December 2, 2020

The Scariest Word Of All

This morning we looked at the name many Christians shy away from —the name of Jesus. Now I want to look at the scariest word to many who claim to be followers of Jesus. I wrote on this word a few weeks back and took shots upside the head in the comments for days afterward. Chaplain Mike tried to help out with a beautiful story of grace by Shel Silverstein, and was pelted himself. I expect no less here today. Grab a handful of rocks on your way in. You will want to cast them at me before this is over.


The very thought of God totally forgiving us all, and then turning us loose to live in freedom, frightens most Christians more than the thought of Bill Clinton returning for an encore presidency.

Grace. The complete power of the omnipotent God released to us in our weaknesses without our earning one ounce of it.

Grace. It is the essence of the Gospel. It is composed of, as Robert Capon says, Jesus Jesus Jesus.

And it is the scariest word most Christians are ever forced to hear.

We are a self-reliant people through and through. “If it is to be, it’s up to me” is our banner. Give us a task to do and we are as happy as clams to bend our backs and go at it. Your local bookstore has shelves lined with stories of those who faced insurmountable odds and yet surmounted anyway. By comparison, there are very few books telling the story of those who sat by and let someone else do all the heavy lifting. How is that inspiring? Give me the tale of hard work and perseverance, please. Sunrise to sunset we are to toil and sweat if we are to get ahead.

And then comes Jesus to tell us of a group of workers—the faithful workers, those of whom books will be written—who agree to labor in the fields for a certain day-rate of pay. They toil away, no doubt helping to bring in a great harvest. Then Jesus sets against these faithful servants a group of layabouts who don’t even show up until it is just about quitting time. And when the pay is handed out, guess what? Everyone gets paid the same. As Michael Spencer said, if this doesn’t make you mad, then you aren’t really reading this story.

Grace makes us angry, for God’s grace has nothing—absolutely nothing—to do with us and our efforts. We play no part in grace any more than Lazarus did in his resurrection: All we are is dead. And thus another problem we have with grace. We fight death with everything in us. That’s our nature. A drowning man flails and thrashes with all of his might to stay above water. So when we are told we need to sink beneath the waves and die, we fight this notion mightily.

If grace is an ocean, we’re all sinking.

How He Loves by John Mark McMillan

We see an area of life that needs attention, roll up our sleeves and work to make it better. That’s our nature. Then along comes Jesus and says, “I don’t need your help. Tell you what. Let me take care of it all, and you just come in and have a drink on the house. As a matter of fact, drink all you want. It is my blood, and it is given freely for you.”

So why does this bother us so much? Is it because getting something for free goes against all we learned from parents and employers and, yes, pastors? St. Paul ran into this very thing with the church in Galatia. Ken Blue and Alden Swan look at how Paul dealt with this situation in their book The Gospel Uncensored: How only grace leads to freedom. I highly recommend this book as a primer on grace.

After Paul had appointed elders and left Galatia, some people came and began teaching that belief in Jesus was not enough. These likely were some converted Jews from Jerusalem who had received Jesus as Lord and Savior, but who felt that they had to hang on to the law and Judaism. Four thousand years of Jewish traditions were hard for some to give up. They thought that Christianity ought to be an updated version of Judaism and couldn’t accept that Gentiles could be included into the Church, much less allowed to remain as Gentiles.

These teachers came to the Galatians and said something like, “Listen, we’re here to follow up and improve on Paul’s ministry to you. He was absolutely right in saying that you need to have faith in Jesus—that’s how you get started in the Christian life. What he failed to tell you, and what he would have told you if he had time, is that in addition to Jesus you need to follow certain religious laws and rules.”

