviors that the Bible frowns upon playing the grace card when challenged.  Right behavior will never justify us before God but if we are truly justified it will result in right behavior.  

Living in Christ will result in God-inspired ideas, Spirit enabled actions, and God motivated serving, flowing through our lives.  We will also see exhibited what Paul said in Romans 8:13 if you are living according to the flesh, you must die; but if by the Spirit you are putting to death the deeds of the body, you will live. His inner working will ultimately affect every area of our lives and will result in good works   These are the “good works” that God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.  Eph 2:10.  God’s grace isn’t a work-free zone but works that result from Him working in us. 

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If Grace is about a Relationship then Relate

prayer in secretHave you ever heard any of these ideas?

  • “Legalism is about rules, God is about relationships.”  
  • “You need to get out of religion and come into grace.”  
  • “The reason I can do this is grace.”  
  • “The reason you can’t do it is you are bound by legalism.”

Often when I hear people bringing up the idea of grace they immediately associated with a behavior that was previously thought of as sin, but is now allowable.  It often has self-justification at its core.  Just like the legalist brings up their list of do’s and don’ts as a means of justification others bring up their “belief” or “understanding” about grace as their justification. 

Grace isn’t a thing disconnected from a person.  God’s grace is in Jesus Christ. 

2 Corinthians 13:14  The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit, be with you all.  I think Judah Smith sums it up well, “We shudder at the term grace because it has been so maligned, so abused, so misrepresented. We see grace as the get out of jail free card. ‘Oh yeah, I love me some grace man. I get my jiggy on in the weekend then I come back on Sunday and get me some race man.  I get my jiggy on in the weekend and then I come back on Sunday and get me my grace on.’ No, that’s not grace.  You’ve met a concept, not a Person.”

“We shudder at the term grace because it has been so maligned, so abused, so misrepresented. We see grace as the get out of jail free card. “Oh yeah, I love me some grace man. I get my jiggy on in the weekend then I come back on Sunday and get me my grace on.” No, that’s not grace. You’ve met a concept, not a Person.”  

Any time there is an immediate connection of grace to behavior we can get away with instead of  walking with Jesus it is a distortion of grace. 

Romans 5:1-2…having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ,  (2)  through whom also we have obtained our introduction by faith into this grace in which we stand…

If God and grace is about a relationship with Jesus then it should be evident in a relationship with Jesus. Jesus Himself said abiding in Him connected with prayer is essential.   John 15:1-2  “I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing...“If you abide in Me…ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you.

When I speak with people who shout the loudest about grace and relationship not  rules and religion their “actual prayer life” defies their belief. 

How to consistently abide with Jesus in prayer

God has designed us in such a way that our ongoing relationship with Him is sustained through regular prayer.    Many Christians would admit that they struggle with consistency in their everyday personal prayer life.  It is something that everyone knows they need to do, but often struggle with consistency. 

I remember how difficult it seemed in my early years of serving Jesus to gain a consistent prayer life.  I remember a book by Andrew Murray called “The Prayer Life” as well as other books on prayer that really helped me reach the tipping point in going from an inconsistent to a consistent prayer life.   You can read Murray’s book “prayer life” free online at http://www.onread.com/reader/1145974.

Prayer is a spiritual experience and a spiritual discipline. 1 Timothy 4:7…discipline yourself for the purpose of godliness.  Here are some essential tips if we are going to be more effective in consistent prayer.

