I seem to have generated some questions with my previous posts concerning true and false grace, so I have decided to keep at it, trying to explain what I believe is scriptural truth on the subject.
In centuries past, Christians have been identified by their behavior. Historians testify to the fact that Christians have always been known to behave differently then the rest of society.
I dare say all the letters of the New Testament have at least one section, some quite lengthy, that deal with instructions on behavior that is appropriate for Christians. However, in today’s gospel any such instruction is hailed as religious works! Resisting walls go up and doors close.
In times of great revivals of the past, the behaviour of entire nations was effected. The move of the Spirit of God in peoples hearts spared nations from revolutions and wars. Local court systems had no cases to try because of a lack of crime and neighborhood bars closed because of a lack of business.
So what is wrong with the gospel of today that it doesn’t produce the same results as the gospel of the past? A Christian faith that does not change the behavior of it’s “converts” is a Christian faith that is very different from the way God’s Spirit has effected people in the past.
I believe “cheap grace” is the problem.
Now, cheap grace is not a new problem. It is an old problem called antinomian-ism.
You see, today the majority of Christians believe God has changed His mind. While He once required obedience to His laws, he now only requires belief in the fact that Jesus died, as the means for eternal life.
Let me give you an example of the gospel that most people hear today.
God once decided that only those who obeyed the Ten Commandments and the Law of Moses would get into heaven. But God knew that people sin daily and couldn’t obey Him as He required.
So He came up with a new plan and changed the conditions for entry into heaven with Him. He punished His own son Jesus, instead of us, for our sins!
Now any of us who believe that fact with all sincerity, can enter heaven. We are taught, the belief of that fact is what makes us Christians!
Personal obedience, godly character and scriptural holiness are considered good things but not required.
So, the majority of people who hear and believe this gospel have a relief of any future retribution or consequences for their sin. They are also relieved of any fear of God in their lives and all of society suffers because of it. This describes the suffering of America today.
The idea is that, God is not concerned about my behavior and whether I sin or not. The only thing He requires is that I believe the fact that Jesus died for me, to take the punishment for my sins.
And it really is irrelevant how successful I am at obedience as long as I do my best to overcome those nasty things that have an uncanny ability to manifest repeatedly in my life. Those things are just “personality traits” or “personal weaknesses”.
So we have this creature, quite acceptable in today’s church, called the “sinning Christian”!
Meet “Mr. Smith”, who is just such a creature.
Mr Smith attends church regularly and has been baptised with a profession of faith. To give him credit, he does feel he needs to avoid sinning if he can.
However, Mr. Smith has had a bad day at work, his boss is unappreciative and mean and Mr. Smith comes home in a bad mood. He snaps at his wife and kicks the dog and grabs a drink. He heads for the den and views some questionable on-line sites to de-stress and calls the kids offensive names when they get too loud, interrupting his down time.
The next day Mr. Smith has some conscience pangs so he quickly prays, “God, I’m sorry”. He tells himself he is a Christian and the death of Jesus has him covered. He reminds himself he is under grace and all his sin was paid for two thousand years ago.
Now meet “Mr. Jones”. He, on the other hand, is not a Christian. He had the same kind of day at his office that Mr. Smith had and also comes home in a foul mood. He also abuses his wife and children and enjoys some well deserved down time visiting on-line porn sites.
Mr. Jones sends flowers to his wife the next day because he knows she is upset by his behavior. He also secretly feels he should cover all his bases in case there is a “man upstairs” he will have to answer to some day.
Mr. Smith is a “Christian” and on his way to heaven because he “accepted Jesus” and “believes” Jesus died to take the punishment for his sin. Mr. Jones does not make such a profession.
There is little to no difference in the two men’s re-occurring episodes of behavior!
There are many such examples that could be made.
Granted, there are some more “mature Christians” among us. Those who manage to smile when a rival snags a coveted position in the church. Those who watch from behind the drapes when the neighborhood beauty queen jogs by the house each evening. Those who are glad they are alone in the car when they get cut off at the light.
