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025 Terrible Grace

Welcome to 2017. 

2016 was a difficult year for me because I watched in horror as many leaders in the Evangelical church disqualified themselves from leadership by demonstrating that they had forgotten why the Church exists, and that they utterly misunderstood the grace of God. Leaders who have thus displayed their unfitness for leadership will likely, in due course, recede from leadership. I can't imagine that God will allow such people to continue to mislead His Body--not if He actually cares for the American Church.

And I do think that He cares for the American Church. There remain many faithful among us, and He will certainly come to our aid and restore us. He may even re-educate those who have been teaching the wrong things (he types, grinning wryly).

In an effort to keep my spot on the winning team, I'm going to spend the beginning of 2017 explaining things about God's Kingdom that the Evangelical Church seems to have forgotten. 

I'm going to start with grace, which is, contrary to what we've been taught, a reason for caution. After that, in coming weeks, I will move into a discussion of God's judgment, which is, contrary to what we've been taught, a reason for rejoicing and comfort.

Grace, a reason for caution?

If, instead of listening to the 3,734,282nd repetition of how God let Jesus take the penalty for our sins, you have actually read what the Apostles say in the scriptures about the grace of God, you may already know what I'm about to say. For the rest of us, let's brace ourselves.

Here's what Paul, the Apostle, says in one of his wider explanations of grace:

"For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age, waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works." Titus 2:11-14 ESV

Do you see the clear connection there between grace and godly behavior? How God's goal in providing grace was to produce a godly people--the Church--that is pure, free of all lawlessness, and eager to do good works?

Here's another of Paul's explanations:

"For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them." Eph 2:8-10 ESV

Again, the point of grace is to produce godly works. Paul is not saying "You don't have to do anything," he's saying "You know all those good things that you are doing already? You don't get to take credit for them. They're actually God's works, not yours."

It is true when they tell you that God is not saving you because you have done so many good things. He isn't. If you're like me, you were His enemy and acting wickedly and stupidly, and He rescued you nonetheless. That was very gracious of Him.

But it is equally true that God is saving you in order that you do so many good things. And if you don't do them, it's perfectly acceptable, in the eyes of the Apostles, to infer that you have not received the grace yet--although they do acknowledge that applying this grace is an ongoing process.

The Apostle John becomes painfully clear about this:

"Little children, let no one deceive you. Whoever practices righteousness is righteous, as He (God) is righteous. Whoever makes a practice of sinning is of the devil, for the devil has been sinning from the beginning. The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the works of the devil." I John 3:7-8 ESV

He who does what is righteous, is righteous. Don't be deceived by those who say that they are righteous, but do not do what is righteous. This is simple.

The Apostle Paul says the same:

"For you may be sure of this, that everyone who is sexually immoral or impure, or who is covetous (that is, an idolater), has no inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God. Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience." Eph 5:5-6 ESV

"Let no one deceive you with empty words." They might say that they are redeemed, but if they still practice certain things, their claim of redemption is empty. God's judgment is coming because of wicked behavior, and believers who engage in similarly wicked behavior will receive the same judgment. They have no inheritance in the kingdom of the Messiah. The words are clear.

I know this is frightening. It should be. This is part of what the Church has forgotten--that a certain, holy fear of God is not just wise, it's essential.

But don't give up hope. God is patient, knowing that many of us have been trapped in such conduct for a very long time, and He aids us in getting free from our sins. That's also why His grace is available to us--to continue the process of saving us from our sins until it is complete. "I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ." Phil 1:6 ESV. So let's be patient with ourselves. We are His project.

Only, let's not make the mistake of thinking that because "grace," God is content with us remaining in our sins. We should not get comfortable with our sins, because God is going to cut off the sinners from among His people.

"...the riches of His kindness and forbearance and meant to lead you to repentance..." Romans 2:4 ESV

The point of God's patience is not so that you can slide into heaven with your sins intact. The point is to lead you to give up such sins.

This has not been a pleasant letter to read, I'm sure. It was not pleasant to write, either; I'm no more holy than you. But if we are to become God's Bride and put on our wedding gown of righteous conduct (Rev. 19:7-8), we have to embrace the terrible grace of God, who has called us to be holy as He is holy.

More pleasant things next time (like, God's judgment. Yaaay!!) Meanwhile, let's get cleaned up.

Phil Weingart


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