‘Isn’t it wonderful that we’re now under grace?’ they enthuse.
‘Sure is,’ you say.
And then they explain what they mean by ‘grace’ and you wonder what it is they’ve really found themselves ‘under’.
Here are 10 common misconceptions.
1. Wahey! Isn’t it great that God has lowered the bar? He used to care about loads of stuff. Now it’s just a few things. You know, important stuff. We don’t sweat the small stuff anymore. Just the big stuff. Yay.
2. Hurrah! Now we obey God out of gratitude for what He’s done, which is an entirely new concept. Thank God we’re free from the law, which obviously was only ever about stoic duty and nothing to do with gratitude for past salvation (Ex 20:2). Now that we’ve got gratitude it means all legalism is a thing of the past. So long as we’re grateful. Properly grateful mind you. Grateful enough to empower a whole heap of obedience.
3. Phew – now we don’t have to get hung up about the laws of the land. So don’t you dare ask me to pay my parking ticket – you legalist!
4. Isn’t it great – it’s not about duty-bound works, it’s all about love. Of course the law had nothing to do with love. Nasty law. Now, as long as we stress love we’re avoiding all forms of legalism. Speaking of which – what is your love-meter reading today?
5. Grace is about treading that tight-rope between legalism and licence. It’s getting the balance just right between celebrating our freedom and not indulging it too much. Cos, you know, we’re forgiven, but let’s not go crazy. Let’s live in grace which is the safe middle-ground between moralism and immorality.
6. God used to be fierce and judgemental now He’s chilled and sweet.
7. God used to be about pragmatics, now He’s just into dogmatics. He used to be interested in deeds, now He’s interested in creeds.
8. Legalism is all about obeying the law in my own strength. Grace is about obeying the law in God’s strength. Grace is the fuel for my car. It keeps me going towards the destination. It’s a heck of a long drive but, Praise Jesus, there’s fuel in the tank.
9. Discipleship used to be important but now it’s about grace. Which means… you know. Not really discipleship. More… you know… grace.
10. It used to be about my works. But now it’s about my faith.
No, non, niet, nein!
In the flesh it was about your work. In the Spirit it’s about Christ’s work. That’s the difference. Not so much “works versus faith” as “you versus Christ”. It’s His work. His redemption. His Person in Whom all the promises of God are yes and all the laws of God are fulfilled. He defines the realm of grace. Not abstract qualities like gratitude or lovingness or certain mental states – all of which might be worked up apart from Jesus. Neither is it about God’s own disposition softening in His old age. And neither is it about the absence of certain obligations, from the state or Scripture or conscience or Christ or wherever.
It’s about the kingdom of the Beloved Son in Whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins, and over to which we have been delivered apart from any merit of our own (Colossians 1:13-14). It’s the position we find ourselves in – sealed by the Spirit into Christ, hidden in Him at the Father’s right hand – lavished with mercy and honour and kindness, our old man crucified and put away, His Spirit put within us. A new realm, a new Master, a new Power, a new freedom, a new destiny and we’ve done nothing to deserve it. And it’s all real and it all holds true not by my own workings but by the Almighty Father’s, who raised Jesus from the dead and raised me up with Him.
Grace is not like a new and improved religious programme that’s a bit nicer, a bit less draconian – less duty, more love and groovy vibes. Grace is the blood, sweat and tears of Jesus expended on your behalf while you do nothing but cause His death. It’s the mighty resurrection of Christ in which you are swept up to glory entirely apart from your own efforts and merits. Grace is where you find yourself – in Christ – and you’re in Him not because but in spite of yourself. Now compare with the 10 misconceptions above.
How do we get it so wrong?
Perhaps my favourite verse:
I was crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body I live by faith in the Son of God who loved me and gave Himself for me. (Galatians 2:20)
Which of those 10 misconceptions do you hear most commonly? Any more to add?