“Oh, the unspeakable greatness of that exchange,—the Sinless One is condemned, and he who is guilty goes free; the Blessing bears the curse, and the cursed is brought into blessing; the Life dies, and the dead live; the Glory is whelmed in darkness, and he who knew nothing but confusion of face is clothed with glory.” Trailady

My Photo
Location: United States

A person God turned around many times.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Cheap grace vs. Costly grace

Last Sabbath I heard a sermon on grace. The preacher was very emphatic that there is nothing we can do to be saved. Nothing. His sermon title: “Grace Dot Nothing.” He said that there are many people who want to add to grace. Grace plus works. Grace plus something else we must do. It sounds good. It sounds inviting. But, would you step onto a rotting ship, just because it had brightly colored banners all over it, with balloons and band music blaring? The unqualified doctrine of “grace plus nothing” is a slowly sinking ghost ship. And the Bible gives many warnings about that subtle lie.
The preacher warned the congregation to watch out for those legalistic Pharisees who want to attach something else to grace and cause his sheep to be lost. “Don’t listen to them (listen to me!)”, he said with an air of fatherly protectiveness for his flock. In the middle of his message, he momentarily scoffed at Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s “Cheap grace”. And since I knew Dietrich Bonhoeffer to have been a martyr for the gospel living at the height of Hitler Germany, I felt that he might have more authority than this pastor. I just had to google Mr. Bonhoeffer and find out why the pastor should be afraid that he might pollute the gospel! Here’s what Wikipedia said in commentary on him and his most famous book, The Cost of Discipleship:
“One of the most quoted parts of the book deals with the distinction which Bonhoeffer makes between ‘cheap’ and ‘costly’ grace. But what is ‘cheap’ grace? In Bonhoeffer’s words:
cheap grace is the preaching of forgiveness without requiring repentance, baptism without church discipline, communion without confession. Cheap grace is grace without discipleship, grace without the cross, grace without Jesus Christ.”
The Wikipedia article continued:
“Or, even more clearly, it is to hear the gospel preached as follows: ‘Of course you have sinned, but now everything is forgiven, so you can stay as you are and enjoy the consolations of forgiveness.’ The main defect of such a proclamation is that it contains no demand for discipleship. In contrast to this is costly grace:
costly grace confronts us as a gracious call to follow Jesus, it comes as a word of forgiveness to the broken spirit and the contrite heart. It is costly because it compels a man to submit to the yoke of Christ and follow him; it is grace because Jesus says: ‘My yoke is easy and my burden is light.’”
I think Mr. Bonhoeffer had it right. I’m surprised the pastor flash-mobbed him. But, I’m glad he referred me to Mr. Bonhoeffer. If you don’t want someone to study something that opposes your opinion, don’t even mention it, especially if it’s the truth. But, I want to look deeper into what I read from Mr. Bonhoeffer about the broken spirit and contrite heart. I’ve tried what the pastor preached; for many years I tried it. And it just didn’t work. What I discovered was that it didn’t work because I wasn’t even converted yet. I was living on the assumption that I was already right with God, which was not the case. I was still trying to get His peace. And I believe that that is the assumption the vast majority of Christians are operating from.

