Tuesday, November 15, 2022

Grace, Foolishness, or Legalism: What's so Amazing about Grace?

 For if because of one man’s trespass (lapse, offense) death reigned through that one, much more surely will those who receive [God’s] overflowing grace (unmerited favor) and the free gift of righteousness [putting them into right standing with Himself] reign as kings in life through the one Man Jesus Christ (the Messiah, the Anointed One) Romans 5:17 AMPC

For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ...2 Corinthians 8:9a MEV

 We've begun a new series examining the practical Christian life lived under Grace. The practical Christian life is expressed in our thinking, our believing, our words, and our daily actions. We've established there are three basic ways of living in light of Grace; abiding under true Grace, abiding under Grace mixed with legalism, or abiding with a foolish understanding of Grace. 

 Let's look at what's so amazing about Grace. Words cannot always contain and express the wonder of His Grace when received in our hearts. We who once served our Lord Jesus in rigorous toil, hoping we'd be good enough to be accepted and approved on a daily basis, can now rest in His completed work on our behalf. 

 When we receive the free gift of eternal life in Christ, that is a time of rejoicing. Yet afterward, some believers struggle with the shame and pain of their past. Still, others, find themselves struggling with bad habits and attitudes that aren't of Love, and often find themselves laboring under condemnation.  

 Grace is so amazing because He stoops down right where we are and lifts us up to Himself. He doesn't wag His finger at us. His arms aren't crossed in displeasing disappointment. Instead, His arms are open wide receiving and accepting us and approving us to the Father. Not because of any good we've done but because of His Goodness and great Grace.

 Legalism sees Grace as momentarily amazing. This lost sinner with no hope of pardon for his many sins finds help and hope in a loving Holy God. He saves them gloriously. What a time of rejoicing. Then the party concludes and now it is time to get busy earning your place in the Father's house.

 Legalism diminishes Grace in favor of our performance, our achievements, and our disciplines exercised perfectly. Grace got us in but it's our actions and behavior that keep us in. Legalism seeks acceptance and approval on what we do and not on what He did alone.

 Legalism is like getting an invitation to a billionaire king's festive at-home reception. Once you have your invitation and enter the palace, you make merry momentarily that you are there but then you quickly begin straightening up the furniture, go help clean the dishes, prepare hor d'oeuvres, and sweep and mop the floors. After all, you're not a celebrity, you were a nobody before the invite, you best earn your place. Before Christ, we were lost and separated by sin, but His Grace remade us new and now we are accepted and approved all because of Jesus.

 Foolishness states no one was ever lost. No human was ever separated or apart from God because of their sinful condition. Some go so far as to say there never was any sinful condition. We were only separated in our thinking. The enemy lied to us telling us we were lost but in reality, we never were. If this is so why the need for the Cross? If this is true, Jesus' suffering, the stripes He took, and the death He died were a colossal waste of time. 

 The fallacy of the foolish-minded is that they believe they are proclaiming Grace but in reality, they are diminishing the impact of His Love, mercy, and Grace. If no one was an enemy of God, no one was lost, no one was born with a fallen nature, and no one was dead in their trespass and sins, then what is so amazing about Grace? 

 It is of no real consequence to show kindness, mercy, grace, and compassion to a good and decent person. How hard is it to forgive your spouse, your children, and your good friend if they make a minimal mistake? Even a stranger in public who mistakenly bumps into us, we are quick to pardon them and assure them it's ok, we know it was a mistake. 

 If God looks at men the same way, then the foolish's theory and theology unwittingly reveal God's Grace is not that amazing. I can hold no grudge against a friend or loved one. I myself can be merciful to someone who hasn't really wronged me. I myself can show Grace to someone who is a good person. It's clear if you ponder and consider that if one isn't really bad then it's not so amazing, so worthy of awe, so deserving of accolades to simply be kind to them. 

 The foolish relies heavily on human rationale, reasoning, and ratiocination. It draws conclusions, not from the Word of God, not from the Gospel proclaimed by Paul, but from emotional and intellectual reasoning. Allow me to illustrate.

 The Gospel says God is always Good. He is Love and merciful and His Grace is amazing. The foolish then rationalize and reason, God is Good, so He was always Good. Therefore no human was ever born lost or with a sinful nature. God is Love so therefore God could never have any anger or judgment whatsoever. God's Grace is amazing, so everyone must be saved, no one was ever lost either because Grace would never allow that to happen. The enemy must have lied to people to convince them they were. 

 None of these ideas or notions has any confirmation in Scripture. Because of this, the foolish rationalize the passages that proclaim the contrary aren't really true. Those words recorded were by men who didn't have an understanding of God and therefore we can reject them. 

 I trust you can see how the foolish misunderstand Grace and prop up mistaken ideas that are not confirmed with the authority of Scripture. Let's not diminish and dilute Grace by thinking we are preaching Grace by saying no one was lost or born in sin, or an enemy of God in our thinking and actions. 

This includes you who were once far away from God. You were his enemies, separated from him by your evil thoughts and actions. Colossians 1:21 NLT

 We don't make Grace great by diminishing its impact on humanity. By proclaiming no one was ever separated in sin, or in need of a Savior we dilute and decrease the amazing Grace of our Savior. Grace is a free gift offered to all. It reveals our impossibly lost condition and offers a hopeful, freeing, and joyful way out. Grace says your sins may be many, your condition may be spiritual death, but I have a new life, the God kind of Life, that is freely yours if you simply accept and receive it. 

 Allow me to illustrate even further how Grace and legalism and foolishness can be seen using a real-life figure in history. Adolf Hitler, the German Chancellor, systematically brought about genocide, great suffering, and war across Europe during his reign until his death. Now imagine if Hitler had been captured alive and placed before a tribunal judge who had the power to imprison and execute Hitler or simply pardon him. 

 Imagine if you will while Hitler stood before this judge, suddenly a Jewish man entered the court and ask to appear on Hitler's behalf. Imagine if this Jewish man said though this man's sin is heinous, horrendous, and has brought about unspeakable horror, I'd like to take his place. I will take his punishment of death upon myself, he need simply to accept it. The innocent would freely take the place of the guilty. This is true Grace.

 Legalism would look like this, I will take his place either in a prison cell, or an execution chamber, but first I want him to earn this favor. If he promises to not make any more mistakes, not hate anymore, not try to conquer neighboring lands then and only then will I take his place. If he fails more than once, then impose the sentence of death upon him again. 

 Foolishness would look like this, Hitler guilty? What's wrong with you judge? No one can really be that bad. Hitler wasn't really that terrible a person. Surely, we've all made mistakes in life, there is no difference, and all mistakes are the same. I don't think any good judge would hold anyone accountable for their deeds. Any good judge would pardon everyone no matter what. In fact, if you find him guilty, he will be pardoned soon after, for all are pardoned...

 In summation, let's abide under true Grace and relinquish the bonds of legalism and the error of the foolish. Let's continue under Grace. Let's live life loved by our Great Shepherd Jesus Christ.  


Image by Pete Linforth from Pixabay

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