I’ve been thinking a lot about God’s grace lately. For that reason, I’m going to create a tab on my website to act as a permanent home for my thoughts about grace—along with perhaps a few interviews along the way. I’ll call it Grace Notes.
Why am I so interested in grace? Perhaps, because, like you, I’m so very much in need of it.
But there’s also another reason it’s been on my mind. Some of my friends have been exposed to what’s been called “hyper-grace” teaching. I don’t really like that term, though God’s grace toward us is indeed, “hyper.” John Newton referred to it as “Amazing Grace,” but I suppose “hyper” works just as well when one realizes the vastness and depth of God’s grace. In the words of one of my favorite hymns:
Marvelous grace of our loving Lord,
Grace that exceeds our sin and our guilt!
Grace that exceeds our sin and our guilt. Yes, that’s my need. Yours too, right?
What bothers me about the present emphasis on grace is that in some camps it’s leading to the idea that one can, with God’s blessing, embrace one’s sinfulness, not turn from it. Rather than showing forth God’s grace as a means to breaking free from a sinful lifestyle, grace is becoming an enabling mechanism that keeps people in bondage to sin.
What does the Bible teach us about the express purpose of grace? Titus 2:12-14 is explicit about how grace is to work in our life:
It teaches us to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age, while we wait for the blessed hope—the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for himself a people that are his very own, eager to do what is good (NIV).
How much clearer can the purpose of grace be explained? How then is it possible that grace has become so perversely used to justify continuing in sin? Perhaps the old adage applies here that says “If you won’t change your behavior to match your theology, you’ll change your theology to match your behavior.”
One of my favorite “hyper-grace” teachers, Steve McVey (who describes himself as “a card-carrying member of the Hyper-Grace Community”), likes to refer to such false teaching as not “grace” but “disgrace.” Steve recently wrote:
“Grace produces a lifestyle that honors Him. Anything we can trust Jesus to do through us is a grace-filled action. Anything that He would not do through us isn’t an expression of grace of any kind. Even the word ‘hyper-grace’ doesn’t fit, as critics want to insist. The only word for behavior that dishonors Christ is ‘disgrace’ (against grace). It is not legalism to say that some things are a disgrace because they are. Grace teaches us ‘to deny ungodliness and worldly desires and to live sensibly, righteously and godly in the present age’ (Titus 2:12). If Jesus can do it through you, go for it. If not, don’t call it grace because to do so is to insult the righteousness of Christ within you and to smear the meaning of authentic ‘grace.’ How we behave matters and grace doesn’t negate that fact.”
Friends, we can either run toward God or we can either run toward sin—the fulfillment of our fleshly desires—but we can’t run toward both at the same time. Grace propels us toward God, disgrace propels us toward the flesh–and destruction.
Up next: Why hyper-grace? Stay tuned.