Tuesday, April 3, 2018

Good News vs fake news: Redefining Grace, repentance, and what it means to be saved.

15 Now let me remind you, brothers, of what the Gospel really is, for it has not changed—it is the same Good News I preached to you before. You welcomed it then and still do now, for your faith is squarely built upon this wonderful message; 1 Corinthians 15:1 TLB

13 making the word of God of no effect through your tradition which you have handed down. And many such things you do. Mark 7:13 NKJV

 Greetings in the matchless name of Jesus Christ. We've been in an extended study as of late distinguishing between the absolute Good News of Jesus Christ and the absolutely, terrible, fake news of religious tradition. As we've established, people aren't our enemy. God isn't mad at anyone. His unconditional love and goodness are for the religious opposers of Grace as well as you and me.

 I really must reiterate that last point again. This week I caught a video of a well-known minister sharing his views of how much the Church is missing it in conveying the Gospel. Unfortunately, his message was a different gospel and not the Gospel of the Grace of Jesus Christ.

 His view was that we need much more emphasis on repentance.  He charged that we were simply pushing "easy believism." His printed articles on the subject pushed the need for people to submit to the Lordship of Christ. In essence, he was simply pushing Lordship Salvation just using catchy phrases to masquerade it. 

What is Lordship Salvation and why should I care?

 I've mentioned this insidious false gospel in times past but perhaps I need to finally address it fully. Lordship Salvation is the counterfeit to the Gospel of Grace. Allow me to sum up this effort rooted message.

 In a nutshell, Lordship Salvation declares simply trusting in Christ alone as Savior is insufficient to receiving salvation. In other words, faith alone in Jesus as Savior isn't all that is required, there are other stipulations and prerequisites to receiving eternal life.

 Under the Lordship banner, one must not only trust in Christ alone. You must also meet one or more of these conditions: turn from all your sins, be willing to turn from all your sins, commit your life to Christ, obedience, and persevering in the faith. 

 As for assurance of your salvation and security in Christ, you can't find them in the Scriptural promises alone. You must also seek assurance in your performance and your daily devotion and commitment to the Christian life. Sin weakens assurance. If you're in sin your assurance is uncertain and your security in Christ is resting on the shaky ground of human sinfulness and unsteadiness. 

 Scriptural principles like Lordship, repentance, and even Grace carry different definitions than how the Scriptures define them. Repentance now means to cease from all sins and turn from them. If you are struggling with sin you've not sincerely repented. Lordship means you are wholly committed to Christ in all areas of life and obedient to Him in all ways. If any area of your life isn't perfectly submitted, then you haven't sincerely made Jesus Lord, and if He isn't Lord of all, He won't be Lord at all. Grace is redefined to simply an empowerment to follow God's many commands.

 So what must we do to be saved? That question is the most important we can ask. Paul the Apostle of Grace was asked this question. 
30 And he brought them out and said, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?”31 So they said, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved, you and your household.” Acts 16:30-31 NKJV
 Take note, Paul didn't say, "now brother, you need to repent of each and every sin. You must commit to changing your life right now. You must make Jesus the supreme ruler of all your life right now. Are you willing to stop each and every one of your sins, drop all your bad habits, lay aside all weights right this moment? If not you won't be saved!" 

 Paul gave the Jailer the Gospel of Grace. He understood salvation was us placing our trust in Christ and simply receiving a free gift. Why do so many miss this simple truth? I believe it's because people have a theology of "sight seeing" and not faith believing. They see the faults and failures of many Christians so they desire to frontload the Gospel with restrictions and requirements. 

 This faulty theology gives place to false definitions to Biblical truths. It starts with the redefinition of Grace. Grace becomes a simple empowerment. When we see Grace as only an empowerment we are subtly reinforcing a works and performance mentality. This redefining of Grace gives way for Law-keeping, self-efforts, and the keeping of man-made traditions. It doesn't do away with performance and ritualistic Christianity but rather reinforces it.

 Some have actually read the four Gospels and created a concept that under Grace God's commandments are stricter than Law. They say things like under Law adultery was a sin, but under Grace even looking at a woman is adultery. See how "harder" the commandments are under Grace? Grace demands much more of you, tradition says. Don't fret they say, Grace empowers you to fulfill these harder commands. 

 This is the danger of redefining Biblical truth in favor of tradition. Grace is turned into a works program. Repentance becomes a tool to strip away assurance. Christ's Lordship is twisted into a weaponized form of condemnation used to measure your Christian success. 

 Some may say brother what about Peter's words in Acts 2? He told the people to repent and submit. Did He? Reading it in context what did he say? To answer, we must think of the audience being addressed. These were those of the Jewish sect who were given Law and not Grace. In the literal Greek, this passage is so beautiful. Peter tells these Jews to change your mind about Christ, accept His free gift, get baptized and receive the baptism in the Spirit. 

 Peter wasn't giving some stipulations or requirements to receive a free gift. Some would also argue that Paul in Romans 10 laid out the Lordship position. Again in context, how is Paul laying out rules and prerequisites to receiving a free gift? Oh because he stated confess the Lord Jesus? Some translations say confess Jesus as Lord. I think the NKJV said it perfectly and clearly explains what Paul was conveying.

 When we come to Christ, we are acknowledging He is the Lord. We can't make Him Lord by our confession or promises to obey. He is already Lord. Jesus is Lord of Heaven and Earth! What are we acknowledging? That He is the Lord, that salvation and new life is only found in Him. This is not about a commitment to do better and live perfectly.

Right believing produces right fruit

 Right believing equals right thinking which produces the right fruit. Defining Biblical principles and the Gospel correctly produces right believing. This, in turn, will produce the truth in our hearts that will produce real fruit.

 Grace is not simply empowerment. Grace is the unearned, undeserved, unmerited favor of Almighty God. When received fully it will produce an empowerment. Repentance is the change of mind. We change our thinking for His thinking. We accept what He says about us and our circumstance and our position in Him regardless of our present behavior. Lordship is acknowledging the truth of who Jesus already is. 

 When we receive the free gift, His love is shed abroad in our heart. This fruit is what transforms our lives from the inside out if we let it. So is Lordship a requirement for eternal life? No, but it is of great benefit in doing things God's way because He is so much wiser and has more insight than we ever could on our own, and because He loves us and always has what's best for us in His plans and purposes.

 What if one receives this free gift and goes back to doing things their way? What if they aren't submitting to God's ways? They are just a wayward sheep whom God loves dearly, but sadly, they will experience a harder life. They will reap the consequences of poor choices but this doesn't alter their eternal address. God in His love will send correction to get their attention. Not in the form of sickness, disease or tragedy though. He's a good Father.

 In summation, receive the Good News and be aware of the subtle fake news of tradition. When someone is adding stipulations and prerequisites to the Gospel stay clear of those works rooted messages, they only produce bondage and burn out. Receiving salvation is receiving a free gift of Grace. It isn't something we have to bargain God for with promises of endurance and commitments to behavioral improvements. 
Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net


Anonymous said...

Yes, everything you say is what God has been teaching me by His Spirit. He has shown me that only by believing how much He loves me and letting Him love me is how this relationship is suppose to work. Everything else that flows from our relationship is a byproduct.

John W Reed said...

Amen! You used the key word, “relationship”. Grace revealed He purchased a new and living way to come to God. That redemption made it possible to be totally cleansed and stand holy before God and to enter relationship with God as Father by simple faith.