Can we still hear the echo of these words in many of our churches and religious circles today? We want to add to what Jesus said was enough because we are uncomfortable with getting something for nothing. The authors continue:

The religious formula these teachers were using was … “Jesus plus something.” Paul was livid about this because he knew and was convinced that the true equation is Jesus plus nothing equals salvation. He also recognized that any time someone teaches “Jesus plus something,” even if it is just a little something, they are not improving on the Gospel, or even distracting from the Gospel. Teaching Jesus plus something is the utter destruction of the Gospel.

We feel so much more comfortable working than we do receiving. I often tell people that when Jesus says, “It is better to give than receive,” it really should be read, “It is easier to give than to receive.” I have no problem working hard to help a friend in need, but when I am the friend who is need, I struggle to graciously accept help offered to me. And that carries through in our view of grace. Because we continue to insist on doing our part, the world is not seeing the fullness of the great gift of Jesus in his church. Dwight Moody illustrated this very well.

Suppose some one had paid a million dollars into the bank in your name, and had given you a check-book so that you could draw out just as you wanted: would you go to work and try to live on ten dollars a month? Yet that is exactly what many of us are doing as Christians. I believe this low standard of Christian life in the Church is doing more to manufacture infidels than all the skeptical books that were ever written.

Strong words indeed. Too strong? Then you won’t like what Robert Capon has to say. He is discussing Jesus call for his disciples to be the salt of the earth.

But if the salt of the earth becomes insipid—if a disciple of Jesus forgets that only losing wins, and a fortiori, if the apostolic church forgets it—where in the wide world of winners drowning in the syrup of their own success will either the disciple or the church be able to recapture the saltiness of victory out of loss? The answer is nowhere. And the sad fact is that the church, both now and at far too many times in its history, has found it easier to act as if it were selling the sugar of moral and spiritual achievement rather than the salt of Jesus’ passion and death.

Grace is salt for a world built on the tasteless accomplishments of mens’ efforts. So why are we so afraid to season our lives with grace? What drives us to want to do do do?

I already know the comments that are coming my way. “Yes, grace is fine for entering in through the door. But once we are in we must (fill in the blank with your favorite religious works).” My answer: No we don’t. Period.

“So are you saying we can accept God’s grace and then live any way we like?” My answer: Yes, that is what I’m saying. But once you have drowned in the sea of God’s grace, how could you want to live anything but the resurrected life of Jesus?

I will let Father Capon have the last word. Then you may cast your stones. Remember to follow through with your shoulder pointing to the mitt.

There is therefore no condemnation for two reasons: you are dead now, and God, as the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world, has been dead all along. The blame game was over before it started. It really was. All Jesus did was announce the truth and tell you it would make you free. It was admittedly a dangerous thing to do. You are a menace. But he did it; and therefore, menace or not, here you stand: uncondemned, forever, now. What are you going to do with your freedom?

Robert Capon quotes taked from The Parables of Grace and Between Noon and Three: Romance, Law, and the Outrage of Grace.




  1. If people are going to cast stones, Jeff, I’m going to get hit, too, because I’m right there with you. This is a concept I’ve been wrestling with for a couple of years now, and it’s a tough one to get your head around. Accepting grace requires us to accept that our holiness comes from God’s work in us, not ours in what we think of as service or ministry. That requires an insane amount of humility, because it means we do nothing. I liked your illustration of Lazarus; a footwashing service is also a good example of this. Getting down on your knees to wash someone else’s feet is one thing, but anyone who’s been in one will tell you that the real humility comes from sitting and letting someone else wash your feet. Anyone who thinks accepting grace is the easy part does not have a true understanding of it — it’s HARD to just stop and let God work in us.

  2. If it isn’t all by grace, then the Gospel is not the “Good News” but the “BAD News,” because Jesus raises the performance and acceptableness bar higher than the Law (“You have heard it said… But I say to you….”) had set it.

    It’s like a good news/bad news joke:

    Jesus: “The good news is that I’ve done away with the Law.”

    People: “Hurray!”

    Jesus: “The bad news is that I will now judge you for your very thoughts – for who and what you are as a person – and not just based on your outward actions.”

