Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Objections to the gospel of grace

I've been discussing the gospel of grace with people for several years, both in person and online, sharing with others my belief and understanding that not only are we saved by grace, but that God's love and grace is the essence of the Christian life. I've consistently shared that our "work" is to rest and believe, and that that's how God works in and through us. Restful trust. Trustful rest. Waiting, abiding, believing. It's not our job to produce fruit, but as we abide in the Vine, the life of the Vine flows through us naturally and produces God's own fruit. We are invited by God Himself to participate in His divine nature, but the work is His, not ours.

Objections arise, of course. I can't tell you the number of times over the years that I've been accused of and/or warned about preaching licentiousness, lawlessness, "cheap grace," "greasy grace," "sloppy agape," and other such idiotic things. People have told me in various sorts of ways that I'm teaching others to sin and to not be true followers/disciples of Jesus. They've told me that demons can "rest" and "believe," and that I shouldn't use those words without adding something about "responsibility" and "effort" on our part to work the works of God. They've told me I need to "balance" grace with rules, works and principles for Christian living. They've said I'm causing harm to the body of Christ.

In my hundreds of conversations (probably even a thousand or more) with people since the mid to late 90's when I began learning and sharing the gospel of peace, I've heard every objection you can think of. Many times I've faced those objections head on and have spent a great deal of time going into deeper conversations to talk out those issues. I've enjoyed that. I've found discussions with others to be a huge part of my own learning and growing process. Many times I feel I've effectively fought off various objections and have helped to change the thinking of some with a more legalistic bent. Other times it's been a fruitless exchange of multiple Bible verses, along with interpretations and opinions, and so I've also learned to pick my battles. :)

And in the midst of all this, I've learned something even greater. Words, discussions, opinions, etc, while often having a great deal of value, never match up to the actual testimonies of lives transformed by God's love and grace (such as mine and so many other people I know).

Let me tell you something about those who have been gripped by God's love and grace, and who don't have a focus on performance, but on a loving relationship with Father, Son and Holy Spirit. All the objections listed above (and more) are not true of them! Nowhere close. Grace, to them, is not cheap. It's Power. It's Life. It's God's strength in their weakness. If God's Agape is sloppy, it's only because He lavishes it around so wastefully! God's love and grace, to them, is not a license to sin. That's not even what crosses their minds! Yes, everyone still falls short in their actions, but it's not because they think, "Hmmm, God's grace is what is calling me to live like this!" Like I said above, that's just idiotic.

In ALL my connections over the years, I've run into only ONE such "idiot." :) About 6 or 7 years ago, someone had been reading various things that I had written in an online forum and he emailed me to say, "Congratulations on your decision to 'do nothing for Jesus!'" At first I thought he was simply agreeing with my overall understanding that it's not up to us to do things for God, but rather that it's God who is at work in us. But further into his email, he (almost gleefully) used multiple swear words and talked as if we might as well do whatever the flesh desires because we're saved by grace. To me, he didn't 'get' it!

But by far, he is the exception, not the rule, in regards to how people respond to the pure gospel of grace. No, he's not even the exception. He's got an entirely different "gospel" going on! Since this is getting long, I'll talk about those who do 'get' it, and how they've responded to God's love and grace, in the next post.


  1. Great post, Joel! The paragraph you started with "Let me tell you something.." speaks volumes.

  2. Joel,

    That's why the objectors cannot understand what Luther meant when he uttered these words, "..sin boldly..".

  3. Bino,

    Yep, that paragraph is what I was leading up to, and I'll continue on with those thoughts in the next post. Those who haven't truly tasted the love and grace of God have such a poor understanding of those who are walking in its fullness or growing in it.


    Yep indeed, Luther's words are misunderstood and misaligned but in the context of his whole statement it makes a lot of sense!

  4. Joel,

    I have learned to pick my battles, as well. I have been in far too many discussions, some resembling all out have taken part in some. :) I don't know if its maturity or weariness, but the older I get the less inclined I am to "duke it out," so to speak. Grace is one of those things that someone either gets or they don't. If they/we get it, then it's because God revealed it to us. I have seen many instances, while sitting in Bible study, that I or someone else will make some seemingly innocuous point and the light bulb goes off in someone mind..."I GET IT" Tears flow, lives change…that's God! It's a beautiful thing.


  5. I love it when people "get it"! I also enjoy getting into discourse with people - especially people who are genuinely curious and aren't coming from the head position. I find that when I share with people who are curious I as really strongly reminded of everything that Jesus has done for me. Even if they disagree I am still encouraged. . .

  6. "especially people who are genuinely curious and aren't coming from the head position."

    I think that is the key. I enjoy those types of discussions. What I don't like is when one or both parties in a discussion are closed minded to what the other is saying and their only goal is to "win." Things heat up, get personal and maybe names get called. That sucks. It is usually easy to spot those fairly quickly.

    I like having conversations with those who "get it" and they are sources of encouragement. I guess there is a danger in only preaching to the choir. Maybe danger isn't the right word, but iron sharpens steel. Maybe we should play "devils advocate" with each other more often as preparation for discussions with those who are trapped in legalism.


  7. Gary,

    Yep, I know the discussions you're talking about. :) And I think you used two good words - maturity and weariness - to describe the inclination to not duke it out so much anymore. I've looked back on my conversations with others and I've had some pretty intense - and yet futile and fruitless conversations with others. I've been worn out by some of them, and I think it's just wise to not get into them.

    As you say, if people 'get' it, it's because of God's revelation. My many words won't get through to them and their many words won't get through to me. I like how it's been said that this is a message that's caught, not taught.


    Yep indeed, there truly is a difference between people who are genuinely interested in what each other have to say (even if they disagree) and people who are simply wanting to be "right." The former type of conversation is what I like. Sharing knowledge can be a good thing, but so many times it deescalates (often very quickly) into a battle of wits and name calling, as Gary said. I've learned to spot those and to stay away from them. I'm still learning. :)