THE TROUBLE WITH GRACE by Janice M. Wilson
Did you ever watch a friend eat burgers and large cheese fries thinking they were now in the clear for gorging because a new medication will keep the arteries open and free of sludge?
It’s the same sad fate for those who profess to be Christians. They can pass off their guilt and bad image very easily these days with a simple reassurance of ‘grace abounds’, yet more times than not are still openly living a sinful lifestyle without shame.
The overuse of ‘grace-abounds’ is the new get-out-of-jail-free card for many to excuse away personal responsibility for their actions.
Grace – the best God-given gift to us through Jesus Christ, and a great cornerstone of the faith – has been and is still being abused and polluted, forecasted by Jude many centuries ago in verse 4:
For certain individuals whose condemnation was written about[a] long ago have secretly slipped in among you. They are ungodly people, who pervert the grace of our God into a license for immorality and deny Jesus Christ our only Sovereign and Lord.
Have you been hearing this phrase lately? It’s often used several times within someone’s defense of their sin, usually followed by a little wink, a giggle and knowing smile. Or no shame at all. This should raise good hard questions.
A Peculiar People
We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God. (2Corinth. 5:20)
God wants followers to be distinctly different in this fallen world, His personal ambassadors of a higher calling. How can that happen with a hypocritical life? That is one of the biggest eye-sores and ridicule of non-believers – living a lie. It is simply disobedience that even the non-churched see and understand.
But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. 1Peter 2:9
Unbelievers watch and talk about us constantly. How are we then to live? Here is also a scriptural truth from Paul found in:
Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us. (1Peter 2:12)
Is that even possible?
The Trouble With Righteousness
Conviction and obedience sure do get in the way of worldly fun and popularity, don’t they? But let’s get real here. Who is perfect? There isn’t one person on earth who doesn’t sin.
That’s a problem for which there is hope (2 Cor 5:18-19)
Specifically, I am targeting folks claiming to be ‘Christians’, who deliberately flirt with sin or outright commit a recurring sin or in secret, then claim they are ‘covered in grace’. (you know who you are)
Those who live according to the flesh have their minds set on what the flesh desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires. The mind governed by the flesh is death, but the mind governed by the Spirit is life and peace. The mind governed by the flesh is hostile to God; it does not submit to God’s law, nor can it do so. Those who are in the realm of the flesh cannot please God. (Romans 8:5-8)
You are either The Lord’s or you are not. It is that simple! (Luke 16:13)
The Line in the Sand
The Christian walk is not easy, not even in a free country. Christians are still surrounded by sin and the constant war of the flesh is tough. Many more who chose to live by their own golden rules laugh at our sinful lives and hate ‘the hypocrites’, and their ‘free grace’.
Knowing the imperfections, are sinners still called to be willing witnesses for Christ to those who don’t know him? A more appropriate and direct question is – should I want to stop sinning? Yes.
We are confident, I say, and would prefer to be away from the body and at home with the Lord. So we make it our goal to please him, whether we are at home in the body or away from it. (2Corinthians 5:8-9)
I agree with Paul that the truly redeemed should WANT TO please the Lord with our bodies and minds.
The War Within
ALL believers have that inner tug of war – even the most mature in faith. Romans 7:14-25 talks about that inner-struggle with clarity, more precisely here:
So I find this law at work: Although I want to do good, evil is right there with me. For in my inner being I delight in God’s law; but I see another law at work in me, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within me. What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death? Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I myself in my mind am a slave to God’s law, but in my sinful nature a slave to the law of sin.
But no one truly redeemed can give excuse to wistful lusts with a wink and keep on relishing in them without some kind of inner alarm.
What Can Be Done?
Examine yourselves to see whether you are in the faith; test yourselves. Do you not realize that Christ Jesus is in you—unless, of course, you fail the test? (2Corinth. 13:5)
In no way do I claim perfection nor exemplify someone else who is, for everyone knows that is impossible. I truly believe it a heartfelt goal of any truly repentant Christ follower to at least TRY to overcome, like He who is in you:
Little children, you belong to God and have overcome them, because the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world. (1John 4:4)
Keep moving forward and confessing wholeheartedly along the way. (Philippians 3:14) Perhaps a mature accountability and prayer partner will help with the really tough sins to overcome. (James 5:16)
Unfortunately, many still prefer to keep pleasing themselves and their flesh, then say that ‘g’ word like it is nothing.
Grace DOES abound – to the truly repentant and obedient (at least convicted and trying).
For my iniquities are gone over my head; As a heavy burden they weigh too much for me. Psalm 38:4
Maybe the real question is does one feel any shame at all in that sin?
When you were slaves to sin, you were free from the control of righteousness. What benefit did you reap at that time from the things you are now ashamed of? Those things result in death! (Romans 6:20-21)
Is the sin laughed off under a hasty, ‘grace abounds’ and continued? If not, THAT is the issue. You can’t still sin in deliberation and think you’re under grace. Romans 6:15 points this out:
What then? Shall we sin because we are not under the law but under grace? By no means!
Do you celebrate hiding sin in the truth once shown by the Holy Spirit? Your grace was bought with a terribly painful death of Jesus. Would you continue to be that flagrant of your sin at the cross if Christ was still hanging on it for you? (John 16:8)
Allegiance – The Promise
But thanks be to God that though you were slaves of sin, you became obedient from the heart to that form of teaching to which you were committed, (Romans 6:17)
If a sinner had been steeped in sin before coming to Christ, and that life wasn’t working out too well which lead to a confession of faith in the first place, then why would the newly redeemed keep doing what was sinking them low? (1Peter 1:14) yes, maturity in faith should fix that over time, but that happens when actively seeking the holy Guidance and teachings from the Holy Spirit.
Through him and for his name’s sake, we received grace and apostleship to call people from among all the Gentiles to the obedience that comes from faith. (Romans 1:5)
One can’t have one foot in the world, and the other in the grace garden. If one claims to belong to God, then stay on one side of the fence, but no one can sit on it.
We’ve been given a very special gift. But how can people recognize it if His Light is dimmed by hypocrisy and abuse of grace?
We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ. (2Corinthians 10:5)
Pick a side and be loyal to it, the ambassadors or the hypocrites?
Next time – to Whom are you truly enslavened – the Lord or the world??