    People: “O wretched man that I am! Now who or what will deliver me from this body of death, if Jesus doesn’t do it but instead turns up the heat?”

    • Eric, saying that it’s tougher under grace to please Jesus is totally missing the point. What Jesus was doing was not making it tougher but illustrating that with God it’s the heart that matters and not what you do. With man it’s about what we do. Same idea in Hebrews, the Jews had ordinances of worship that they discharged daily with the idea that these made thme acceptable to the Almighty. Under the new arrangment God only looks at our hearts. Paul illustrated the same in Rom 7 when he said, “The mind set on the spirit is life and peace, the mind set on the flesh is death.”

      Paul said the curse of law is that the soul who sins dies. Under grace (Jesus) it is the exact oppisite, the soul that sins lives in Christ. “There is therefore, no condemnation for those who are in Christ.” Condemnation has been removed as an oppotion for those in Christ. It’s not a matter of what we do, it’s a matter of what’s in our hearts.

  3. Laurann says

    People “add to” grace because they themselves have not really experienced it and therefore don’t understand that it doesn’t engender lawlessness like they think it does. We need to hear much more about Jesus and His grace, not less. Thank you Jeff.

    • Okay. Let’s be frank here.

      If I’m tempted to sexual sin, am I not a Christian?

      Is there anyone here who will say that? (And if so, congratulations on the way God not only granted you salvation but also excised your libido – quite impressive, when even many great saints struggled with that temptation!)

      To go back to Jeff’s stone-throwing motif, let those who are without sin cast the first stone! JESUS was tempted, for crying out loud. I refuse to accept that because I still have desires to sin, I was never really saved, and I don’t believe anyone who says they don’t. (Again, if that’s you, congratulations on being the second incarnation of Christ.) What separates the life of the redeemed from the life of the worldly is that the redeemed hunger and thirst for righteousness rather than saying, “Well, that’s just the way I am, so deal with it,” and being content with their squalid selves when the Holy Spirit is offering to make them new creatures in Christ.

      Not targeting you specifically, Laurann; I just noticed this idea in several different comments and wanted to respond.

      • Kate, I like frank! Breathe girl…….breathe!

        Where did you get the notion that someone who is struggling with or desiring sexual sin is no longer a Christian? Or never was?

        I’m now going to be frank…….anyone who says they no longer struggle with or desire to sin…..are lying. Period. I don’t care if you are talking about wanting to have sex with your neighbors husband because he’s hot, hot, hot or if you talk about your pastor’s wife after church because of what she wore or lie to your boss that you are sick when in all reality you want to spend the first really nice day of spring on the bar patio with your friends.

        Sin is sin is sin. Sure there are different consequences and I KNOW there are people who like to pick out the sex stuff like it’s far worse, but in the eyes of God, it’s sin. Period. And through Jesus Christ, that sin is completely……….COMPLETELY atoned for. ALL we have to do is believe it. Done!

        That’s the danger. That’s the radical call of the gospel of Jesus Christ. That’s the Good News! That’s where freedom is found.

        Thank you. I am now stepping off my soap box.

        • Heh, yes, that was a bit of a soapbox for me too. The “once you have drowned in the sea of God’s grace, how could you want to live anything but the resurrected life of Jesus” stance does rile me up.

          • Hi Kate,
            I just thought I’d pipe in to say I read that and had a little bit different reaction. It’s not that I am not a terrible sinner. I am. It’s not that I’m not tempted to sin. I am. It’s not that I’m a true believer now and so I am perfected. I’m not. For me, having experienced a deep personal trial that had me crying for God and almost abandoning the faith (praise God, He came to my rescue in ways that I couldn’t deny as real), I am now super aware of how unworthy I am. My sin and my tendency to choose to elevate self “ME!” is constant. But, “how could I want to live anything but the resurrected life of Jesus?” I don’t want to but that doesn’t mean I fall into it often. It’s only by Jesus Christ that I am saved. I’ve earned nothing but the opposite. So my love for Jesus as Savior grew and grows. My desire for his Lordship increases. That’s why I see this message of grace as freeing. I am free to come to the foot of the cross every time I fail, and I’m forgiven and loved. That doesn’t make me want to sin (though I do); it makes me want to live the resurrected life of Jesus.

