Tuesday, March 1, 2011

How Risky Is Grace?

Is the grace of God dangerous thing, and must it be downplayed or qualified to avoid making us complacent in our Christian lives? And is the problem with the Christian church today too much teaching of grace? Now there will always be marginal Christians, who want to live as they wish and will produce any excuse (including grace) to support their actions. The problem is they never really took the whole thing seriously in the first place. But is the knowledge of grace preventing average Christians from being the Christians they really should be? My opinion is exactly the opposite. Our real problem is that we think we are upright people and do not need to improve. (The modern psychological, accept-yourself, philosophy is merely the same thing at a lower level.) Instead of seeing ourselves as sinners who have a long way to go to be the people God wants us to be, we believe we are morally acceptable.  And when, as often happens, we doubt this, we suppress it or at least try to hide it from others. What we need is not less knowledge of grace but more.  We need to learn we are not plaster saints, but wretched sinners who need the forgiveness of a loving God.

With this the Scripture agrees. It says that the motivation for our obeying God is our love for Him because of what He has done for us (1 John 4:19; Romans 12:1,2; 2 Corinthians 5:14-15). We are told that if we are not growing in Christ, it is because we have forgotten what God has done to forgive us (2 Peter 1:5-9). It is the individual who understands the greatness of what they have been forgiven of who truly loves God (Luke 7:36-50). But the Law increases sin (Romans 5:20), not because there is anything wrong with the Law (Romans 7:12), but because we are sinners who naturally rebel against it (Romans 7:18). Therefore, anyone who seeks to approach God based on good works will end up with a superficial moral character (Matthew 23:23-28). What we need is not less grace, but more grace. We need to make it clear to people that to become a Christian, we should recognize we are sinners (Romans 3:23; Isaiah 64:6; Jeremiah 17:9), who must trust wholly in the work Another has performed on our behalf (2 Corinthians 5:21; Colossians 2:13,14; Ephesians 2:8,9). They are being called to something more radical than turning over a new leaf or to a vague mystical experience. This faith, if it is genuine, will lead to a life of obedience to God (Titus 2:11-14; Ephesians 2:10; James 1:22-25), resulting from God sending His Spirit to transform us (2 Corinthians 3:18; Colossians 1:29; Philippians 2:13). Now we should not fail to exhort and encourage one another to a life of obedience to God (Colossians 1:28; Hebrews 10:24,25; Ephesians 4:14-16) or even, when it is required, to call on people to consider whether they are real believers (2 Corinthians 13:5; James 2:14-26; Matthew 7:15-20). But the problem is not grace.

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