Instead, the Lord gave me a different experience, one more like what Job experienced. But, that experience would bring me to Jesus and conversion. So, no time was really lost; the Lord took advantage of every opportunity, even if I was mistaken on my relation to Him. And after being finished with the Job Gethsemane, I saw the scripture message very clearly. The whole Bible made sense, both Old and New Testaments, because the struggle to get to God is primarily what the Old Testament is about, and the result of that struggle is what the New Testament is about. My weeping and wailing, all my vanity and vexation of spirit, all my chastisement of peace gave me a new paradigm on life after Jesus healed my wounds and bound up my bruises. Now I can tell others what they are going through and how Jesus will ultimately be their only help. I understand the third angel’s message. Mr. Bonhoeffer emphasizes the cross-bearing after conversion. I’m speaking of the often overlooked Gethsemane-bearing before conversion.
Is there more to receiving grace than nothing? Was it an arbitrary act of God to choose me to have His grace? Doesn’t cause and effect work here? Is there anything I’ve done to be worthy of His grace? All through the Bible, from beginning to end, we see that the answer is a resounding YES! “What must I do to be saved?” In the Bible, did that question ever receive a passive, “Nothing!”? I rejoice to write, The scriptures never say that! Not even Paul.
But, during a little conversation after the sermon the pastor reminded me that the definition of grace is “unmerited favor”. If grace is unmerited, then no one is worthy of it. Right? Wrong! I don’t know where that definition of grace came from, but it’s not in the Bible. And it wasn’t honestly derived from the Bible. The whole world must be saved or on the path to salvation, because Paul makes it clear that the whole world is doing nothing to be saved (see Romans 3:11). Rather, Revelation 13:3 says that all the world follows after the Beast. That must mean that the whole world did nothing toward their own salvation.
Then, what do we do to be worthy of God’s grace? When the hard working legalists came to Jesus and said, “What shall we do, that we might work the works of God?” (John 6:28), His answer was already prepared. “This is the work of God, that ye believe on Him whom He hath sent.” (John 6:29).
Well, that could sound like a rhetorical, “Nothing. You have nothing to do to be saved! Just believe!” Or, it could sound like there is much work to do. It depends on the paradigm you are working from: you have either 1) a conversion based on self-motivated works, or 2) a conversion based  on faith motivated works. Scripture makes it clear that the people who came to Jesus that day were not working from faith. If they had been walking by faith, or at least were struggling to know Jesus for faith, then they wouldn’t have started to grab Him and force Him to be the new King of Israel.
Even though Matthew gave no explanation for Christ’s apparently erratic behavior after lovingly feeding His 20,000 followers, it was because of the lust-filled commotion to make Jesus king that Matthew records the following: “Straightway Jesus constrained His disciples to get into a ship, and to go before Him unto the other side, while He sent the multitudes away. And when He had sent the multitudes away, He went up into a mountain apart to pray: and when the evening was come, He was there alone.” (Matt. 14:22,23). There was within Christ a conflict between a broken heart from the absence of faith dominating the people’s hearts, and a fierce protection of His Father’s true kingdom and His Father’s plan of salvation. So, Jesus did what He had to do, not what He would have preferred to do. But, for His Father’s sake and for the sake of the world’s ignorance of heavenly things, justice was as quickly forth-coming from the Prince as had mercy been forth-coming from the same Messiah. But, after His harsh work of justice, He poured out His soul on the mountain with His Father. There is nothing cheap about God’s grace, and it was no different coming from His Son. Jesus was “the brightness of His [Father’s] glory, and the express image of His person.” (Heb. 1:3). Grace was costly, both for the receivers and for the Giver.
Discipline came from Jesus, church discipline. Like a General of His army, Jesus stood for good order and discipline. His discipline sprung from the Law of His God, and all His battles would only involve a fight of faith. And, because of the faith and discipline issues, most of the crowds He had fed the previous day left Him forever. They had no desire for the spiritual things He came to give. They turned away from and blasphemed the Holy Ghost and could never return. Afterward, they became the crowds who derided Him crying, “Crucify him! We have no king but Caesar! We don’t need him! He’s nothing but a worm! He has no backbone! He can’t stand up against the Roman armies! Get rid of him, finally! He isn’t worth the time of day! Just crucify him!” They had at one time respectfully called Him, “Thou Son of David”.
But, exactly what did Jesus mean by, “This is the work of God, that ye believe on Him whom He hath sent.” He meant that faith is work. As He had previously instructed the people, “Labour not for the meat which perisheth, but for that meat which endureth unto everlasting life, which the Son of man shall give unto you: for Him hath God the Father sealed.” (John 6:27). So, there is labor involved in order to receive the Prince of Peace into the heart. If you want peace and rest, you must labor for it. And it’s a beautiful rest, one worth striving for. “Let us labour therefore to enter into that rest.” (Heb. 4:11).
