Grace and obedience. Do they fit together? The controversy over the message of grace is a profound and divisive one. I grew up as a Conservative Baptist, and while we sang and talked about grace, it was never taught. The undertones fed to me, and that I accepted well into adulthood, was that those who preached grace simply used grace to excuse sin in their life.
DOES GRACE EXCUSE SIN?
I recall one moment when a new church started in our little town, and it either had the name grace in it, or their tagline was something about grace. I remember the thought passing through my mind, “Oh. It’s one of those churches. I’ll have to stay away.” On the other hand, I also recall wondering what the message of grace was. I had no idea what they were teaching, I just had been taught that it was bad, but I didn’t know why.
Forward 20 years later and I have taken the time to hear, study, and learn the message of grace and it has truly set me free! Yet, I continue to bounce into those who still hate the message. I get it. I did too, but that was because I believed the lie that the message of grace was wrong and used to excuse sin.
- Does that happen? Yes.
- But is that the message of grace? No.
OBEDIENCE VS. GRACE
This topic can not be sufficiently discussed in one post, nor is it my purpose to go into the gospel of grace right now. But what I offer for the moment, is my personal tussle with the Lord this weekend and what I believe He revealed to me as a result.
This struggle has been mounting for some time as I hear the message of love and grace increasingly coming from the lips of our church leaders across the nation and the world. Right words. True words. However, I keep waiting for the rest of the message to be given. There is this unsettling inside of me that we are missing a piece. Within those words of grace, sin is not spoken of, or if it is, barely mentioned. I can now see why some denominations are angry at the message of grace, if the whole truth is not taught, then it indeed does open the door for those ignorant of the Word to use grace as an excuse to continue to do “as they see fit in their own eyes.”
Speaking about sin is not the popular thing to do, even in church right now. If you do bring up sin, you are labeled as judgmental and self-righteous. Our society has embraced the “love and grace” message to the point that speaking of obedience to the Word of the Lord has become associated with hard-line, pharisaical attitudes.
It was said to me recently that for me to mention obedience to the Word of God was a double-standard: Who was I to mention living right when I obviously have so many faults? I agree. My flaws run deep. However, it broke my heart because God’s grace does not give an excuse to my sin, or anyone else.
AN INTERNAL WAR
Inside, I felt like I was at war. The Bible talks about throwing off our sin that so easily entangles and that to love the Lord is to obey Him. Yet the Bible also says that God’s grace extends throughout our past, present, and future. His Grace writes our name in the book of Life, our sins are blotted away. My goodness does not earn me God’s favor. God loves and blesses me because of who HE IS and what Jesus has done, not what I have done.
In another conversation, someone, who clearly lives outside of God’s will, said to me, “Well, it’s about love, not what I do,” in response to something they had heard from another Christian. I replied that, “the gospel IS about love, but that the Bible also says that those who love God, obey Him,” and then encouraged them to not focus on what other people think or what they should or should not do – but concentrate on pursuing the Lord. Read His Word, listen to His voice, and then obey. I left the conversation at that.
God still requires obedience. The Word clearly says that if we love Him, we obey Him. How does that fit into the message of Grace? I’ll be honest, these recent conversations have left me feeling like a hypocritical ogre. I can not point out another’s sin because I am far from perfect. There isn’t one person on this earth who is suitable to point out another’s sin. So do we keep our mouths shut about obedience since none of us obey the Lord entirely?
How easily the enemy of our souls has captured our minds to believe that love = getting to do what we want. Or that love means turning a blind eye to sin. We might think, “It doesn’t matter that I (fill in the blank)… All that matters is the God loves me. It doesn’t matter.” That’s not love, and it does matter.
IT’S THE SOURCE OF OUR MOTIVATION
Obedience and grace are not at odds with each other – yet I struggle to explain it. As I was meditating on this earlier, this is what I believe the Lord spoke to me:
- Obedience without grace seeks to earn God’s favor, blessing, and salvation.
- Living under pure grace leads to obedience as a fruit or by-product of our love for Jesus.
- Disobedience, ignorance, or apathy to the Word of God is the by-product of not loving the Lord. It is not the result of grace.
- Grace leads to obedience. Obedience to the Word is made so much easier because it’s a by-product of love!
Disobedience is evidence of something that is amiss. The solution isn’t to get “into line” – it’s to draw closer to the Father, understand His love for you, and love Him back.
The question to ask is not if you have sin in your life (you do) and can you get away with it because of grace? Rather, what is your motivation to obey? If your motivation to obey the Word of the Lord is to earn His favor, salvation, and blessings, then you have missed the point of grace. In like manner, if your motivation to not worry about whether or not you are living in sin is because you believe you are under grace, then you also, have missed the point of grace.
SIN-FOCUSED VS. GRACE-FOCUSED
God is not mocked.
Understand His grace, the power of it, and draw closer to Him. When you truly receive the grace of the Lord and love Him, then obedience becomes a no-brainer. You do it because you love Him. To disobey the Word is in opposition to love and grace.
The magnificent news is that if you are struggling with a particular sin in your life, learn about GRACE. Then that battle will fall off. Sin can not co-exist with grace! Isn’t that fantastic news!! Don’t focus on the sin, focus on the grace, focus on Jesus! The appetite for your sin will dissipate.
We do need to confront sin, but we can’t stop there. To point out sin and walk away is to forget the rest of the message. We must reveal how the grace of God eradicates the sin in us! To talk about how incredible God’s grace is and not talk about sin is also to forget the rest of the message. Sin is evidence that we need grace. Sin is the sign that there is something in our souls that needs to be tended to by the loving hands of our Father.
Oh, how profound and magnificent the love of our Father! Who simply did not point out our sins, but provided the ways to loose its hold on our lives. Grace shows us how we can not do it on our own efforts, but only when we focus on the immeasurable grace of God that the talons of sin in our lives loosen their hold and our appetite for sin disappear until we only have a taste for the goodness of the Lord.
If you want in-depth, excellent teaching on the grace of God, I recommend listening to the hundreds of archives of lessons by Andrew Wommack. Visit. www.AWMI.net