Bible Teacher, Author, Speaker and Evangelist
(Gentle Shepherd Ministries)
One of the problems we are having today (in Christendom) is that people do not have a proper foundation in which to rightly discern things. Grace is not a matter of doctrine but has to do with the character of God. It is because God is holy that He had to display grace towards hell-bound man. A good definition of grace is mercy and judgment coming together which produces grace.
Grace flows downward and only those who are humble and submissive before God can properly receive it. Man’s response is that of faith. Faith is more about being able to receive something, but the truth is once you receive God’s grace it will produce action in you. That action is called obedience. The Bible is clear about those who fall into sin and those who walk in sin. 1 John tells us you cannot call yourself a believe and walk in sin. Grace can only be applied to those who repent because in order to receive grace you must fall at the foot of the cross in faith that God will forgive.
The grace that is being promoted today is a cheap grace. It condones people who walk in sin; it mocks righteousness and alleviates people of any responsibility from godly actions and yet the Bible is clear that there are consequences to sin. Yet it is amazing to us that we throw out most of these scriptures so that we can confirm our doctrine of grace rather than the act of grace that cost God His Son. As people walk in grace they learn that cost and it creates within them a desire to honor God in attitude, action and lifestyle. The church is missing it today because they do not understand grace or faith. We have got so far away from the center by piece-mealing the Word of God to fit our doctrines and our comfort zones. We want to do our own thing thinking that it doesn’t matter what our attitudes or our heart conditions are. God will have to “accept us” because of His grace. And yet God very clearly says He resists the proud. He hates those who sow seeds of discord and it is better that one had never known the truth than go back into the ways of the world, 2 Peter 2:13-22. And yet in it all, we think because of His grace God has to accept anything that we throw at Him. We don’t have to be humble, submissive and desirous of His ways. We don’t have to walk in righteousness, in love and by faith because God has to “accept us”.
We have been told God hates the sin but loves the sinner, but that is a contradiction because who is sinning? Jesus became sin. Why? So we could remain in sin? So we could walk according to our ways, our dictates, because there is no accountability? The Bible is very clear that God chastises those whom He loves. Why chastise us if His grace covers our wickedness and our sins? The Bible is very clear that He chastises us so that we might be partakers of His holiness and yield the peaceable fruit of righteousness (Heb. 12:10-11). The idea that people do not have to confess their sins is totally blatant error. The Bible is very clear that if we deny that there is sin in our life, or our struggles with sin, we are calling God a liar and the truth is not in us. That is why we must confess it because we are agreeing with God’s evaluation of all sin in our life. This agreement is a way of changing our mind and coming into line with God, 1 John 1:8-10. This is repentance and that is why Peter says that God is not willing that any perish but that ALL come to repentance, 2 Peter 3:9. (Keep in mind, the New Testament is written to the church, not to unbelievers.)
In studying the history of the early church in the first two centuries, the modern-day church today would tremble. These people were separate from the world and living righteously unto God. They confronted sin for the sake of contending for souls to keep them out of hell, James 5:19-20; Jude 21-24. The issue in the first century church wasn’t grace, it was about being a church–holy, set apart–for God’s use and purpose in the world. Today what does the church have to offer the world? A church that is so worldly that no one has to be righteous…no one has to be accountable? The world offers as much. What shows the world that we actually have something to offer that is challenging, real and brings liberty from the very sins that put us in bondage? After all, Jesus came to set us free from sin, not give us an open license to operate in it and still get to heaven.
Could it be that in reality we agree? I am sure none of you believe that grace gives people a license to sin. So what is the debate? What are we really trying to avoid, face or come to terms with? Is it that our God is holy and that you can’t understand grace outside of His holiness? After all, it is His holiness that demanded Jesus die on the cross. Can God somehow deny His holiness because of grace? Not hardly! They must come together and they will compliment one another. So what are we talking about? What are we arguing about? What are we afraid of? Sadly, what we are arguing over is whether grace is a doctrine or a reality. Is grace real? Or is it something we put in comfortable little packages so we can understand it? God’s grace requires a response because of who He is. That response is faith, and living faith results in action, or obedience. This obedience proves that we truly believe what God has said, not parts of it that fit into our doctrines or comfort zones, but every bit of it.
To me, the debate that is going on here comes down to the doctrines many have adopted. The problem with doctrines is that they make us unteachable, belligerent and sarcastic. Especially if something collides with them. What doctrines produce is fear because what if that person is right and there is more? The problem is, there is always more. That is why we are told to discover, seek, pursue JESUS, not get our doctrines right. He is the more. He is the One who makes grace a reality and not a doctrine. To me the problem with doctrine is that the reason it produces fear is because it does not prepare us to face the living Jesus. That is what we are afraid of. He may not fit in my doctrines. You see, God’s grace, love and mercy is all about Jesus. It is about enabling us to face Him, not argue about some doctrine. The problem with the church today is that it is so weighed down with doctrines and intellectual pursuits that many are not prepared to face Jesus in His holiness and glory. Oh, it’s nice when he is the Savior. It’s nice when He is a Friend. But He is also HOLY, RIGHTEOUS GOD INCARNATE. The challenge for the church today is to get past our doctrines and our comfort zones and seek Jesus. We must know Him, not doctrine. We must embrace Him, not doctrine. We must let Him become our foundation and know nothing outside of who He is–truth–and that any teaching or doctrine that demeans His character is a lie no matter how many bits and pieces of scripture are used to confirm what I am comfortable in believing.
So what is the real challenge? To be right about grace, or Jesus? What is the real challenge? To get everybody to agree with me, or to challenge people to know Jesus? Here is my conclusion to the matter, if a person truly wants to be free from sin, Jesus will meet him or her. But if a person wants to use Jesus and His grace to do his own thing, live his own life, justify sin, then he is not a true believer and is on his way to hell.