This is the third in a series on grace, particularly in light of recent abuses of grace among some (not all) teachers. You can read Grace Notes #1 here and Grace Notes #2 here. Basically, the problem is that the way some are teaching grace, the result is that some hearers are interpreting grace as an invitation to return to their old life. It is grace as an enablement to sin, not a deterrent.
Friends, we are under grace, but grace doesn’t mean we have no boundaries in our life. Like sheep prone to wander, God sets boundaries for each of us. These boundaries are like fences designed for our protection and are found in His Word. Within the boundaries proscribed for us by our heavenly Father we sheep find much luscious green grass, for His fields of grace are wide and plentiful. We may graze safely and joyously within these boundaries for our entire life.
Beyond the boundaries, on the other side of the fence, however, the grass is poisonous, full of briars; deadly. We know because that’s where we once lived. Once in a while we glance toward the briars…and remember. Yes, the poison was pretty and yes we were enticed to live our entire lives in the briar patch…until we heard and responded to the Good Shepherd’s invitation to His fields of grace. Now our glance toward the briars is fleeting indeed. No, we won’t go back.
We watch with profound sadness and astonishment as once in a while one of our fellow sheep wanders past the boundary and back into the briar patch, lured by the pretty poison; forsaking not only the green fields of grace, but worse, forsaking the Shepherd as well.
We’re also bewildered when some of the sheep grazing alongside us seem to encourage those who are wandering away. What are they thinking? Don’t they remember like we do? How can they encourage those who are leaving the green, green grass of the fields of grace to return to the briars? And how can they in good conscience tell the sheep who have always lived in the briars that they are wise and well-off if they choose to build a life there? Why don’t they invite those sheep to come here where they will be safe and cared for by the Shepherd?
To be sure, the Shepherd is aware when one of His sheep has wandered off and has become caught in the briars beyond the boundaries. And because He is a good Shepherd, He seeks the wandering lamb and returns him to the fold. Such a sheep, if he is wise, will remember his foolish journey and when tempted in the future, will contrast the painful briars with the loving arms of the Shepherd carrying him back to the rest of the flock, gently whispering His love for the lamb as they make their way home.
To our fellow sheep who look longingly at the pretty poison in the briar patch and begin to inch their way toward the boundary’s edge, we should be issuing warnings and reminders of those who have eventually perished by continuing to pursue that which God condemns.
Similarly, if ever we see believers tossing the message of grace like a security blanket toward those sheep grazing among the poisonous briars beyond the boundaries, it’s a signal that they too may eventually follow those they now comfort in their wanderings. They must surely have forgotten that grace is given for us to live happily in God’s pasture, wherein lies our true freedom.
Grace is not a gate in the fence to the briar patch.