Monday, April 30, 2007


I've been mulling over what I would write. During a cleanup of my computer, I came across a letter I had written, quite some time back, to some brethren who were going through a rather torrid time. I feel compelled to share it with you, and I'm sure you will understand why it was written:

Dear Brethren,

Many times I have mentioned to younger people the fairly familiar words heard from the lips of older folk regarding the fact that the older one gets, the more one knows, and the more one knows, the more one realizes the little one really knows.

I don’t know about you, but during the many years I have been a member of a congregation of God’s people, I have listened to quite a few messages about God’s grace, especially the use of the word in the salutations and benedictions of the Apostle Paul.

Do you really know what the word “grace” means? I thought I did!

Please don’t get the idea that I am suggesting that I know much more now, but I have realized that until one has experienced the lack of grace, in the behaviour of those with whom we walk this world as a child of God, we cannot begin to grasp how we, ourselves, have failed to reflect grace towards those with whom we have to do.

As with many of Scriptural words, such as this word “grace”, which define God’s attitude towards us and our attitude towards our brethren and others, we may well be experts in the original language in which it was written and still have little, and possibly no, grasp of what it means to practice grace.

It’s 3.30 a.m. on Sunday the ninth of April, 2006. I awoke about an hour ago with the thoughts about grace which I’m sharing with you. I have been mulling this matter over in the back of my mind for many months now and believe I must put my thoughts on paper to share with you.

Those of us who have been trusted with shepherding a local congregation of God’s people, have a very good idea of the expectations of our calling, which grow as our traditions develop; we have a very good idea about the developing expectations of our congregations, which translate into a solid idea of the expectations we place on ourselves.

If we are genuine in our desire to serve our sovereign Lord and Shepherd, Jesus Christ, we take those expectations rather seriously, but, the problem is we then project those expecations onto the congregations we are supposed to serve. The result is that we become legalistic. Like most, we erroneously believe we are being Scriptural. I’m certain that the Judaizers, mentioned in Paul’s letter to the Galatians, also said they were being Scriptural.

In reality we have become Parole Officers, who are watching over convicted criminals who are being given an opportunity to prove him/herself, but not trusted to remain within the bounds of the law without supervision.

This has become more and more apparent as I read, and listen to the sermons emanating from the more orthodox leaders of congregations. There is a constant, and sometimes increasing pressure, for better performance, being exerted upon those poor unfortunates who listen to these messages. In addition, we seem to be persuaded that legalism, based on our interpretation of Scripture, isn’t enough law to control our congregations, we have to invent even more laws, often included in constitutions, which we pile onto the backs of the unfortunate congregation.

Antinomianism is a pernicious cancer in the life of any believer or congregation, and sadly, it is a growing problem, especially some of the newer Christian groups of our day, but legalism is equally pernicious because it is graceless. Law has no room for grace. Law demands what God has never demanded of God’s people, that’s why He became incarnate.

When He efficaciously calls a person to His saving grace He sets them free from the bondage of legalism.

As Charles Wesley was moved to write:

Long my imprisoned sprit lay,
fast bound in sin and nature's night;
thine eye diffused a quickening ray;
I woke, the dungeon flamed with light;
my chains fell off, my heart was free,
I rose, went forth, and followed thee.
My chains fell off, my heart was free,
I rose, went forth, and followed thee.

No condemnation now I dread;
Jesus, and all in him, is mine;
alive in him, my living Head,
and clothed in righteousness divine,
bold I approach th' eternal throne,
and claim the crown, through Christ my own.
Bold I approach th' eternal throne,
and claim the crown, through Christ my own.

No! I didn’t say the law was unimportant. It reminds us of the fact of sin. It tells us clearly, what is displeasing to God, but it also tells us about the grace with which God dealt with sinners such as you or I, because it reminds us of what would have been but for the intervention of a loving Father.

Christ died to set His people free, the bondage of the law was broken and indeed, our chains fell off, the prison door was throne wide open.

Foul sinners, such as you and I, were given citizenship in Heaven, we were made members of the Family of God, Sheep in His pasture, spiritual stones in His Building.

The prison doors were thrown wide open.

Full Pardon was implemented as the signature of Christ’s blood was written large across the certificate of debt which belonged to you and I, and every other child of God. That certificate of debt was nailed to the cross of Calvary, on which the Prince of Glory died.

Every human who was ever born on this earth, or will be born, has one such certificate of debt, BUT, every child of the living God, born again by the work of God’s Holy Spirit, through faith in the finished work of Christ on that cross, has been stamped, PAID IN FULL. “It is finished”, was the cry of the Saviour before He died.

That’s GRACE in its every form: the state of one who has come under the divine influence of God by His Spirit, and set free from consequences of sin and the horror of death, through His gift of faith in His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ; the free and unmerited favour or beneficence of God in this amazing act; the elegance and beauty of this majestic, sovereign expression of divine love; the propriety and consideration for others shown in that love; the merciful disposition of God to kindness and compassion.

Where is that grace seen in the leadership and administration of those who set themselves above God by demanding of the sheep what His Sovereign Majesty doesn’t demand?

Where is that grace towards that sheep who dares to ask ,”Why?”, or who says, “Before God, I think otherwise”?

Where is that grace when pointing the finger at the failure of a sister or brother, or gossiping about hearsay without checking whether it is true?

Where is that grace when making judgments about the same without going to the one about whom judgments are made?

Where is that grace in trusting, and acting upon the fact that the Scriptures really do say that every brother or sister is gifted for a ministry in the Body?

Where is that grace in fulfilling the elder/teachers task of equipping, and releasing the congregation for the ministry to which they have been called?

Where is that grace in understanding that God’s grace is not restricted to one’s own ministry?

Where is that grace in remembering that one’s own understanding is fallible and limited?

And where is that grace in owning the fact that according to God’s law one is no less culpable than any other human being? Even though saved, which law have you NOT broken today?

Oh! The grace which has been poured abundantly like the oil of anointing, upon the heads of all who are in Christ.

Grace is only seen in those who are not Parole Officers, and who understand that they are simply sheep of the Flock, who have been freed from prison.

It rather interesting that sheep tend to follow a leader, but that leader sheep is indistinguishable from every other sheep in the flock, until they go to pasture. That sheep simply walks in front, until the pasture is reached, and then it becomes indistinguishable again.

It takes much grace to be indistinguishable. Parole Officers have to have prominence.

With much love,


1 comment:

Renata said...

Interesting that parole officer analogy. I often use the frustrated drill sargeant analogy as a mother towards my kids. Thanks for sharing what you have learned. That we may have the ears to hear and the heart to change.

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