This is the second in a short series on grace and problems with some aspects of the “hyper-grace movement.” Please know that not all who are teaching on grace are making this same serious error.
There’s an old story about grace that goes something like this: A man dies and meets St. Peter at the gates of heaven. Peter tells the man, “In order to get into heaven you have to accumulate 100 points. So tell me on what basis should I allow you into heaven?”
The man thought for a moment, then replied, “Well, I was a good husband and father. I never cheated on my taxes, and I was a faithful employee.”
“Good,” said St. Peter. “That’s one point. Keep going.”
Stymied at only receiving one point, the man thought back on his life and said, “I gave money to the poor and I was an elder at church. I also went on several mission trips and served on the board of our local pregnancy center.”
“Good,” said St. Peter, “That’s two points. Keep going.”
The man started to sweat and finally said in frustration “Good grief! At this rate, I’ll only get into heaven by God’s grace!”
“Bingo. That’s 98 points,” St. Peter said, “Come on in!”
Being saved is all about trusting in God’s grace. There is simply no other way. No good works will do it. No sacrifices will do it. No religious rituals will do it. Grace and grace alone is the key. Grace that comes from saving faith.
At the moment we receive Christ into our life by faith, we are born again and become the recipients of God’s grace—as much as we’ll ever need. Our lives become, as it were, grace-covered, grace-filled, and grace-driven. But something else happens at that same moment. According to 2 Corinthians 5:17, we are made into new creations. Off with the old, on with the new. Time after time in the New Testament we’re reminded of the importance of living out our new life, not returning to our old lusts. We’re told to walk in the light. To set our mind on things above, not on the things of earth.
So what does all this have to do with the hyper-grace theology making the rounds? Just this: Some in the “hyper-grace movement” are teaching that continuing in a sinful lifestyle is an option for a Christian. But the truth is that our new creation finds sin repellant. It does not look for ways to indulge the flesh. Sure, as we mature, we may struggle here and there with various sins, but our basic orientation (because of grace) is entirely different than before. Whereas once we pursued sin and catered to our flesh, now we pursue holiness and resist sinful impulses (or more effectively, reckon ourselves dead to sin. See Romans 6).
Those few in the hyper-grace movement who are affirming the faith (and practice) of those who openly pursue sin (and sinful lifestyles) are doing them no favors. To affirm sin is to affirm the chains of sin. It’s also a recipe for deception. As Andrew Murray wisely wrote: “One great power of sin is that it blinds men so that they do not recognize its true character.”
I sometimes wonder if those who promote this kind of “grace” have forgotten the effects of sin in their own life. It is not love to tell someone who is embracing their sin that they’re in good standing with God. It’s the nature of a Christian (in his new creation) to see sin as destructive and to be avoided. To remove the message of sin’s awfulness from the gospel of grace is to undermine it entirely. What are we saved from if not sin? What is our message if not that those caught up in the destructiveness of sin can be utterly saved from their sin?
Inherent in God’s grace is not only the desire to be free from sin, but also the power to live free from sin. As John Piper rightly says, “Grace is not simply leniency when we have sinned. Grace is the enabling gift of God not to sin. Grace is power, not just pardon.”
What we desperately need today is more teaching on the power of grace to break the chains of sin. We don’t need a cheap grace that reinforces the chains of sin and enables those who desire to live by the lusts of the flesh. Only deception and destruction can follow such a theology.
Grace Notes #3 coming soon.