Yes, we have something to do to be saved. Maybe to most people, faith and believing “on” Jesus (i.e. relying on Him, depending on Him, leaning on Him, etc.) doesn’t seem like a big thing or a great work. But, that is only because they’ve never done it. Actually trusting God isn’t easy; reconciliation with Him and His Law isn’t easy. But, believing on Him who sent Jesus, reconciliation with God and His Law, is what the great Physician prescribed.
As it turns out, faith is a big thing, and it requires a lot of work. Paul called it a fight. “I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith.” (2Tim. 4:7). Does fighting equal work? Yes, lots of work. Just watch some old footage of WWII soldiers on a miles long march, or pushing their cannons through the mud. Look at photos of today’s soldiers sleeping under the hot desert sun, because they had worked so many sleepless days, and finally got a chance to lay down. War is not easy.
Fighting is work; and so is wrestling. Wrestling is what Jacob had to do for twenty years. Blood, sweat, and tears was required for him to surrender. Surrender to God is not easy or painless. It takes trust, and trust takes time; reuniting takes time. But, wrestling and trust, surrender and reconciliation are the only things that make us worthy of grace. We can’t choose to surrender to God. We can’t decide to surrender, or man-handle our will to submit to the Law of God. “The carnal mind…is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be.” (Rom. 8:7). We have to be “assisted”, such as a hip knocked out of joint, as in Jacob’s case. We have to be “persuaded” as in the nickname carpenters give a sledge-hammer, “the Persuader”. Then we respond with wrestling, and ultimately, with faith. It is through the wrestling that the new covenant promise happens, “I will put My laws into their minds, and write them in their hearts. And I will be to them a God, and they shall be to Me a people.” (Heb. 8:9).
Paul was doing all right...before God and His Law trespassed into his space. Then began the epic struggle that has ever decided all who become servants of God or servants of the devil. “For I was alive without the law once: but when the commandment came, sin revived, and I died.” (Rom. 7:9). Thankfully, for Paul, he took the Law of God seriously. Of his own will he tried to obey; yet, over and over again he failed. “The Law worketh wrath.” (Rom. 4:15). “The commandment, which was ordained to life, I found to be unto death. For sin, taking occasion by the commandment, deceived me, and by it slew me.” (Rom. 7:10,11).
But, something kept Paul in the battle; some glimmering hope kept him fighting for help from the unknown God, fighting for mercy from Someone he knew must be there, working with him. In the end, the apostle had to admit that he couldn’t make himself “holy” or “just” or “good”, or any such thing. (Rom. 7:12). “O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death?” (Rom. 7:24). It was a pride-breaking, painful admission, but when he cried out that he was a miserable failure at righteousness, he won the battle between self and God. That’s when the revelation entered his broken heart and head. What was the solution to his spiritual emptiness and failures that he heard from heaven? “Jesus Christ” (Rom. 7:25) and His broken “body” (Rom. 7:4). “A Lamb as it had been slain.” (Rev. 5:6). Simple and concise. Only Jesus and His dead body hanging under the hot wrath of God can deliver you from your cold body of death. Through wrestling and sweating with God, Paul became an overcomer.
Ah! Then, it is easy and cheap! All I need is Jesus Christ! No. As we see from Paul, there is no getting to Jesus except through the long preliminaries of struggling with God. There is the wrestling and uphill battles to overcome self and to realize our wretchedness and our misery, our volitional poverty, our blindness to our filthy fallen nature, and our utter nakedness of moral worth before the great Searcher of hearts who is the great Judge of all the earth and His condemning Spirit of truth.
“For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart. Neither is there any creature that is not manifest in His sight: but all things are naked and opened unto the eyes of Him with whom we have to do.” (Heb. 4:12,13). There is nothing else like the Law (the word of God, the Spirit of Prophecy counsels) to make us sweat and tremble. And we see that the writer of Hebrews identifies God with His Law. It seems that God uses His Law as His representative, His tool, in the place of His awful presence. The only way we can stand before His Majesty is to try to stand casually before HIS MAJESTIC LAW (and if caps lock is yelling, that’s what the Law is all about, sorry). But, the difficult trembling before His Law is how God gets our full attention. And, our humbled fear of God is the only way we get God’s attention and approval. “To this man will I look, even to him that is poor and of a contrite spirit, and trembleth at My word.” (Isa. 66:2). And that work doesn’t stop even after our conversion, as Paul instructed us to work out what God had worked into us. “Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling.” (Phil. 2:12).
Every person feels moral and pretty good about himself. Paul’s self-sufficiency was alive while living apart from God and from His convicting Law. But, then the Spirit of truth brought the commandment strongly to his mind, and the good life fled away from him. Obviously, God doesn’t take boastful, flagrant sinners easily. He looks and sees them to be “careless, after the manner of the Zidonians, quiet and secure; and there was no magistrate in the land, that might put them to shame in any thing.” (Jdg. 18:7). Tyre and Zidon, Sodom and Gomorrah, all were perfect examples of the sinner becoming conscious of his daily, daring slights against the holy Creator. “Behold, this was the iniquity of thy sister Sodom, pride, fulness of bread, and abundance of idleness was in her and in her daughters, neither did she strengthen the hand of the poor and needy. And they were haughty, and committed abomination before Me: therefore I took them away as I saw good.” (Eze. 16:49,50).