            Peace to you!

          • Middle of my thesis above…correction…I don’t want to but that doesn’t mean I DON’T fall into it often. I do.

        • Rebekah…

          This is one of the more beautiful posts I’ve read.That’s one of the problems with Christians. Too many people lie….

  4. This is where I always get caught:

    ““So are you saying we can accept God’s grace and then live any way we like?” My answer: Yes, that is what I’m saying. But once you have drowned in the sea of God’s grace, how could you want to live anything but the resurrected life of Jesus?”

    It implies that if we were REALLY drowned in the sea of God’s grace, then we would naturally want and strive to live the resurrected life of Jesus. Which it’s corollary is if you don’t, then you must not have REALLY drowned in the sea of God’s grace.

    Which brings you right back to the “works show your faith” issue.

    • I agree with you. I have no problem giving a completely and totally unqualified “YES” to that question. I certainly think that most people will change somewhat, but if they don’t God still loves them just the way they are.

    • Michelle M says

      I agree with you, Amanda. I felt like there was something amiss in that argument, and you put your finger on it.

    • And for the record, I hope you don’t think I’m a person who would throw stones. I’m seriously trying to understand your position, and I possibly disagree with it, but I’m not mad or saying “Farewell, Jeff Dunn” or anything. 🙂

    • I’m told that drowning is quite painless–once you stop fighting to breathe.

      The “sinking in a sea of grace” metaphor is good in the sense that it conveys the image of being overwhelmed, which like drowning, is something we resist. We naturally resist grace, but try as we might we eventually disappear into that atmosphere of Jesus-life. We can choose to die into that Jesus-life now, or in the end when we’ve lost all faculty to resist we will be resurrected into it. Even “Christians” struggle against “sinking in a sea of grace” which constitutes a drowning-death of self assertion.


      • The way I’ve heard it, that’s an urban legend, and drowning is one of the most painful ways to die. Maybe precisely because you don’t stop fighting to breathe, as a survival instinct.

  5. steve h says

    no stones Jeff. Good words indeed, but admittedly hard to live by. The world’s standards of restitution so quickly find their way back into our salvation stance. After all, it’s our stance, isn’t it? No, no we don’t stand on our own at all (dead) and we can’t stand before a righteous God without the grace offered through Jesus. “Nothing in my hand I bring, but simply to the cross I cling”. Although speaking at least for myself, I always want to pay back, want to carry that heavy burden, at least a little bit of it myself. I’m trying to get over that….

    Grace isn’t a scary word, in fact it’s a word thrown around a lot, but rarely truly understood.

    thanks again Jeff (I still thought the second word would be “sin”; that’s a word that’s not looked at seriously enough, and because of it, after all, we do need Grace!)

  6. It’s my only hope. Any other “option” (i.e. having to add something, measure up) is fearful. Keep proclaiming that beautiful word: Grace.

  7. Here’s what I have a hard time with. I may be unintentionally proving your point here, but we’ll see.

    As a flawed, sinful human being, how can I function if I have it in my head that nothing I do matters? If I ever stop believing that it’s important for me to try to better myself on a daily basis, I WILL sin. Immediately. Frequently. Gleefully. Attractive as it may sound to say, “Just cast yourself onto the Savior,” wouldn’t that be tempting God by effectively making myself a loose cannon and yelling as I careen around the decks of a ship tossed in the sea of life, “Hey, God, catch!”

