Cheap Grace – Part Three

(The lifestyle advocated in this post should not be understood as an effort to earn grace, but as a result of already having obtained grace. This lifestyle is not the cause of grace, but the consequence of grace, and cannot be lived without having obtained the grace to do it.)

A slow contemplative reading of the following will open your eyes to what true grace really is. It is tough! As you read, pause after each quote and ask yourself what it means to you, and how you should apply it. No cheap grace is offered here. Dietrich Bonhoeffer who stated them lived them out to the end in a Nazi death camp. In doing so he attracted his detractors to Jesus. The same result is gained today by those who know no cheap grace.

“[Jesus] stands between us and God, and for that very reason he stands between us and all other men and things. He is the Mediator, not only between God and man, but between man and man, between man and reality. Since the whole world was created through him and unto him (John 1:3; 1st Cor. 8:6; Heb. 1:2), he is the sole Mediator in the world…”

“To be called to a life of extraordinary quality, to live up to it, and yet to be unconscious of it is indeed a narrow way. To confess and testify to the truth as it is in Jesus, and at the same time to love the enemies of that truth, his enemies and ours, and to love them with the infinite love of Jesus Christ, is indeed a narrow way. To believe the promise of Jesus that his followers shall possess the earth, and at the same time to face our enemies unarmed and defenseless, preferring to incur injustice rather than to do wrong ourselves, is indeed a narrow way. To see the weakness and wrong in others, and at the same time refrain from judging them; to deliver the gospel message without casting pearls before swine, is indeed a narrow way. The way is unutterably hard, and at every moment we are in danger of straying from it. If we regard this way as one we follow in obedience to an external command, if we are afraid of ourselves all the time, it is indeed an impossible way. But if we behold Jesus Christ going on before step by step, we shall not go astray.”

“The Christian must treat his enemy as a brother, and requite his hostility with love. His behavior must be determined not by the way others treat him, but by the treatment he himself receives from Jesus; it has only one source, and that is the will of Jesus.”

“True prayer is done in secret, but this does not rule out the fellowship of prayer altogether, however clearly we may be aware of its dangers. In the last resort it is immaterial whether we pray in the open street or in the secrecy of our chambers, whether briefly or lengthily, in the Litany of the Church, or with the sigh of one who knows not what he should pray for. True prayer does not depend either on the individual or the whole body of the faithful, but solely upon the knowledge that our Heavenly Father knows our needs.”

“Only he who believes is obedient, and only he who is obedient believes.”

“‘If any man would come after me, let him deny himself.’ The disciple must say to himself the same words Peter said of Christ when he denied him: ‘I know not this man.’ Self-denial is never just a series of isolated acts of mortification or asceticism. It is not suicide, for there is an element of self-will even in that. To deny oneself is to be aware only of Christ and no more of self, to see only him who goes before and no more the road which is too hard for us. Once more, all that self denial can say is: ‘He leads the way, keep close to him.’”

“The child asks of the Father whom he knows. Thus, the essence of Christian prayer is not general adoration, but definite, concrete petition. The right way to approach God is to stretch out our hands and ask of One who we know has the heart of a Father.”

And now the application. These quotes demand we abandon cheap grace, grace without accountability,  and apply true grace in all of life.

Happiness: The By-Product of a Job Well Done 9/24/03

John 17: 1 – 19

JESUS CHRIST gathered with His disciples in Gethsemane for His last teaching session. The garden was near by the temple area. Here, Christ prayed the high priestly prayer just before His personal sacrifice was to be made.

The N.T. records 13 specific instances of Jesus praying. (John records three: 11:41, 42; 12:27, 28; 17).

He prayed a prayer of CONFIRMATION (11:41, 42) requesting the resurrection of Lazarus. The purpose was stated “that they might believe.”

He prayed a prayer of COMPLIANCE (12:27, 28) first in agony requesting that the “cup” be removed from Him. He knew the pending pain of desertion, betrayal, and crucifixion and in His flesh was repelled by it. In the spirit He prayed a prayer of submission, “Father, glorify Your name.”

He prayed a prayer of CONSECRATION (17) asking the Father to sanctify you. Jesus Christ prayed for YOU.

When you pray, pray to God. Most persons are more preoccupied with what they are praying for rather than the one to whom they are praying.

When Ethelred the Saxon King of NORTHUMBERLAND invaded Wales in 1010 A.D. he saw a group of pious persons kneeling in prayer. He asked who they were and what they were doing. When informed that they were harmless Christians praying for their land, he ordered them executed exclaiming: “They are my most powerful foes.”