“Now we know that what things soever the Law [and also God Himself] saith, it saith to them who are under the Law: that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before God.” (Rom. 3:19).
So, the grinding, sweat-causing, depressing guilt before God is the preliminary to salvation. Does that sound like there is nothing we can do to be saved? There is a lot of suffering to endure before we can be saved. What a deception easy grace has been to the world since Cain! Cheap grace robs us of a decisive move on our part, whether or not we want to have God’s salvation. Will we keep with the strife and agony from the Almighty? “Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in due time.” (1Pet. 5:6). Will we endure our own Gethsemane and taste of the pressure that Jesus knew in the Garden for us? Will we be worthy of salvation? Eternal life or eternal death teeters on our choice here. Will we choose obedience and life? “Here is the patience of the saints: here are they that keep the commandments of God, and the faith of Jesus.” (Rev. 14:12). Will we suffer the years-long, maybe an unnecessary decades-long, grind under the wrath of God who is working for our salvation? Will we say that we deserve the wrath because we are unclean, we are sinners? Or, will we say that God is the sinner for giving us guilt and misery that we don’t think we deserve? “I am clean without transgression, I am innocent; neither is there iniquity in me. Behold, He findeth occasions against me, He counteth me for His enemy, He putteth my feet in the stocks, He marketh all my paths.” (Job 33:9-11).
Will we call God a sinner, or worse, a devil, and leave Him and His testing misery so that we can go in search of a better God, a self-manufactured God who will treat us nicely and gently like we feel we deserve? If we do, we can be assured that God’s place will be taken by Satan, “who opposeth and exalteth himself above all that is called God, or that is worshipped; so that he as God sitteth in the temple of God, shewing himself that he is God.” (2Thess. 2:4). We are the habitation of God through His Spirit; and our conscience should be His most holy throne. But, Satan has been known to sit on His throne in the holiest precincts of our body temple.
Who will we choose to inhabit our throne, God or His imposter, the supplanting devil? By our own choice of whether or not we will continue beseeching God for the mercy that we’ve heard He has, we decide who we will have inhabit us. Here is where the battle for salvation lies. And, the battlefield is strewn with many dead and dying because they would not take the fight for faith to its end and receive the crown of life. But, once God is done grinding all of our golden calves to powder, then He reveals to us His Son. “All that the Father giveth Me shall come to Me.” (John 6:37). No one who goes all the way through with God’s boiling Law will want to miss the opportunity to come to Jesus. They will say, This is what I’ve been wanting for the longest time!! They will squander nothing of God’s precious Gift. From the boiling Law is where our certainty of salvation comes. They suck honey out of a rock and oil out of a flinty rock. And, boy does the honey and oil taste good! To them comes the most blessed word from the Lord, “Him that cometh to Me I will in no wise cast out.” (John 6:37). They hear the most wonderful things:
“These are they which came out of great tribulation, and have washed their robes, and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.” (Rev. 7:14).
“The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God.” (Rom. 8:16).
“Whereby are given unto us exceeding great and precious promises: that by these ye might be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust.” (2Pet. 1:4).
“They shall walk with Me in white: for they are worthy.” (Rev. 3:4).
Yes, they are worthy in God’s eyes; but, in their eyes His goodness and mercy to them is very much unmerited. They have endured the fight for His acceptance, beholding all of their filthiness of the flesh and spirit, and admitting a thousand times, “Woe is me! for I am undone; because I am a man of unclean lips, …mine eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts.” (Isa. 6:5). They can never again stand up against the condemnation from their unrelenting Lord and patient Saviour. They are healed patients of His healing patience.
They are worthy of God’s grace; their surrender to Him declares that He and His Law are righteous, and not them with their proud assessment of self and their human traditions. “He is righteous, and not we ourselves”, they can thankfully confess. The righteousness of God won the contest. They lost. He is now justified to call them saints. “To declare, I say, at this time His righteousness: that He might be just, and the justifier of him which believeth in Jesus.” (Rom. 3:26). And they will forever humbly own up to David’s confession, “that Thou mightest be justified in Thy sayings, and mightest overcome when Thou art judged.” (Rom. 3:4, cf Ps. 51:4).


Blogger Nsubuga Daniel said...

Lord Jesus give me the grace to fight the good fight of faith. Help to preach repentance not just to please men

8/20/2015 9:32 AM  

Post a Comment

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home