The Dangers of Grace
The other day, I was thinking about the Grace of God and how this grace is actually kind of “dangerous.” What do I mean? Well, grace is given freely without any strings attached, ever. So, because of that, I used to find it difficult to preach on grace simply because, “it would be easy for the hearers to “take advantage” of the grace of God.” “I mean, if I tell people that they are really free, then they might abuse that freedom.” And its true. So in my mind I’d rationalize it, I’d warn myself not to preach “too much” grace, or I wouldn’t be able to use “scare tactics” on them to live a moral, upright and obedient life through fear. In essence, they’d be free to abuse grace based on God’s own design. They might say something like, “Well, its okay to sin now because God already paid for all my sins” or something wacky like that. But that was based on my shallow understanding of God’s Grace. I didn’t understand how the absolute goodness and grace of God would actually enable, and lead them to repentance and right living.
“Or do you despise the riches of His goodness, forbearance, and longsuffering, not knowing that the goodness of God leads you to repentance?” – Romans 2:4
“For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men, teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly in the present age” – Titus 2:11-12
Just look at what the apostle Paul said;
“But by the grace of God I am what I am, and His grace toward me was not in vain; but I labored more abundantly than they all, yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me.” – 1 Corinthians 15:10
I was talking with my best friend Ben the other day about this so-called “dangerous grace,” and what i should do. He said, “Well, I’m not to sure what I think about all that, its hard. But I’m going to believe God’s Word over my brain any day.” So then I figured, “If I’m gonna preach the truth of God’s Word and His Grace, I’ve got to understand that its in His Hands,” because in reality, all grace is “greasy grace.” And no matter what religious-types might try to “add” to the free gift, it is completely unmerited, undeserved and not dependent on our own self-righteous works. Its Jesus plus nothing. Grace is free, but it wasn’t cheap.
In all truth, however, Grace is still very dangerous, mainly because of the nature of Grace, it’s “greasy.” And if Grace isn’t “greasy,” then its not really Grace. I don’t know if you’re familiar with the term, “greasy grace” but it came up here and there a little while back. I’m not exactly sure what people mean by it, but I assume, its referring to grace-abusers. (You know the types, “I can do what ever I want, and can sin all I want because I’m not under law, I’m under grace, so stop judging me!…” and so on.) Basically, greasy grace is a term used to describe those people that take the concept of the Grace of God and then “live like the devil.” They come to God when they have a need, but live far from Him when their life seems good. So the term “greasy grace” is when someone abuses the liberties that we have in Christ. They’re “libertines” (freedom abusers). However, I think the root goes deeper, back to when they first heard the gospel(if they ever even heard it). People who abuse Grace simply don’t understand it(or Him) at all. If they did, they’d never abuse it, but instead, like Paul in the verse above, it would push them to labor for the Kingdom. Lets go back to what Jesus said about hearing and understanding the word.
“But he who received seed on the good ground is he who hears the word and understands it, who indeed bears fruit and produces: some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty.” – Matthew 13:23
Obviously, a person who abuses Grace doesn’t understand Grace, or they wouldn’t abuse it. It seems to me that its more about their own life-fulfillment and “what Jesus can do for them now,” instead what Jesus has already done for them. I personally think that its because they never were told or never understood why they need(ed) Grace in the first place. Its not just a get out of jail free card, fire insurance or a free ticket to eternal life. Its much much more than that. We have to face God on Judgement Day after we die (Hebrews 9:24). And we don’t usually think of how we will stand before a holy and just Judge on that Day. We were bound by sin because we had broken God’s law(s) (namely the 10 Commandments), but the majority of people don’t understand that. They think that they are “good enough” and God will see their goodness and give them access to eternal life because of how they lived on earth. And that’s where the law comes in to play.
“Now we know that whatever the law says, it says to those who are under the law, that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before God.” – Romans 3:19
“Therefore by the deeds of the law no flesh will be justified in His sight, for by the law is the knowledge of sin.” – Romans 3:20
“What shall we say then? Is the law sin? Certainly not! On the contrary, I would not have known sin except through the law. – Romans 7:7
“Therefore the law was our tutor to bring us to Christ, that we might be justified by faith.” – Galatians 3:24
I believe that the reason people don’t understand the gospel of God’s Grace is because they haven’t been lead the right way. We we use life-fulfillment as a draw card for unbelievers, they come under false pretenses and for the wrong reason. They come because they see God somewhat as a good-luck charm. They don’t come humble, broken and repentant, they come greedy, self-seeking and proud.