His supreme delight was the Father’s glory. Jesus glorified the Father by doing the work He sent Him to do, John 1:14. We are to glorify Him in the same way. “As my Father hath sent me…” (Vs. 18). To God, glory means character. To man, it means prominence, prestige, preeminence and praise.

Jesus glorified the Father by revealing His character. We glorify Jesus when we show by our conduct and conversation His character.

Jesus was a living embodiment of Colossians 3:32.

Jesus now wants the Father to glorify Him as He was before creation in order that His glory might be manifested through us.

His character was even more misunderstood.
Christ revealed His true character.

Jesus said, “I am glorified in them” (Vs. 10).

Believers are given to Christ by the Father.
Believers give Christ glory by serving the Father.

1. Joy (Vs. 13). Jesus prayed, “…that they might have My joy fulfilled in them.” His joy was not the result of a perfect world full of embracing and caring friends. It was shown in the midst of a bunch of dull, groveling, critical, blood thirsty brutes.

Scripture says “The joy of the Lord is your strength.” If so, how strong are you? Does His joy show through you? Joy is a magnet that draws people to the likeness of Christ in you.

In a heavy rain recently I realized I was hearing something. It was a bird singing. Amid that storm he was still singing. The storm didn’t disrupt what was happening in his little bird heart. Some Christians manifesting little or no joy give excuses. They say, “I know we are suppose to have joy, BUT you just don’t understand….” I don’t have to understand. Get that conjunction out of your system. You have to understand joy is within you and often a counterpoint to conditions around you. If it is shown amid adversity it is as distinctive as that bird singing in the rain.

Take a bottle half full of water and shake it up. There is turmoil in it. Shake a full bottle and there is no turmoil. The reason one is tranquil is because it is full and no outside motion influences what is inside. When your life is spirit filled there is joy.

2. A warning (Vs. 14). If you are a follower of Christ you are an alien in this world. Jesus was hated by secular minded people. Note how you are described as being “not of this world.” To bear His name marks you as an alien in this world. This can provoke trouble for you in a spiritually hostile world.

1. For unity, “that they may be one as We are” (Vs. 11).

Church members need to realize their attitudes and actions either contribute to or take away from a united congregation. Jesus depicts us as fulfilling His joy by a display of unity.

Jesus did not pray for us to have units, but to be a unit. Where there are clicks, where there is competition, exclusiveness, division, and disunity the prayer of Christ is frustrated.

The unity spoken of by Christ comes from our Holy Father. For there to be unity there has to be one point of unity. If every believer is fine turned to the Father they are of one mind, His mind.

There is strength in unity. The weakest most attenuate thread, when woven with others of like capacity makes a strong cord.

A single drop of water alone is a weak and powerless thing. But an infinite number of drops united by the force of attraction will form a stream, and many stream combine to form a river and together they flow into the ocean whose pounding waves defy the power of man.

Divide the mighty torrents that flow over Niagra Falls and it is but a gentle falling rain. United they could quench the fires of a hundred volcanos like Vesuvius.

The church divided is an insipid unproductive assembly of individuals. Combined it is a mighty force for our Lord.

2. Christ wants His followers to be commitment to Truth. He said, “I have given them the words which you have given Me” (Vs. 8). We are stewards of His word.

Most of our problems result from us basing our choices on unreliable authorities, such as:
Culture: “Everybody’s doing it.”
Tradition: “We’ve always done it that way.”
Reason: “It seems logical.”
Emotion: “It just feels right.”

All these have one common flaw. They come from us and not the Lord.

3. Christ prayed for our protection, “…that you should keep them from the evil one” (Vs. 15). Thank you Jesus! The Lord God Himself is the sentinel to stand guard over your life. Within His will is peace and success. He has a perfect will that we should seek. Often disobedience results in His permissive will coming into play. He often permissively permits us to enact our will.

We should pray, “Dear God, we want none of your permissive will. We want only your perfect will.”

Jesus prayed, “Sanctify them by Your truth. Your word is truth.” (Vs. 17).

Sanctify, HAGIAZEIN, came from the adjective HAGIOS, which means separated – dedicated. A thing or person that is hagios is different from the ordinary.

To sanctify does not mean to get rid of sin and become sinlessly perfect. If it did, Christ would not have sanctified Himself (vs. 19), because He had no sin. It means set aside for a specific use. Every believer is.

In regeneration, God sees the believer in Christ.

In sanctification, the world sees Christ in the believer.

The believer is to be doubly sanctified:
“In the truth” as they are set aside from the world.

“For the truth” as they go into the world with the truth.

We believers are to: He deserted His eternal character in order to enable us to have His earthly character.

