Friday, July 08, 2011
Thinking about Grace, cont'd.
Grace has been on my mind a lot lately...
Grace in general, and in particular, the Grace of God as the essence of, the foundation and means of the Christian life.
More specifically, how can I convey the absolute vitality, the centrality of Grace in our lives as Christians. How can I most clearly communicate Grace as the only grounds for our relating to God, the only basis for building relationships with other Christians and the only foundation for relating to those within our own families?
As Jerry Bridges has observed: “We are brought into God's kingdom by grace; we are sanctified by grace; we receive both temporal and spiritual blessings by grace; we are motivated to obedience by grace; we are called to serve by grace and, finally, we are glorified by grace. The entire Christian life is lived under the reign of God's grace.”
This is what keeps running through my mind, percolating in my heart, keeping me awake at night — As I attempt to serve this church, how can I teach and demonstrate, speak and act so that Grace becomes more of an essential paradigm for living for people who have largely only known the opposite: conditional acceptance, assurance and approval; love, forgiveness and mercy that is limited or earned; relationships that are manipulated to produce 'Godly behavior'; in other words, performance-based Christianity, Legalism, and Churchianity.
I am aware that I may be over-sensitive on this topic. Still, it sometimes seems that this church is simply saturated in all that I just listed, that it is thoroughly entrenched in believers minds and hearts. So much so that whatever I say or do in an effort to re-orient the church toward Grace and Faith seems only the tiniest firefly of grace-light in a murky swamp of Legalism and Performance-based Christianity.
...I say “God's unconditional love”, they reply “God is an All-Consuming Fire!” I teach on Assurance in the Promises of God, they reply by preaching on “God's faithfulness to His Threats — Fear God, or else!!” I seek to encourage relationships based on Grace and Freedom in Christ, and they reply with Conditional forgiveness and fellowship ... it's like we're speaking different languages.
Not that this is anything horribly unusual, unheard of, or even peculiar to this small Ukrainian Independent Baptist Church we're in here. It's not, sadly enough to say.
Almost 50 years ago, C.I. Scofield said that "Most of us have been reared and now live under the influence of Galatianism. Protestant theology is for the most part thoroughly Galatianized, in that neither the Law nor Grace is given its distinct and separate place in the counsels of God, but they are mingled together in one incoherent system . The Law is no longer, as in the divine intent, a ministration of death (2 Cor.3:7), of cursing (Gal.3:10), or of conviction (Rom.3:19), because we are taught that we must try to keep it, and that by divine help we may.
Nor does Grace, on the other hand, bring us blessed deliverance from the dominion of sin, for we are kept under the law as a rule of life, despite the plain declaration of Romans 6:14 - «sin shall not have dominion over you: for you are not under the law, but under grace!"
This is a malady that has afflicted the church and detracted from the glory of God's grace in Jesus Christ from its very first days, so I'm not complaining about this church being a special case.
I'm not even complaining. This is where God has us for now, and these are the questions I struggle with.
How can I most glorify Christ? How can I live out Grace in a way that is simple and comprehensible?
How can I convey this, that “Our righteousness is in Him, and our hope depends, not upon the exercise of grace in us, but upon the fullness of Grace and Love in Him, and upon His obedience unto death. (John Newton)