Tips for the prayer closet

  • It needs to be regular and consistent.  Jesus said “when you pray” not if you pray (Mt 6:6).   It is good to set a consistent time every day and get into the habit.  In doing so we fit our life around prayer rather than trying to fit prayer into our life.  Trying to fit prayer into our life rarely works. The Bible puts a premium on Morning Prayer.  It is a first-fruit time in which we are the clearest before the day begins.  If you can’t do Morning Prayer make sure you set another time (that works in your schedule) that is a priority you attend to every day 
  • Real language, not religious eloquence, is the language of prayer.  Prayer is above all communication with God.  Jesus always seemed to frown on religious language but wanted real communication from our heart.
  • Find a private place where you can be alone and undistracted with God.  This is what Jesus met by the “inner room.”  It can be a literal room or someplace where you can have undistracted communication
  • Thanksgiving, praise, and worship are essential to entering God’s presence and staying alert there.  These things work to draw us to God and keep us alert in His presence. 
  • Psa 100:4  Enter His gates with thanksgiving And His courts with praise. Give thanks to Him, bless His name.
  • Col 4:2  Devote yourselves to prayer, keeping alert in it with an attitude of thanksgiving;
  • Shouting/lifting our voice is a good way to create alertness and focus.  Shouting is by far the most common expression of praise and interacting with God in the Scripture.  It is used 265 times, silence is the least mentioned. Only 4 times is silence mentioned towards God.  The word meditate is used about 13 times in regard to God most of which are meditating on His word and His ways.  Shouting brings our foggy mind to a sense of focus and alertness. 
  • Psalms 95:1-2  us shout joyfully to the rock of our salvation.  (2)  Let us come before His presence with thanksgiving, Let us shout joyfully to Him with psalms. Psa 77:1  My voice rises to God, and I will cry aloud; My voice rises to God, and He will hear me.
  • Psa 142:1 I cry aloud with my voice to the LORD; I make supplication with my voice to the LORD.
  • It is good to alternate praying/singing in the Spirit (praying in tongues) with praying/singing in your understanding.  The helps cultivate a Spiritual atmosphere and engages us with the Spirit of God. 
  • 1 Corinthians 14:15…I will pray with the spirit, and I will pray with the understanding also: I will sing with the spirit, and I will sing with the understanding also.
  • Use Scriptural Prayers as a pattern and example.  I have all the prayers of the Bible recorded on my computer and I regularly pull them up and pray them.  It is part of Jesus’ instruction about His word abiding in us as we pray in John 15.  
  • The biggest thing is to just do it.  Prayer is not just a good intention or a good concept.  It is a practice.  The only way to develop a consistent prayer life is to consistently pray!  There is not magic prayer pills.  Nike launched one of their most successful advertising campaigns that had a tag line which expresses the foundation of consistent prayer, “Just Do It.”  

If grace is about a relationship not rules then cultivating that relationship through regular communication/prayer is a must.  It will also help with behavior because light dispels darkness.  If you are doing something in which you can’t connect with Jesus while doing it there may be a problem with what you are doing!

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“Home on the Range” Theology

False doctrine I had the great privilege recently to meet with a large group of people who are involved in teaching God’s word.  We were covering the subject of making sure we take a sound systematic approach in preparing to study or teach the Bible.  If not we may end up in a spiritual cul-de-sac of subjective ideas.  What that means is when using a certain passage or subject from the Bible it is a good idea to look at all the other places where that subject is mentioned and how it is used.  As we review all the places, we get an overall perspective of how God speaks on that subject in Scripture.  We want to interpret the passage or subject we are using in light of the whole of God’s revelation.  Another way to say it is that we use Scripture to interpret Scripture.

No sooner did I finish the weekend when I was confronted with a prime example of why we need to do this.  Over the past 36 years of helping lead churches I have come across my share of strange ideas from people using scriptures.  Some of these ideas tend to circulate in different forms from decade to decade. With over 550 million Christian based web and blog sites along with an unknown greater number of Christian social media sites good and bad spiritual ideas are everywhere.  We have an internet smorgasbord of just about any theology you like.

I had not come across this idea before.  I was reading someone who boldly declared that Christians shouldn’t pray the “Lord’s Prayer.”  I have told a few people about it since then and I get the same response, a moan followed by “what?” The author set out his logic.  The prayer contains “Old Testament legalistic” things like asking God to “forgive our trespasses (sins) as we forgive others” as well as helping “lead us away from temptation and deliver us from evil.”  Jesus taught this before He gave His life for our salvation.  Now because our sins are forgiven and we are in the New Covenant there is no need of such prayers.   After all Jeremiah 31:31-34 announced the New Covenant (affirmed in Heb 8:6-13, 10:16-17)  in which our sins are not only forgiven but “remembered no more.”   Jesus died for our sins “once and for all” (Heb 7:27, 9:10) past, present, and future so why pray something as legalistic as the Lord’s prayer.   Asking forgiveness is some sort of works based Christianity that was Old Testament.

While I have seen my share of hyper grace teachings over the past 4 decades this latest version, often identified with phrases such as “grace revolution,”  also lacks a good systematic approach towards the Bible.  The spiritual logic is easy; you pick out some passages you like, string them together, ignore the rest of the passages surrounding them and “eureka” you’ve found it.  Of course you have to ignore facts like the church has been praying the Lord’s prayer for two millennia.  Early church fathers like “Polycarp” (a disciple of John the Apostle) prayed it, as well as first century writings like the “Didache” record its use.  While some answer, as I have heard, the early church just didn’t understand things like this as well as we do.”  I would be careful with that line of thinking.