Now, this may not describe you! But whether you want to admit it or not, this does describe a large part of American “Christianity” today! The reason for that is a cheap grace gospel!
I recently watched a short on-line clip of just such a grace preacher being introduced on a mega church stage in Texas. It was mind boggling! The introduction was gushing with praise and adoration for the man! Adoration that included standing ovations and long bouts of cheering that drowned out his “preaching” as he marched back and forth with all the stage presence of a rock star!
He has celebrity status! He was hardly allowed to exit the stage as he waved to everyone and shouted “God’s provision is coming your way! It is finished!!” to the thundering applause of thousands of people.
I tried to imagine the apostles Paul on that stage receiving all those accolades and I could not. All I could see was Paul alone in a prison cell, writing by a dim light.
“Be ready to spread the word whether or not the time is right. Point out errors, warn people, and encourage them. Be very patient when you teach.
A time will come when people will not listen to accurate teachings. Instead, they will follow their own desires and surround themselves with teachers who tell them what they want to hear.” 2 Tim 4:2-3
So what is the gospel of grace? The answer is in the difference between two little words.
“And she shall bring forth a son, and you shall call his name JESUS: for he shall save his people from their sins. Matt 1:21″. Not in their sins!
God does not change His mind. He is the same yesterday, today and forever. He has always wanted a people who look like Him and live in obedience to His will. He will have no less.
He did not create an Old Covenant of law and obedience and two thousand years later create a New Covenant of indulgence to sin. He still hates sin and punishes disobedience.
He did not change His mind and come up with a plan so a people that look nothing like Him, can be in heaven with Him. He will not be spending eternity with people who look and act like the devil, no matter what they “believe”.
Instead He came up with a plan in which the old man which is expressed through sin and self can be destroyed in the death of Jesus. A plan in which the resurrected newness of the life of Jesus can be experienced in us day by day. A plan in which we are changed so that we are able to obey His will!
The evidence that we are crucified with Him and living in Him is the ability to be like Him!
Instead of Jesus’ death being a one time event that we give a kind of mental assent to, so that we can go to heaven, it is an operating power that is at work in us. It’s purpose is to destroy sin in us, thus saving us from our sins!
This is the wonderful provision of God for all true Christians. As we submit to the working of the Holy Spirit, He will work this out in us. As we submit to the will of God daily, whatever the cost or inconvenience, the miraculous destruction of sin and self will be made real in us and we will be changed from glory to glory in newness of life!
But this is not cheap grace, it is very costly. It was costly for Jesus and it will also be costly for you.
“For if we have become united with Him in the likeness of His death, certainly we shall also be in the likeness of His resurrection,
knowing this, that our old self was crucified with Him, in order that our body of sin might be done away with, so that we would no longer be slaves to sin;
for he who has died is freed from sin”. Rom. 6: 5-7
In no sense that Jesus died instead of us, but in every sense that we died with Him. Let me assure you, the death of Jesus was very real and your “death” will be as well. If you “believe” you died with Him but do not experience the destruction of sin in your own life, I urge you to reassess your position.
If you “believe you are righteous” but you do not experience freedom from the desires of sin, I urge you to re-evaluate your beliefs.
Christianity is not a concept to be believed, it is a reality to be lived!
This grace at work will continue to expose anything in us that is not like God. It will start with actions and appetites and all behavior that is not like God. But it will also delve deeper to feelings, urgings and desires you may never act on and then even deeper still, to motives and intents you don’t even know are there. There is a wonderful provision available for death to it all! And wonderful provision available for freedom and newness of life!
This is an ongoing work of the Holy Spirit, it is not our work! However, this work of grace will require our participation and cooperation!
We will have to put off the old man and put on the new man. Eph 4: 20-24
We will have to offer our bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God. Rom. 12:1
We will have to deny ourselves, take up our cross and follow Him. Matt 16:24
We will have to cleanse ourselves of all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of the Lord. 2 Cor. 7:1
This nation does not need any more preaching on cheap grace. What this nation needs is a demonstration of scriptural holiness throughout the length and breadth of the the land!
An accurate representation of the gospel of grace.