    I do believe that God is pleased by our small efforts of self-denial and charity, even if we immediately mess it up and have to start all over. I do believe God wants me to fight back against the temptation to sin – with his help and with frequent recourse to his grace. I cannot and will not abandon those two convictions, because if I do I will immediately slide into self-indulgence, sin, and selfishness. I absolutely would abuse God’s mercy. I know myself too well. It’s possible that I’m just a horrible person, but I doubt that it’s different from anyone else. If you take away both the rewards for virtue (God’s pleasure in your tiny and unnecessary, but appreciated offering) and the shame of succumbing to temptation (God’s grief, even though he’ll take you right back with reckless abandon), what incentive does anyone have to ever choose the hard course over the pleasurable one?

    If I’ve misunderstood what you’re saying, forgive me. I’m really interested in hearing people’s thoughts on this one.

    • Kate,

      I believe you can rest assured that your strong desire to please God is a sign that He is working on you and will follow that work through to completion. However, you also need to remind yourself that failure or complacency will set in on you because you are a human being still living in the flesh of this imperfect world. When you do the wrong thing or fail to do the right thing you can rest in His mercy. When you do the right thing you can be confident in the fact that He is guiding your path.

      • God knows what He means when He offers us His grace completely free of charge to us, and then asks us to live a certain way. We should not pretend we can understand how these processes interact, but we can relax knowing He does.

        • That’s very true. Thanks for those thoughtful words. For a while I was really discouraged because I had failed so many times that I felt like even pretending I was going to resist in future was telling a lie. I’m slowly starting to (I hope) get over that . . .

          Here’s a quote from C.S. Lewis that I’ve found very encouraging in the whole grace question:

          “We may be assured that perfect chastity may not be attained through human efforts. You must ask for God’s help. Even when you have done so, it may seem to you for a long time that no help, or less help than you need, i being given. Never mind. After each failure, ask forgiveness, pick yourself up, and try again. Very often what God first helps us towards is not the virtue itself but just this power of always trying again. For however important chastity or any other virtue may be, this process trains us in habits of the soul which are more important still. It cures our illusions about ourselves and teaches us to depend on God. We learn that we cannot trust ourselves even in our best moments, and that we need not despair even in our worst, for our failures are forgiven. The only fatal thing is to sit down with anything less than perfection.”

          • Lewis’ main point was in this sentence;

            For however important chastity or any other virtue may be, this process trains us in habits of the soul which are more important still.

            If there is a “most important habit of the soul” would it not be to know Jesus in the fulness of His beauty and grace? I’m thinking that it’s much better to intimately know Jesus than it is to improve self.


    • Cunnudda says

      Agree with you, Kate.

    • God’s pleasure over your offering and God’s grief over your sin….hmmm

      I tend to no longer believe that God is “grieved” when I sin, as I frequently hear. There are certainly practical consequences to be felt. But my sin doesn’t “grieve” God, that’s a rather weak and paltry word. On the contrary, it murdered him. Past tense. So all the suffering God had to do over my sin was felt, in the past, by Jesus, and then he cast that suffering and shame and grief off and rose from the dead. Now he’s completely free from grief over my sin. This is the direction I’m heading. I find the weird, esoteric focus on an invisible God’s opinion of our actions in the present tense, and his corresponding rewards or punishments, and our attempts to fit in with his will, to be fairly gnostic, and make it relatively easy to ignore Jesus altogether. Not that God has no opinion of course. Just that Jesus summed up the expression of that opinion once and for all.

      If we would spend the time we spend on solutions for sin on Jesus Christ instead, it would have a visible effect on our countenance, our trust for God, and the way we interact with sin. As it is “try hard to improve yourself” is generally a carrot hanging in front of you that can never be caught. Just cast yourself on the Savior, as you put it, is far closer to holiness than “fight against temptation.”

      • Nate, this is very thought-provoking. I spent a minute or so trying to choose the right words, and still wasn’t entirely happy with what I got.