“God resists the proud,
But gives grace to the humble.” – James 4:6
Now I believe that there are many people who come to church and profess faith in Christ, are “sincere” in their heart, yet they are not even saved. Why? Because they aren’t really trusting in Christ’s Finished Work on the cross in their place to save them from justice and the righteous wrath of God. Their faith is in a Jesus that is going to be a “good-luck charm” for them and make them happy, healthy, blessed, and live forever because they accepted Him (ie; they repeated a prayer once in their life.) Of course, they never saw their sin as bad, and then never realized their dire need for Grace, they never repented, and thus they never really trusted in Christ because they thought/think that they were and are a good person, and good enough to get in to heaven, more or less. So Jesus is just a free ticket to heaven in-case, He’s a blessing-machine, a good luck charm, and an escape from hell (though it really doesn’t make since that God would send a “good person” like them to hell…), hence, the gospel doesn’t make sense to them.
I’ve heard it said, that “any way that wins people to Christ is the right way,” but I have to disagree simply because of the MASSIVE fall-away rate in the churches these days. So, does that mean there is a wrong way? I think the answer is that there is a way that actually converts the soul and there is a way that gets a decision with no conversion.
“The law of the LORD is perfect, converting the soul;” – Psalm 19:7
Ray Comfort, of Way of the Master, uses an analogy lovingly known as “the parachute analogy.”
Imagine you were flying on an airplane, 15,000 feet in the air. Then stewardesses start to pass out parachutes to the passengers. Now imagine a stewardess asking one of the passengers, “Would you like to have a parachute? It will improve your overall flight experience by giving you peace and joy, comfort, and security.” So the skeptical passenger agrees and takes the parachute. He puts it in his lap, but its heavy and clunky and it blocks his view of the on-board movie. Its also hinders his movement and now some of the other passengers start to look and laugh at him. After a few minutes of this, the passenger gets tired of the parachute and drops it to the floor. He’s disappointed and and feels lied to. He vows to never trust airline stewardesses again.
Now you see another stewardess passing out parachutes in another area of the plane. You over hear the conversation with another passenger. She says, “Sir, the plane’s engines have started started to fail because of a major leak in the fuel lines. At any moment, you will have to jump from the plane at 15,000 feet in the air. Please put this parachute on immediately!” Suddenly the passenger grabs the parachute and puts it on. He thanks the flight attendant hardily as she moves down the aisle. This passenger also notices that the parachute is large, bulky and heavy, but he has peace knowing that when the jump comes, he will be saved and not die. This also brings him joy, comfort and security. The parachute is limiting some of his movement and some of the other passengers that haven’t heard the news start to laugh at him, yet he only clings tighter to the parachute. He doesn’t take it off, because he didn’t put it on to improve his flight, he put it on because it’s “the only way” he will survive the jump to come.
Many times i’ve heard and even said myself, “Come to Jesus and make Him lord of your life and He will give you love, joy and peace. He will save you from hell, and bless you. You have God-shaped hole in your heart and Jesus is the only one who can fill it.” But that’s like the stewardess with the first passenger. People will sincerely come to Jesus, sincerely to get all those good things, but not for the right reason. And what happens next, exactly what the bible said would happen.
“In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while, if need be, you have been grieved by various trials, that the genuineness of your faith, being much more precious than gold that perishes, though it is tested by fire, may be found to praise, honor, and glory at the revelation of Jesus Christ,” – 1 Peter 1:6-7
“These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.” – John 16:33
“But he who received the seed on stony places, this is he who hears the word and immediately receives it with joy; yet he has no root in himself, but endures only for a while. For when tribulation or persecution arises because of the word, immediately he stumbles.” – Matthew 13:20-21
But when we use God’s law, we prepare the heart for Grace, the biblical way (Gal. 3:24). And once a person sees his or her sins and feels the weight their guilt before a just and holy God, then and only then are they are humbled and able understand the gospel, the good news of Christ’s perfect Finished Work in our place.