The last two writers of the New Testament, Jude and John, began to address similar types of teachings that were creeping into the church.  It is good to remember that prior to their writing Jerusalem had been destroyed causing a serious blow to the Judaizers (those where were trying to pull the early Christians back to keeping the Old Testament law as a means of being right with God).   The biggest problems they were facing were teachings that were causing the church to believe that because of grace and knowledge God was okay with them living any way they desired (defined as “sin” in the Bible).  There are no consequences because of the grace and knowledge they had.  Jude specifically addresses this in most of His short letter.

Jude 1:3-25  Beloved, while I was making every effort to write you about our common salvation, I felt the necessity to write to you appealing that you contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all handed down to the saints.  (4)  For certain persons have crept in unnoticed, those who were long beforehand marked out for this condemnation, ungodly persons who turn the grace of our God into licentiousness (aselgeia G766 unbridled lust, excess, outrageousness, shameless behavior, CEV “God treats us much better than we deserve, and so it is all right to be immoral.”) and deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ.  (5)  Now I desire to remind you…(7)  just as Sodom and Gomorrah and the cities around them, since they in the same way as these indulged in gross immorality and went after strange flesh, are exhibited as an example in undergoing the punishment of eternal fire… (12)  These are the men who are hidden reefs in your love feasts when they feast with you without fear, caring for themselves… (16)  These are grumblers, finding fault, following after their own lusts; they speak arrogantly, flattering people for the sake of gaining an advantage.  (17)  But you, beloved, ought to remember the words that were spoken beforehand by the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ,  (18)  that they were saying to you, “In the last time there will be mockers, following after their own ungodly lusts.”  (19)  These are the ones who cause divisions, worldly-minded, devoid of the Spirit.  (20)  But you, beloved, building yourselves up on your most holy faith, praying in the Holy Spirit,  (21)  keep yourselves in the love of God, waiting anxiously for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ to eternal life.  (22)  And have mercy on some, who are doubting;  (23)  save others, snatching them out of the fire; and on some have mercy with fear, hating even the garment polluted by the flesh.

While we are gloriously and wondrously saved by God’s grace being poured out on us through Jesus, that grace isn’t a license to live any way we desire.  It is an empowerment to walk with Jesus and live in His design.

Titus 2:11-12  For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people,  (12)  training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age.

“Home On The Range” spirituality

In contrast, a hyper-grace approach has no challenge in it because that would be negative.  There is never any room for such things as conviction, repentance, correction, or confession of sins.  They have already been forgiven in Jesus, past, present, and future.  I call it “Home on the Range” spirituality.  If you remember that classic western song most of us learned growing up (which happens to be the state song of Kansas) “where the deer and the antelope play, where seldom is heard a discouraging word, and the skies are not cloudy all day.”  Everything is positive, no consequences, we just spiritually feel good about ourselves.  God’s revelation throughout scripture sees grace as having a much greater purpose than us simply feeling positive about our lives.

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Made in God’s Image or Making Him into Ours

“In the beginning God created man in His own image, and man has been trying to repay the favor ever since.” Voltaire

I was recently in a worship service in which we were singing the song by Keith Getty and Stewart Townend, “In Christ Alone.”  It is a tremendous song full of Biblical truth. It gained quite bit of popularity among Christian circles for which I am very glad.  What a joy to know Christians all over the world have worshiped Jesus as they sang such wonderful Biblical truths about Him.  I have worshiped many times with this song, cried, and been freshly filled with Holy Spirit as I sang those marvelous truths about Jesus.  

It is always good to appreciate and worship Him based on how He revealed Himself and what He has done through Jesus. There is a fallen nature in mankind and culture, however, that tries to make God the way we would like Him to be rather than worshiping Him for who He has revealed Himself to be.   During the creation of mankind God said, Let us make man in Our image and likeness (Gen 1:26-28).  It is great for God to make us in His image but bad when we try to make Him into ours.  

We have that tendency to ignore what we don’t like about how God revealed Himself in His word and only highlight what we do like.  This leaves us with a God made in our own image and likeness.

