I have been avoiding the Grace controversy for sometime now. Mostly because I tend to avoid things that are controversial. But another reason is because I don’t believe, Grace, in of itself, is controversial at all. But as with anything, well, anything can be made controversial.
Several years ago a band wrote a song about this very thing. The band was This Beautiful Republic, the title of the song, a point between extremes.
The song is about our Christian walk and how it appears to have extremes. The lyrics from the song that highlight what scares some people about Grace is in this line:
I’ve been thinking about
the paths my life has gone down
I’ve pushed a crown of thorns in my brow
To show my salvation worked out
with all the knowledge I have learned
Anchored to righteousness I’d earned
And now I’ve gone the other way
Depended too heavily on Grace
I need a reprieve
A point between extremes
The band which is pretty good, check em out if you like Christian rock. However, they have since retired.
But this fear of Grace, the search for finding the point between extremes, has not retired. In fact, it has only heightened in recent years. Heightened because of something called hyper-grace.
Now I have not studied the hyper-grace movement, read a single book about it, or read a book by one of these controversial authors. However, I don’t doubt that it exists, those taking Grace for granted or too far, but what I want to talk about is pure, unadulterated Grace.
Lets have a discussion in a vacuum, shall we? Because we were never meant to have the world or a movement interpret scripture. Rather, scripture interprets scripture.
But to take a step back, if I haven’t read up much on this, why am I even talking about it. Why does all this Grace talk have me thinking so much.
Remember that song I just mentioned, titled, a point between extremes? Well I was on one of those extremes and looking back, I have been on this extreme nearly all of my Christian life.
You see, I have a tendency to not rest in God’s Grace. My mind races, I am anxious. I worry about what people think about me. How did I just sound when I said that? Did I make them laugh? Did they get my joke? What does God think of me? I feel condemned more that I should. I feel unworthy. How could I possibly do anything good for God? How can He use me? I am worthless.
This recent discussion of Grace and longing for a pure and true view of Grace, has allowed me to see what Grace really is. Who I really am in Christ. Grace has freed me from that. I don’t have to be perfect. I can get back up, I don’t need to worry that God will throw me out, because Grace has rescued my anxious heart.
You know Grace came for people who were stuck in sin and with no way out. Who did Jesus talk to during his ministry? Overwhelmingly, adulterers, tax collectors (who were known to take more than they should), the sick, the ill, the dying. He came for those who needed Grace. Not those who use Grace.
Some people have told me stories of people they know who stubornly continue in actions that are hurtful and or draw them away from God. Yet, when people try to help them or talk to them about it, they say they know it’s wrong, but they are covered by Grace. Don’t you worry about me, Grace will take care of it, they say.
I think what scares most who fear the extremes of Grace is a feeling that Grace’s meaning is being slandered. They fear that people will take advantage of it. Yet this is nothing new. Paul even talks about this- do I keep on sinning to highlight Gods grace, he emphaticallly says no. His desire is not to crucify Christ over and over again.
So what is all the controversy? What is hyper-grace?
I don’t know how, but I have been shielded from all the controversy. As a result, it is strange to my ears to hear Grace thrown around like a bad word.
Grace is what Jesus died to give me. This bad word, well, that’s what saved me. But the more I think about it, the more I realize, I have been getting in wrong. I tend however, as mentioned earlier, to lean more toward the legalistic side of things.
Apparently this was also a problem in Paul’s time. They had trouble staying in Grace, they went back to works look at Galatians 3.
So it seems normally the “problem” with Grace is still trying to live by works. Which somehow is much less controversial than hyper-grace.
But the more I think about God’s Grace and works and all the worries, the two extremes, the more I realize it’s more about the order of things and how we get there. The funny thing is we end up in the same place of both extremes. If we understand the foundation of Grace and Obedience, and what brings us there. The same key ingredients in the right order bring us to both grace and obedience.
What are those keys: Love and Faith.
But they can be broken down even further. Let me explain. Grace comes by Faith and Faith comes by hearing the word of God. The Word is God. So really the order of things is this way:
We hear the Word, the Good News about Jesus and how he died for us (an act of Love) and when we believe it- we enter into faith. The Faith, That faith, allows us to then enter into Grace into a relationship with our Father. Not just into Grace, but into a relationship, abudant life, salvation of body, mind and soul.
The Word also talks about, that it is impossible to please God wtihout faith and an obedience by faith. It appears faith is the new obedience.
So let’s get back to the order of things.
If we start with Grace only, we can miss out on hearing the Word that brings Faith. Hearing requires listening. Listening sometimes is hard, when we hear things we don’t want to hear. But Faith comes by hearing the Word of God.
If we try to start with Grace, we are backwards. If we live by Grace as our root, we live for Freedom from condemnation only, which we have. But it must come by faith that comes from hearing. Otherwise it’s a hollow Grace. More about what I am saved from versus who saved me and why. A loving God saved me to be in relationship with me.
When we have a Grace only diet or as our root, we are not balanced. We are deprived of the Word which is God and our relationship with Him. We are deprived of faith that is the substance of things hoped for and the evidence of things unseen. We miss the Love of our father, our Abba Father. Our daddy. And you know what loving daddy’s do? They lead, steer, and direct their children in the way they should go. You know what a daddy who love his kids does, he corrects them. Ooh grace and correction together. Yes, together. It’s actually because of Faith that leads to Grace, that I am in a relationship with my Father. A Father who loves me enough to tell me when I am going in the wrong direction. He loves me enough to tell me when I got something in my teeth. I am joking, but we value the people who tell us more than people who don’t tell us that we have something stuck in our teeth. We value that feedback because it means they care.
We can take it the other way and say Grace is a bad word or make Grace to be a bad thing. We can make Grace the hot potato or something to be scared about. Some people caution you of certain people because they are Grace teachers. Of course, we all are. Anyone is a Christian believes in Grace. We don’t always get the living in grace right, but we all believe it.
Yet, if we slander Grace’s name, make it a bad word, we miss out what the Word, which produces faith, brings, and that is Grace. You see when we are in the Word, when we are getting to know our Father, that time in the secret, quite place is priceless. It changes us, it breaks strong holds, it produces Faith. This faith, brings us to and keeps us in Grace. This faith balances us. This Faith, is the same faith, that is talked about in the book of Romans, of a new kind of obedience. An obedience by faith.
So, if we try to make obedience or works the root, we are missing out on what brings us to obedience, Faith from hearing the Word- the good news of Jesus. Faith that comes from a changed heart. Not a faith in us and what we can do, but a faith in Him and what he says he can do. Not just in salvation, but in living out this salvation. Faith is the new obedience. Faith results in obedience.
And once again, faith comes from hearing the Word of God. The Word is God. Not just words or rules, but a loving father who died and wants a relationship with us.
So if we start and stay only in obedience, we miss out in THE WORD, and faith. It’s all about the order.
All these pieces are needed, faith, love, the Word. God desires us to be obedient and to live in Grace. But its the order that matters.
Do we start with Grace and deprive our Spiritual diets of the Word, a relationship with our loving God, and from faith? Which ultimately results in faith obedience.
Or do we start with obedience and deprive our Spiritual diets of faith in God, a deep loving relationship with God, and ultimately Grace?
Maybe thats what that song means, a reprieve from all of that. What’s the point between extremes? Could it be in the order? Could it be seeing that ultimately order brings us to both obedience and Grace. Can we actually have both? We can if we get the right ingredients of faith and love brought about by hearing the word. If we just get the order right.
When God’s love, his Word, brings about Faith this leads to grace and obedience by faith.