Jesus showed character that glorified the Father by:
1. CULMINATING HIS WORK – “The hour is come…”

2. COMPLETING HIS WORK – “I have finished…”

3. CERTIFYING HIS WORK – “That they might know thee…” Not just have knowledge of Him, but KNOW him – experience intimacy with the Father.

4. CONFIRMING HIS WORK – The individual’s enjoyment of eternal life is a living confirmation of His work. Eternal life is a term that speaks of more than duration. It refers principally of quality of life. It is the life of God’s believers experience here and now, such as, joy, peace and quality of life which are characteristic of the Father.

Jesus arrived with the supernatural nature and acquired the natural through physical birth.

We arrive with the natural nature and acquire the supernatural through spiritual re-birth.

When God clothed Himself in human form, He enabled us to see His glory (character).

His prayer for His disciples involves submission and is based on obedience. He prayed for His own. Who were they? They were sleepy-headed, doubting, quizzical persons. Jesus showed He had faith in God and in people.

Vs. 6 – “I have shown… (manifested “thy name…”). He was not referring to what the Father is called, but what He is like. “If my people…called by my name…” His nature. Jehovah’s name was unknown and/or unspoken.

Cheap Grace – Part Two

(The lifestyle advocated in this post should not be understood as an effort to earn grace, but as a result of having already obtained grace. This lifestyle is not the cause of grace, but the consequence of grace, and cannot be lived without having obtained the grace to do it.)

As you read the following, remember they were written by a man who lived them so sincerely that the guards who brutalized him in a Nazi death camp came to love and admire Him so they offered to let him escape. He refused saying their lives and those of their families would be taken. After reading each quote pause and contemplate what you have just read and ask yourself what application you should make. The quotes do not propose “Cheap grace, grace without responsibility.

“Judging others makes us blind, whereas love is illuminating. By judging others we blind ourselves to our own evil and to the grace which others are just as entitled to as we are.”

“When all is said and done, the life of faith is nothing if not an unending struggle of the spirit with every available weapon against the flesh.”

Costly grace is the treasure hidden in the field; for the sake of it a man will go and sell all that he has. It is the pearl of great price to buy which the merchant will sell all his goods. It is the kingly rule of Christ, for whose sake a man will pluck out the eye which causes him to stumble; it is the call of Jesus Christ at which the disciple leaves his nets and follows him.

“Earthly goods are given to be used, not to be collected. In the wilderness God gave Israel the manna every day, and they had no need to worry about food and drink. Indeed, if they kept any of the manna over until the next day, it went bad. In the same way, the disciple must receive his portion from God every day. If he stores it up as a permanent possession, he spoils not only the gift, but himself as well, for he sets his heart on accumulated wealth, and makes it a barrier between himself and God. Where our treasure is, there is our trust, our security, our consolation and our God. Hoarding is idolatry.”

“The will of God, to which the law gives expression, is that men should defeat their enemies by loving them.”

“Fruit is always the miraculous, the created; it is never the result of willing, but always a growth. The fruit of the Spirit is a gift of God, and only He can produce it. They who bear it know as little about it as the tree knows of its fruit. They know only the power of Him on whom their life depends”

“The messengers of Jesus will be hated to the end of time. They will be blamed for all the division which rend cities and homes. Jesus and his disciples will be condemned on all sides for undermining family life, and for leading the nation astray; they will be called crazy fanatics and disturbers of the peace. The disciples will be sorely tempted to desert their Lord. But the end is also near, and they must hold on and persevere until it comes. Only he will be blessed who remains loyal to Jesus and his word until the end.”

You have just read quotes demanding a behavior uncommon in our culture.  How nearly are you willing to subscribe to the standards they set? They do not offer cheap grace.

Cheap Grace – Part One

“But may the God of all grace, who called us to His eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after you have suffered a while, perfect, establish, strengthen, and settle you.”  I Peter 5:10

“Seeing the world through rose colored glasses” is an idiom that has been around since the 1700s, meaning to see only the pleasant things about a situation and not notice the things that are unpleasant. It is often used in the sense of being hopeful or optimistic.

A better outlook, a more realistic one, is to see life through the eyes of Jesus. How does Jesus look at a matter?

Dietrich Bonhoeffer was a German theologian best known for being imprisoned in a Nazi concentration camp. He was there because he practices what he preached: “Silence in the face of evil is itself evil: God will not hold us guiltless. Not to speak is to speak. Not to act is to act.”

