Tug of war anyone?
Last week I listed some sins recently made public of various pastors and ministers mentioned in a Charisma magazine email, and said they fit the explanation offered by Jude 4, which says “men…changed the grace of God into a license for immorality (sin).”
There is an undercurrent of tension going on in the body of Christ about ‘the grace teaching’. I’ve been asked many times recently ”What do you think about the grace teaching?” like I used to be asked about “What do you think about ‘name it claim it’ or ‘apostles & prophets’ or ‘personal prophecy’ teaching? Much of the ‘grace teaching’ in it’s current form is just such a license for sin, a freedom from accountability and responsibility.
One person wrote and told me they didn’t understand how if their sins are forgiven, their actions should matter at all. A couple people have recently mentioned this same thought within the frame work that I John 1:9 isn’t for us today, for to confess our sin would be doing Jesus’ work on the cross an injustice as our sins are already forgiven.
Legal versus living
Remember that Christ lives in us, not in buildings, and the whole of the New Testament is written from this perspective. This places responsibility for living for God with us, not with Him, nor with any priesthood or individual pastors, ministers, ministries, or Christian friends. Christ lives in us, and we shall all stand 1 to 1 before Jesus to give account for our lives. We won’t be able to be like comedian Flip Wilson’s character, Geraldine, who never accepted responsibility for her actions, but said ‘The devil made me do it!’.
I know we’ve heard that grace is ‘unmerited favor’, and some have used tools defining grace as “God’s Riches At Christ’s Expense, which are true in terms of the legal battle won on the cross.
But there is more to grace than the cross, for Jesus didn’t stop there. Jesus rose from the dead having been empowered to do so by the same grace that crucified Him.
Therefore for us to stop at the cross and say ‘my sins are forgiven (so I can do whatever I want)’ is only living in partial grace. Jesus showed Himself alive for 40 days proving He had beaten the enemy, so grace is also empowerment for us to do the same – forgiven by grace, yes, empowered by grace to live, yes!
Grace legally bought our salvation, and grace practically speaking, allows us to live empowered lives.
The difference between the legal and the practical can be seen in that you reading this, are a citizen of your country. That’s legal grace – you were born where you were born, or have become a naturalized citizen – that’s legal. But the practical application of that legal grace is that you now have the responsibility to become a productive citizen of your country: voting, obeying the laws, charitable work, giving back to your nation and community and so forth.
That legal truth, that grace, empowers you to explore that grace with tremendous freedom within the confines of that grace. I am a citizen of the USA and walk in that truth and grace by voting, obeying the laws, giving back to people of all walks of life. As a citizen I can travel freely, buy and sell, and pursue life, liberty, and happiness.
There is tremendous freedom within the grace I’ve been given. But if I tried to vote in Canada or the Netherlands or Zambia, I’d be outside my legally provided grace. I’d be in presumption – the grace given me doesn’t extend to other countries, yet people born in those other countries have a grace for being citizens there.
I’m happily married and have been for over 32 years. That’s legal grace. Once ‘within’ that grace, I am empowered with my wife with all sorts of freedoms, including children and now (ahem), 5 granddaughters. There is tremendous freedom the legal grace of marriage provides on a practical level.
Strong in grace
So when Paul told Timothy in II Timothy 2:1 “…be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus”, he wasn’t saying to be strong in unmerited favor, the legal status, he was telling him to be strong in the practical application of grace – to be strong in the empowerment that flows from your legal status as a child of the King.
The amazing thing is that Jesus not only died on the cross, but according to Hebrews 9:16-17, His death put His “last will and testament” into force, but then He rose from the dead to become Executor of His own estate. That means grace is alive, a living thing, for He is alive.
That is why we can be empowered as Paul told Timothy in the grace found in Christ Jesus – Jesus is alive, therefore that grace is alive!
Attributes of Living grace
Titus 2:11-12 says: “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 this present world.”
Grace teaches. This ‘grace alive!’ teaches us to deny ungodliness and lusts, and teaches us how to live for God in this present world.
The Greek word “soberly” above is ‘sophronos’, which means ‘self-controlled mind’, or as Vine’s Dictionary of NT Words says: “..the exercise of that self-restraint that governs all passions and desires, enabling the believer to be conformed to the mind of Christ.” (Soberminded, C, Adverb)
The Greek word ‘righteously’ is ‘dikaios’ and means ‘just’: A life without prejudice or partiality. Grace teaches us that we are empowered to live in self-control and empowered to live a life in rightness, without partiality or prejudice, in godliness.
The misuse of grace is like…
A parent giving their teenager some money and car keys to go to the store for some groceries, which involves a driver’s licence, the legal grace, and the empowerment to use that legal grace to drive to the store to buy food. But if that child uses the car to pick up some friends and then take them out to eat with that money instead of going to the store - that is turning the grace of their parent into a license for sin.
A company gives an employee an expense account to entertain clients, which is the legal grace that empowers them, but they in turn take friends to a restaurant and put it on the expense account lying about the purpose of the meal – that’s turning the grace of the company into a license for sin.
God providing salvation, adopting a person through Christ Jesus, making them a child of God, which is the legal grace. But they go out and sin all their flesh’s desire knowing they are still a child of the King – that’s turning the grace of God into a license for sin.
Teaching that grace is unmerited favor is only 1 small perspective on grace. To teach that perspective without teaching that grace is also empowerment, and what that empowerment is for, leads to blurring the lines about what is God and what is sin.
Purpose and grace cannot be separated
II Timothy 1:9 is one of my favorite verses: “Who has saved us (legal grace) and called us with a holy calling (empowerment grace), not according to our own works, but according to his own purpose and grace, which was given us in Christ Jesus before the world began (literally, ‘before times eternal’).
Notice we have been provided salvation and holy call ‘according to his purpose and grace’. Grace ALWAYS has a purpose. The grace of salvation is not the end game. He didn’t just save us and that’s that. There is a divine purpose, His purpose imbedded within that grace.
Grace cannot be separated from purpose. Everywhere in scripture you see grace, you see God has a plan for that grace which also empowers that person (Think Noah receiving grace, the empowerment was the building of the ark, etc)
If you are saved, then you have purpose, for you cannot separate grace from divine purpose. There IS a divine purpose to your life, and that’s the subject next week…
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