“God created man in His own image, and man, being a gentlemen, returned the compliment.”  Mark Twain

This was highlighted in a controversy I remembered as I was singing the aforementioned song.  A few years ago the Presbyterian Committee on Congregational Song decided to exclude it from its new hymnal.  The song was being sung in many of their churches and the committee wanted it included but a line from the third stanza: “Till on that cross as Jesus died/the wrath of God was satisfied” caused a problem.  For this they wanted to substitute: “…as Jesus died/the love of God was magnified.” The authors of the hymn insisted on the original wording, and the Committee voted nine to six that “In Christ Alone” would not be among the eight hundred or so items in their new hymnal.  I am sure it cost the authors financially but I am glad they didn’t bow to cultural or politically motivated heresy. http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2013/08/05/presbyterians-decision-to-drop-hymn-stirs-debate/2618833/

In Christ aloneMany Christians deal with unpopular aspects of God’s nature like His wrath the way Victorian Christians handled the idea of sex.  Treat it as something shameful, embarrassing, and best left in the closet.  God is perfectly just and His wrath is not unbridled anger based on capricious whims.  Neither is His love just sentimental love.  Jesus living a perfect life, bearing our sins, and facing the perfect judicial wrath of God is the foundation of His being our Savior.

We must be careful not to try to make God the way we want Him to be rather than seeing Him as He is.   Some people choose aspects of God like we choose items on a salad bar. I love salad bars, and I know very well how they work.  We pick out what we like, leave out what we don’t, get as much as we want, and still end up with salad.  God doesn’t work that way.  The Psalmist speaks of this tendency of making God the way we want Him with God’s reply, “you thought I was like you.”  In other words you tried to make Me the way you wanted Me to be.  

Psalms 50:16-22  But God said…(19)  “You are always ready to speak evil; you never hesitate to tell lies.  (20)  You are ready to accuse your own relatives and to find fault with them.  (21)  You have done all this, and I have said nothing, so you thought that I am like you. But now I reprimand you and make the matter plain to you.

The great church leader Tertullian, 160-225 AD from the Carthage in the Roman province of  Africa responded to some early heresies of a similar nature that were coming into the church.  He said that the heretics proposed,

“a better god has been discovered, one who is neither offended nor angry nor inflicts punishment, who has no fire warming up in hell, and no outer darkness wherein there is shuddering and gnashing of teeth: he is merely kind.” 

As the early Christians understood Isaiah 53:4-5, Christ was pierced for our transgressions, smitten by God and afflicted.  He bore the wrath of God for us.  The wrath of God is actually an aspect of the love of God. British scholar Tony Lane explains that “the love of God implies His wrath. Without His wrath God simply does not love in the sense that the Bible portrays His love.” God’s love is not sentimental; it is holy. It is tender, but not spineless.  It involves not only compassion, kindness, and mercy beyond measure (what the New Testament calls grace) but also indignation against injustice and unremitting opposition to all that is evil.

In his 1934 book, The Kingdom of God in America, H. Richard Niebuhr spoke of the salad bar approach to God, “A God without wrath brought man without sin into a kingdom without judgment through the ministrations of a Christ without a cross.”

How many other issues that Christians feel the press of culture to ignore or redefine have we succumbed to? We must be careful not to make God in the image we would like Him to be.  In doing so we may end up worshiping a god of our own making which the Bible calls an idol. 

 

 

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Self Justifying Grace: I love to sin, God loves to forgive, what a wonderful arrangement

Hebrews 11 is a passage in the Bible that is often headlined “Heroes of Faith.” We know they were not perfect heroes as we read their lives in the Bible. Yet the power of God’s grace enabled them to overcome their imperfections and take steps of faith that advanced God’s Kingdom. 

Have you noticed however that in our culture in the past decade we have seen the rise of the antihero or antiheroine in popular shows like The Sopranoes, Mad Men, Breaking Bad, Dexter, and Game of Thrones just to name a few.  In these types of stories the central character is not a traditionally good or brave hero. They often possess dark personality traits because they are flawed and broken.  They make unpleasant compromises of what would traditionally be seen as heroic.  Apparently our culture today loves these types of characters because they are getting much of the airtime.  Why do we love them and keep tuning in?  Do we want to see them rise above their flaws and affirm a distinction between right and wrong or does watching flawed antiheroes make us feel better about our own brokenness and imperfection?   

Grace Justifying Antiheroes

license to sin There are growing pockets of the Christian community embracing a false grace. It isn’t the grace that Paul says “instructs us to give up ungodly living” Titus 2:11-12  For God has revealed his grace for the salvation of all people.  (12)  That grace instructs us to give up ungodly living and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in this world.  This false grace seems to attempt to make us feel better and content with our imperfections with little motivation to rise above them.  