He so practiced his faith in the face of hostility that the guards who brutalized him eventually came to respect him and offered to let him escape. He refused saying they, the guards, and their families would be executed. He died in the prison days before he would have been liberated. An understanding of his concept of grace will help us to understand grace and how we should live among our enemies. In turn it exposes the cheap grace being preached in most churches and practiced by many Christians. Of it he said: 

“Cheap grace is the grace we bestow on ourselves. Cheap grace is the preaching of forgiveness without requiring repentance, baptism without church discipline, Communion without confession…Cheap grace is grace without discipleship, grace without the cross, grace without Jesus Christ, living and incarnate.” By way of contrast he insisted: 

“Costly grace is the gospel which must be sought again and again, the gift which must be asked for, the door at which a man must knock.

Such grace is costly because it calls us to follow, and it is grace because it calls us to follow Jesus Christ. It is costly because it costs a man his life, and it is grace because it gives a man the only true life. It is costly because it condemns sin, and grace because it justifies the sinner. Above all, it is costly because it cost God the life of his Son: “ye were bought at a price,” and what has cost God much cannot be cheap for us. Above all, it is grace because God did not reckon his Son too dear a price to pay for our life, but delivered him up for us. Costly grace is the Incarnation of God.”

He offered this sobering succinct wisdom: “If you board the wrong train, it is no use running along the corridor in the other direction.”

Do you need to change trains regarding your concept of costly grace?

Bonhoeffer had no cause to try to see the world through rose colored glasses, neither do we. Rather we, as he, need to start looking at life through the eyes of Jesus. Grace, costly grace, be unto you.

One final quote: “It is only because he became like us that we can become like him.”

Our Founders’ Faith

No one can deny that many of the founding fathers of the United States of America were men of deep religious convictions based in the Bible and faith in Jesus Christ. Of the 56 men who signed the Declaration of Independence, nearly half (24) held seminary or Bible school degrees. What did the Founding Fathers say about Christianity? Some founders who remained practicing Christians included Patrick Henry, John Jay, and Samuel Adams.

Consider these edited quotes by others instrumental in America’s emergence:

“Here is my Creed. I believe in one God, the Creator of the Universe. That He governs it by His Providence. That He ought to be worshiped.” Benjamin Franklin

“The hope of a Christian is inseparable from his faith. Whoever believes in the divine inspiration of the Holy Scriptures must hope that the religion of Jesus shall prevail throughout the earth. And may the associated distribution of the Bible proceed and prosper till the Lord shall have made ‘bare His holy arm in the eyes of all the nations, and all the ends of the earth shall see the salvation of our God’ (Isaiah 52:10).” John Quincy Adams. 6th U.S. President

“I believe that there is one only living and true God, existing in three persons, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost, the same in substance equal in power and glory. That the scriptures of the old and new testaments are a revelation from God, and a complete rule to direct us how we may glorify and enjoy him.” Roger Sherman Signer of the Declaration of Independence and United States Constitution

“The gospel of Jesus Christ prescribes the wisest rules for just conduct in every situation of life. Happy they who are enabled to obey them in all situations!” Benjamin Rush, Signer of the Declaration of Independence and Ratifier of the U.S. Constitution

“If moral precepts alone could have reformed mankind, the mission of the Son of God into all the world would have been unnecessary.” Alexander Hamilton Signer of the Declaration of Independence and Ratifier of the U.S. Constitution

“I have carefully examined the evidences of the Christian religion, and if I was sitting as a juror upon its authenticity I would unhesitatingly give my verdict in its favor.” Patrick Henry Ratifier of the U.S. Constitution

“It cannot be emphasized too strongly or too often that this great nation was founded, not by religionists, but by Christians; not on religions, but on the gospel of Jesus Christ. For this very reason peoples of other faiths have been afforded asylum, prosperity, and freedom of worship here.”  Patrick Henry of Virginia

“The Bible … is a book worth more than all the other books that were ever printed.” John Jay, 1st Chief Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court

“I do declare to the whole world that we believe the Scriptures to contain a declaration of the mind and will of God in and to those ages in which they were written; being given forth by the Holy Ghost moving in the hearts of holy men of God; that they ought also to be read, believed, and fulfilled in our day; being used for reproof and instruction, that the man of God may be perfect. They are a declaration and testimony of heavenly things themselves, and, as such, we carry a high respect for them. We accept them as the words of God Himself.

“…our gracious Creator has provided for us a Redeemer, in whom all the nations of the earth shall be blessed; that this Redeemer has made atonement ‘for the sins of the whole world,’ and thereby reconciling the Divine justice with the Divine mercy has opened a way for our redemption and salvation; and that these inestimable benefits are of the free gift and grace of God, not of our deserving, nor in our power to deserve.”  William Penn, not a founder of America but Founder of Pennsylvania

How does your statement of faith compare with these who constructed the foundational documents on which our nation was built?