“Unless grace can be misunderstood it’s not grace”

Some old preacher once said: “If you preach grace, and you don’t give people a chance to misunderstand grace and see it as a license to sin, you’re not preaching grace at all“. I agree with this provoking statement. Grace is shocking. Grace is shockingly all inclusive. Philip Yancey’s book What’s So Amazing About Grace is a must read for me each year since I continue to have much more to learn about grace. 

Grace is inexhaustible. Grace makes no sense. Grace is much more than God’s unmerited favor towards me. Grace is God’s power. Power to do everything in my life that he wants to. Grace makes me forgive. Grace makes me love. Grace gives me purpose. Grace carries me. Grace challenges me. Grace is a person, the person of Jesus Christ (John 1:17).

So often Jesus’ disciples chicken out when we talk about grace, and we don’t dare to serve it as shockingly raw and real and mind blowing as it really is. Maybe it’s pastors who don’t dare to teach pure grace from the pulpit, so they mix it with some laws, and some rules to make sure that they do some behavior modification of the flock. The sad truth is that grace mixed with law, even if it’s just a little bit of law isn’t grace. Law brings death. That’s what it was designed for. Grace, on the other hand, is pure. Grace sets free and brings life when we dare to extend it to each other free of charge with no secret price tags or hidden agendas attached. 

Grace saved a wretch like me, but so often I don’t dare to set other people free from my demands and my laws. So often we don’t trust the Holy Spirit that he’ll do his work in others the same way he is doing it in us. So often we think it needs to be the Holy Spirit + something I do/say/write. I fall into this trap from time to time. I am sad about the state of life of many people I know, and I long to see more life in their lives. Those desires are good and God given, and if I get a chance and an opening to speak words of truth and life, I’ll definitely do it, but it’s not my job to save or rescue anybody. And how arrogant it is to assume that the Holy Spirit isn’t strong enough to bring conviction and life without my help….

But really that’s what many pastors and church leaders think subconsciously. “What will happen if I only preach grace and refrain from telling people what they need to do…?”, “Will I get people to work in the different ministries, if I don’t shame them a little bit (a better question may be: does God really want ministries where people work because they feel ashamed if they don’t….?)?”, “Will anybody give money to the church if I don’t force them a little bit and make sure they understand that it’s their responsibility to make God’s work happen?”, “What about missions…..surely I have to inform people that it’s their fault, at least indirectly, that people are starving in Africa, and that millions perish every year without knowing Christ…”

All of these are examples of leaders thinking they need to “help” God, and unfortunately I’ve heard all those messages numerous times from various well meaning, but misguided pastors and leaders. They mean well, but it is still a twisted gospel and often it’s spiritual manipulation where God’s name is taken in vain. The idea is absurd. God doesn’t need anything. And he doesn’t need anybody. He is never depending on me to do anything. It’s never my responsibility alone to do anything in the kingdom of God. God is doing everything. Jesus is fulfilling his own great commission (Matthew 28:18-20) through willing, humbled, and surrendered believers where his life, love, forgiveness and grace can shine freely through. Jesus was once asked: “We want to do God’s work too, what must we do?”, and in stead of giving them a long list of do’s and don’ts Jesus replied with this simple sentence: “THE ONLY WORK GOD WANTS FROM YOU: BELIEVE IN THE ONE HE HAS SENT” (John 6:28-29). Surely….Jesus it can’t be that simple…? But it is. I challenge you to find one Scripture that contradicts this verse. You can’t find it. All Christ wants for us is for us to believe in him. And when we are surrendered to him and trust him, he will live his life through us. We are his broken cups where the living and freedom giving water can flow through. When we get to trust that the New Covenant is a reality, and we have been given new hearts as God promised in Ezekiel 36:26, we want to follow Christ’s leading and obey him and his will for us. 

So take the chance, all God’s children: preach grace freely! Share the freedom that God has given to his children! And trust that the Holy Spirit is strong enough to lead his children in righteous ways. If you truly know, understand and live in God’s grace, you won’t want to live a life of sin. So when we as believers find ourselves living far away from God and we end up in a place of mediocrity and trying to live as much as unbelievers as possible, it points to the fact that the wonder of grace has not caught root in our hearts. It simply points to the fact that we don’t truly know God and we don’t see who we are in him. When you see that you don’t experience life and peace with no hangovers, guilt, or shame, it’s a calling from God. He is calling you back to him and his grace. And his grace is available for all who want it, also for those who have completely misunderstood God’s grace and see it is a license to sin.

All that is gold does not glitter. Not all those who wander are lost” (J. R. R. Tolkien)

Here are a couple of grace songs. First Elvis Presley’s version of the classic Amazing Grace:

and then U2’s beautiful song Grace:

Blessings, Torben

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