I read an account of someone recently that at first I wondered which way he was heading with the idea of grace, hero or antihero.  “We’re getting to a point in culture where we don’t hide that (imperfections) as much anymore. I mean, in our own realities, we are the main characters of our own stories — and yet, we’re pretty screwed up. Now, to be fair, I can’t speak for you, because I don’t know you like you know you. But I can speak for me. And I’m pretty screwed up.

I make stupid choices, sometimes. There are days where I can be a real a-hole to some people. Some nights, I can go a little too far with the bottle. There are days that I don’t always want to pray, or talk to God. There are times when I accidentally hurt the people that I love the most.  It’s just life. And I’m not all put together. To paraphrase Paul, “I have not yet arrived.” (Phil. 3:12)

But, I no longer hide the fact that I’m not all put together, because I don’t have to. There is such immense freedom in exclaiming the fact that, while I am still yet a sinner, Christ loves me…However, it’s still going to happen on a daily basis. There are still going to be those days and nights where I just throw caution to the wind and give in. There are still going to be times where I consciously or subconsciously don’t do the right thing.

Sin is always going to be a part of us while we live here on this earth. I’m sorry, but that’s just how it is. The beautiful thing about the Gospel of Grace is that we no longer have to hide our faces in shame. Some people think that not being ashamed of being a sinner is a bad thing. It’s not!…We know how screwed up we are, and we only assume that you’re just as screwed up as us. But that’s okay! There is freedom in taking that mask off and exposing the flaws of your own character. You don’t have to hide anymore! You’re given the freedom through the grace of Jesus Christ to be who you are, expose those flaws for what they are, and simply just try to do better next time. It’s not going to make God love you any more or any less….Stop trying to be a hero, and be yourself. Be the antihero. Because, the antihero is a story of grace.

Obviously he makes some good points.  We could read this and think he is accurately expressing a liberated unashamed life of grace. Others may see this guy, like them, almost fearlessly parading their imperfections as a badge of honor named grace. Before we see this antihero as a grace displaying hero it may be good to note that he is an openly practicing homosexual male who justifies his lifestyle by the grace of God.  

Common but not Desirable

Some use grace to make sin not only normal but almost desirable.   While sin is a common reality we can never see it as normal or desirable.  Type 2 diabetes due to obesity is an epidemic in our country. It is common and somewhat normal but that doesn’t make it desirable.  Nor do we go eat a bunch of junk food thinking it’s a good way to help us identify with other type 2 diabetics. 

Paul consistently challenged the legalistic Judaizers who were influencing Christians to seek righteousness by keeping the law instead of through Jesus alone.  This was the opposite of living by grace.  Jude and John however, wrote after Jerusalem was destroyed and the Judaizers lost significant influence.  Jude and John were dealing with the other side of the issue, people using grace to justify their sin.   Jude 1:4-12  For certain persons have crept in unnoticed…ungodly persons who turn the grace of our God into licentiousness (unbridled sin) and deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ…These are the men who are hidden reefs in your love feasts when they feast with you without fear, caring for themselves…

You see John addressing this trend in the stories He recorded about Jesus like His Graceresponse to the man healed after a 38 year sickness by the pool of Bethesda, “do not sin anymore, so that nothing worse happens to you” (Jn 5:2-14).  How about what He said to the woman caught in adultery, “I do not condemn you, go, from now on sin nor more” (Jn 8:12)?  Jesus told forgiven sinners not to sin any more.  Too bad He didn’t understand grace.    

This is the same John who later wrote, “My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin.  And if anyone sins, we have an Advocate”  (I Jn 2:1). Sounds like John was writing so we won’t sin.  Notice he said “if anyone sins” not “when” anyone sins.  But what about the advocate part, doesn’t that make it okay to keep sinning?  John goes on to address that one1 John 2:3- By this we know that we have come to know Him, if we keep His commandments.  (4)  The one who says, “I have come to know Him,” and does not keep His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him;  (5)  but whoever keeps His word, in him the love of God has truly been perfected. By this we know that we are in Him. 

John doesn’t stop there, he continues.   1 John 3:3-9 …(4)  Everyone who practices sin also practices lawlessness; and sin is lawlessness.  (5)  You know that He appeared in order to take away sins; and in Him there is no sin.  (6)  No one who abides in Him sins; no one who sins has seen Him or knows Him (7)  Little children, make sure no one deceives you; the one who practices righteousness is righteous, just as He is righteous;  (8)  the one who practices sin is of the devil…(9)  No one who is born of God practices sin.  

Does this mean we never sin?  No, but it does mean that if you consistently justify it under the license of grace, and think it is normal or okay, there may be a much bigger problem!!! 

 

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