18 But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be the glory both now and forever. Amen. 2 Peter 3:18
We have been in a series of study concerning His over the top, too good to be true but true, Radical Grace. Recently we began to dismantle the myths often associated with Radical Grace. True Grace isn't advocating pursuing sin, fashioning a lazy, purposeless way of living or disregarding God's Word.
Over the last couple of posts, we have been addressing the misnomer that there is no more correction or instruction under Grace. Certainly, God is grieved when we miss it or act contrary to our true righteous nature. Scripture makes it blatantly clear that God our Father will correct us if we stray off the righteous path. The key principle for understanding Grace is the how He corrects.
Whenever a minister threatens loss of sonship or salvation in order to alter behavior, know this isn't Godly correction. We have established from Scripture that God corrects us by reminding us who we already are. God's correction leaves us hopeful and restored not dejected and distraught. This leads us to answer yet another myth.
What about obedience and holiness?
We are often accused of dismissing the need for obedience and living holy. Radical Grace has received much criticism and accusations. This is one of the major accusations hurled upon those who ascribe to God's Radical Grace. Are we, in fact, dismissing the need for obedience and upright living?
Get the Root right and the Fruit will be right.
The point of contention stems from a wrong perception of God and salvation. Our detractors have the proverbial cart before the horse. The underlying perception is we must love God, obey God, live right before Him and then He will save you, or bless you or love you.
Many hold to a concept of God that He waits for us to do this or that and then He will respond. The problem with this mindset is, it is rooted in Old Covenant principles. God under the Old commanded the Israelites to do this or that and then He would respond with blessings, deliverance or protection. The Old Covenant was a covenant cut between God and man. The weak link in this covenant was mankind.
Under the New, God cut a covenant with Jesus and we are the benefactors of this New Covenant. This is why our conduct has no bearing on our receiving or not receiving His love and mercy and blessing. Now as I have already established if we step out of our identity and make poor choices we are susceptible to the consequences of those decisions. But, receiving mercy and love and blessing comes because we are sons and not because we are perfect.
Think of this. If we are only blessed because we were good enough then what type of relationship do we have with God? It is not father and son, but rather employee and employer. I don't pray and beg to receive a paycheck after forty hours of work. I earned that pay, it belongs to me. Look at the dynamic of a relating to God as an employer and not Father.
It is not a relationship of Him leading and us following but rather us striving and achieving. This is why under Law and performance there is so much competition among believers and ministries. Local churches won't support a traveling evangelist because he may take some members out of some of their regular services and they wouldn't be able to give. I know of one minister who went to New York years ago. Some of the local pastors protested and boycotted him. This is because they felt threatened and were in competition with each other. I thought the Church was about reaching the World? This is not the gospel, this is performance and legalism at its "finest".
Does Radical Grace then dismiss obedience? Certainly not. The truth is we understand that obedience and holiness are the Fruit not the Root of our relationship with Father God.
5 through whom we have received grace and apostleship to bring about the obedience of faith for the sake of his name among all the nations, Romans 1:5 ESV
Grace produces obedience and upright living. Grace understands and rests in the Finished Work. Jesus was already obedient on our behalf. We have a secure and eternal loving relationship with God because of it. We received the free gift purchased by that Finished Work and through it, we now have a new heart and the mind of Christ.
Paul references obedience in other portions of Scripture;
26 but now made manifest, and by the prophetic Scriptures made known to all nations, according to the commandment of the everlasting God, for obedience to the faith Romans 16:26 NKJV
16 But they have not all obeyed the gospel. For Isaiah says, “Lord, who has believed our report? Romans 10:16 NKJV
Interestingly how Paul mentions obedience to the gospel and to the faith. In John's epistles, he lists the commands under the New Covenant. They are to believe and to walk in love. Paul, by the Spirit, is conveying the same message essentially. Obeying the gospel and faith also means to add nothing to our salvation.
Our salvation is by grace alone through faith alone. When we add to it with stipulations like doing this more or abstaining from that, we are adding to our salvation. Salvation is simply placing our trust and all hope in Jesus alone and what He did on our behalf. Is obedience then defined as following the tenants and dictates of a denomination or a minister?
Certainly not, obedience is complying with and following the leading of the Lord. In essence, obedience is really just simple trust in a loving Father. Oh if I had known this years ago! In my mind, based upon the teachings I had sat under, I saw God as the harsh taskmaster and obedience as a servant and master relationship. God wasn't a loving Father. He was a stern and austere master who always kept score when I blew it or didn't perform just perfect enough.
God is a good, good Father. This image of God and this concept of obedience needs to be eradicated out of the minds of His Children. Obedience or rather, simply trusting in His love will produce the right fruit. Certainly, there are rewards for following His leading and living from our new creation. We aren't earning or achieving anything, we are following His leading and guidance to a place of abundance and rest that is available to all His kids. There is no preferential treatment, therefore there is no need for competition.
Trusting in Him brings about great rewards. It leads us away from temptations and out of the realm of poor choices. It leads us to a place of rest and peace. Does Radical Grace discount obedience? No, we properly define it and strip away the wrong concept so many have clung onto in the past. Grace brings freedom and a more fruitful relating to God. We have the right root (the Finished Work) and thus the right fruit is produced.