As Matthew 13:23 says, the “good ground” hearer is the one who understands. And then after understanding, it says that they produce fruit. And its so simple to understand the gospel after the law does its job (to crush us and lead us to Christ). Then its easy after that. Basically, they have to trust in Jesus like they would trust in a parachute. They don’t just believe in it, they have to put it on (trust that it all depends on Christ’s Work). When they understand the need for the parachute, we don’t have to keep following up to make sure they are keeping it on, you can focus on getting others to see the need to put their parachute on as well.
“being confident of this very thing, that He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ” – Philippians 1:6
The Grease of Grace
Here’s the thing about the free gift (Romans 5:15) of the Grace of God. In order for Grace to really be Grace, abuse and excessive living must be an option. I’m in no way saying believers should sin, on the contrary, they, as new creations, should according to their new nature, hate sin. But, again, in order for Grace to really be Grace, abuse and excessive living must be an option. Otherwise, it would just be a temporary stoppage from the penalty of the law and sin. Their consequences would be pardoned, only for a short time and then the other sentence drops and we would have to pay for our own sins.
“not that He should offer Himself often, as the high priest enters the Most Holy Place every year with blood of another— 26 He then would have had to suffer often since the foundation of the world; but now, once at the end of the ages, He has appeared to put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself.“ – Hebrews 9:25-26
Just think about it: it’s not really Grace if you don’t get away with it. Its not really Grace if you get what you deserve. That’s the nature of grease, stuff slides off of it. Religious pharisees hate the idea of true Grace. True Grace leaves nothing to brag about (Romans 3:27, Ephesians 2:9), it robs us of any and all control and pride.
“then He[The Holy Spirit] adds, “Their sins and their lawless deeds I will remember no more.” 18 Now where there is remission of these, there is no longer an offering for sin.” – Hebrews 10:17
Often, you see people living in sin with seemingly no repercussions. We all get away with all kinds of sins that no one ever sees or knows about(lying, lusting, coveting…), and rarely suffer any penalty. Sowing seeds of sinful behavior without seemingly reaping any negative results. A lot of the time the waters of grace and law seem muddied. Why isn’t God punishing us when we mess up? Its because Jesus took our punishment on the cross (propitiation).
“And He Himself is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the whole world.” – 1 John 2:2
Pretty “greasy” stuff huh? And though it might seem correct that each should lead to the other, its not true. The law leads us to Grace, but it never can save us. Not that it trains us to make us good enough to receive Grace but the opposite; it shows us our utter need for something else. Although I’ve heard many messages and preaching and demanding holiness and moral perfection through the instruction of law for salvation or to keep your salvation (Learn the law, memorize it, love it, live it.) — The sad result of that teaching is an epic failure. The law merely points out our guilt and shows us as having fallen so far short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23). It shows us our utter hopelessness under God’s holy and perfect standard. The law cannot and will not ever save us nor keep us. It can only show us our complete need for Jesus, and that’s when we are truly humble and ready for Grace. The law does not bring us closer to God, that’s the job of Grace! We are saved by Grace, not a moral code.
Not that the law trains us to make us good enough to receive Grace but the opposite; it shows us our utter need for something else.
I have to say, that the more I understand Grace, the more I actually do love the law. It’s amazing. When I look at the 10 commandments, I see where I fall short, everyday. And everyday have to rely on God’s Grace through faith in Jesus Christ’s Finished Work on the cross in my place. Every time I fall, His Grace and mercy is that much more sufficient, His blood, that much more cleansing. I hate my sin, I wish and I try to live as sinless as possible, not to save myself or to keep myself saved, because that was already accomplished on the cross, but I want to live now only for His glory. I thank God that He became a man born of a virgin, who lived a perfect life, and died on the cross to pay the ultimate price for my sins. He, being sinless and never knowing sin became sin on the cross (in our place) so that you and I could become the righteousness of God by Grace through faith in Him(2 Cor. 5:21). So I hope that when talking of Grace, no one mistakes the free gift for cheap one, free Grace for cheap Grace. Grace is free, but it wasn’t cheap. And because if that Grace, you can live holy and blameless, not by trying to be good enough, but because, by His blood, He made you good enough. You are righteous because of Grace through faith in Jesus Christ! Righteousness doesn’t come through the law, it only ever comes by Grace. Please remember, no amount of “law-keeping” will ever make you or keep you righteous. Its living under Grace that produces righteousness.
“I do not set aside the grace of God; for if righteousness comes through the law, then Christ died in vain.” – Galatians 2:21