GRACE, GREAT GRACE!
I have come to greatly
respect the writing of Paul Burleson, who recently wrote about “The Race of Grace”.
His article set me
thinking about the word “GRACE”: It's an attractive word. Don't
Why else would some
folk name their congregation Grace Bible Church, or something
similar? Surely, those who name their children “Grace” wouldn't
do so if they didn't consider the word attractive.
I suspect there is
much more to it than the word being attractive, which it no doubt is.
I suspect that followers of Christ who name their congregation
“Grace.......Church” are wanting to promote an image, especially
to unbelievers, that the grace revealed in the act of God giving
Himself as the incarnate Son, to live, die, and rise again,
inaugurating the New Covenant age in which we now live, will be found
there in the congregation.
What if we were to
take a broad sample of these Grace congregations? Will we find
genuine Christ-like grace there?
I'm sure you know what
I mean: The kind of graciousness which arises from being the
recipients of God's great grace in Jesus Christ! Being treated as Christ has treated us, and treating others likewise.
After a lifetime
involved in church life, most of that as a growing Christian (old
now, but still growing), am I being ungracious to say, speaking
generally, that the answer to the question,"Will we find genuine Christ-like grace there?", is a decided “NO!”
I recently read a
quote from Philip Yancey :
“Christians get very
angry toward other Christians who sin differently than they do.”
Now! Isn't that an amazingly
I grew up in a traditional Protestant congregation,
and was taught to be like the other folk who acted as they were
expected; dutifully self-righteous and sanctimonious when it came to
sins that we didn't commit,but others did, and there was always a
good Scripture quote to justify our ungracious attitudes.
For others to sin in a
way that was different to ours,was clear justification for us to be
extremely critical towards those who did, and to avoid them, even
though they were truly brethren in Christ (surely reader, you don't
believe that genuine Christians do not sin?).
It causes me great
sadness to reflect on my own attitudes in those days as I remember
that “the lust of
the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life”
which was very evident in those with whom I sat, and sang with on
Sundays, was no different in me.
The attitudes which
Paul identified in Romans 1:29-30 were (and are?) clearly evident,
and the accusing finger of people who had the secret unwritten rules
about unmentionable sins was equally evident.
It wasn't the wrath of
God that was feared, and still isn't. It was the fear that someone
would find out about a particular failure (many congregations still
haven't a clue as to what God's idea of grace is), and knew that any
repercussions would show not even a scintilla of genuine grace, but condemnation.
I came across a quote from Brennan Manning,in which he hit the
“To put it
bluntly, the American church today accepts grace in theory but denies
it in practice. We say we believe that the fundamental structure of
reality is grace, not works–but our lives refute our faith. By and
large, the gospel of grace is neither proclaimed, understood, nor
lived. Too many Christians are living in a house of fear and not in
the house of love.”
No matter how much we might protest, things are no different in
Australia, and most countries where church traditions, rather than
Scripture set the scene for faith and practice, even though we claim
Scriptural instructions which we interpret to suit our purpose.
Exercising grace is the hardest task in the world.
I must admit, I still struggle to be gracious in my thinking about
some matters that have deeply affected my family, knowing full well
the exceptional example of grace that has been revealed to us in
Jesus Christ Jesus, as He poured out His grace/love for me, a stained
sinner. And that grace was totally undeserved, because that is what grace
is; undeserved love.
That's what moved John Newton to write his “Amazing Grace”.
I don't think I'm the
only one who has a hard time offering grace to those who affect us in
negative ways, but , let's be honest, we have a hard time being
givers of grace to those who’s sin is different to ours, and
therefore worse, and more offensive to us.
The fact that their sin is not like our own is the reason, we who claim to be Christian, have graded
some sins as compared to other sins. Their sin is always worse than mine.
We need to wake up to the fact that God is offended by SIN, missing His mark of righteousness. He must be judicially satisfied over every sin,a fact which was achieved in the life and
work of His precious Son,for those who believe and trust in Him.
It's a fact. Is it
not? That in our eyes, the sin in our life is not as serious, or
culpable as that of those we judge and point our fingers at. How can we offer
grace to others whose sin is worse than ours?
Is it also not true
that we preach grace to others (after all, we want them to be
gracious towards us), but find it so difficult to offer grace to
those who sin in a different way to us?
At almost 75 years of
age, as I said earlier, I am still learning what the grace walk (or marathon, as my friend Paul says) is
One thing I have
noticed over this nearly three-quarters of a century, is that when we
do not exercise the grace that has been showered upon us, we are
teaching others, by example, that the work of Jesus Christ as He
inaugurated this New Covenant age in which we live, was of no real
The reason? We choose
to still live under an Old Covenant system which was ruled by law
rather than grace, and reject the New Covenant Person and His completed work of great grace.
What a waste were
those years; yes, some in pastoral ministry, when James 2:10 was
invisible to we ungracious law keepers : “For whoever keeps the
whole law and yet stumbles at just one point is guilty of breaking
all of it”.
Don't tell me you haven't done just that, and often!
What do we make of
Jesus' words when He says, “You have heard that it was said to
the people long ago, ‘Do not murder, and anyone who murders will be
subject to judgment.’ But I tell you that anyone who is angry with
his brother will be subject to judgment -------and anyone who says,
‘You fool!’ will be in danger of the fire of hell” (Matthew
And how we have
interpreted Jesus words to the Pharisees who prided themselves in
keeping the law, at least publicly: “You have heard that it was
said, ‘Do not commit adultery.’ But I tell you that anyone who
looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in
his heart” (Matthew 5:27-28).
we don't do sin as serious as this! Do we?
says we do: If
we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and
the truth is not in us.
We need to remember
John's warning and start being realistic rather than living in some
spiritual cloud cookoo land.
God sees SIN, not
I have come to
realise that a quote of George MacDonald is so apt to the practice
of much church life today,
God’s patience with the wicked, but I do wonder how He can be so
patient with the pious.”
Having spent many years with a
certain evangelical denomination, I've come to realize
the safety I feel knowing that I’ll be judged by Jesus Christ and
not those whom I have heard judge some in this life:
They would say to a
sinful greedy-guts, “Welcome well-fed healthy appetite Baptist.”
To one such sinner
aspiring to great riches, “Congratulations Methodist for trying to get ahead
in life. Let her in.”
To the avaricious,
“Being a good Episcoplaian, he once paid for a new organ for the church.”
Having heard the
justifications of these judges , I have also heard them look askance
at at adulterers, murderers, drunkards and say, “What utterly
rotten folk they are! Terrible sinners. They deserve nothing better
You and I better
acknowledge that, as natural born men and women, we DESERVE the same,
but Judge Jesus will look at them, and observe that having become His
brethren through adoption into God's family, He will mark their
charge sheet, SAVED BY GRACE.
Why do we think the shed blood of Jesus Christ is limited in its efficacy to cleanse all sin?
Sin is sin. There is
no gradations or distinction, and, Grace is Grace with no exceptions for
those who have come to the Saviour.
Don't enter the carnal
world of grading sin.
Those who do will find that Jesus was most
aggrieved by the self-righteous, pious, condemning, judgmental
Pharisees, those self-appointed law-enforcement officers who oversee other
people’s righteousness, or lack thereof.