        What you say makes a lot of sense. So all that bad stuff was dealt with on the Cross, and now God isn’t mad anymore? . . . Well, duh. Sometimes I get so tangled up in overthinking things that I need a simple reminder. Having a small epiphany here.

        • Well great, Kate. It was a big revelation to me too. The difference between this and saying “nothing we do matters, then” is an issue of seeing our sin’s effects, say on a loved one, as people suffer for it. This of course, generates growth of understanding of Christ’s suffering, gives us more compassion for him, and causes US to grieve. We mortals are stuck in time, so we haven’t seen it all yet. Thus, as we experience sin, we suffer. God on the other hand, suffered it all already.


      • John From Down Under says

        “And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption”

        – Eph 4:30

        • Different meaning. You can’t grieve a God who’s already suffered. That’s the finality of the Cross.

          I think in this instance it means to ignore, or walk away from, or belittle.

          • Context suggests otherwise

          • Context doesn’t suggest much at all to me. I could guess- It looks to me like it has to do primarily with relations with one another. The Spirit of course is an intimate player in every relationship among Christians and so knows our emotions perfectly.

            This is admittedly speculation, but whatever the case, I’m not going to throw out a big part of the Gospel, that it is finished, in order to join some weirdo-gnostic circus that think they can trick themselves into being good by believing God’s pissed at them if they don’t get it right. Did Jesus die, or does he still have to die? He suffered once for all.

      • I think, Nate, that it’s a bit simplistic to reduce God’s reaction to sin after Christ to Christ’s sacrifice. That’s definitely the most important reaction, don’t get me wrong. But after we’ve seen that Perfect Love, and realized we’re being set free from a terror of God’s wrath, we can take God’s disappointment, or grief, or even anger, because we know He’s on our side. That, and it coincides with what is happening inside of us after we’ve sinned.

        It’s not as if God hadn’t planned for Jesus in the Old Testament. Yet you still see Him describing His anger toward sin when His people turn from Him. We can’t throw those emotional responses out as pre-sacrifice, because as you said, He’s outside of time. When we claim God’s reaction to sin in light of Christ’s sacrifice, we need more than the word “after” to reference where we are, and when He died. Faith in Jesus justified people in Israel for thousands of years before He died.

        Does this negate grace? No. This doesn’t play into whether we’re justified, whether we have to get it right to be right with God, whether we need to prove our faith. I’m not throwing stones. But Jesus didn’t die so that the only negative emotions we feel are for the practical consequences of our sin.

  8. “”So are you saying we can accept God’s grace and then live any way we like?” My answer: Yes, that is what I’m saying. But once you have drowned in the sea of God’s grace, how could you want to live anything but the resurrected life of Jesus?”

    That is why grace is so comforting, yet terrifying for me. Grace doesn’t scare me because “well you’re just too self-righteous to want to rely on God alone.” (There’s something very self-righteous and full-of-it in that very statement, like if the Pharisee was thanking God that he had grace figured out, unlike that legalist over there…but that’s for another day.) It’s the “live any way we like” bit. Any way we like…but what way will I like? I am terrified of what roils underneath. I don’t know the depths of my capacity to sin, to break the hearts of God and those I love, and I hope to God I never find out. It is that cup that I so desperately hope will pass, and which I fear I will have to drink if I am going to drown. It’s something like, fearing that I need more grace than I am willing to give to myself and to others–which, I suppose, means more grace than I am willing to need. Maybe it isn’t grace that I fear as much as my own true state.

    Sometimes people proclaim grace so tritely, so glibly, even here at the iMonastery…yet do we understand how devastating, how traumatic it can be? It is fatal. I find that I can take it in fits and starts. I think I have gotten the full measure of it a couple of times. But even then, a part of me feels relief that it is over. I hope there’s grace for a certain level of built-in resistance to grace.

    Basically, when grace isn’t healing me, it’s scaring the everliving s#!& out of me.

  9. “I expect no less here today. Grab a handful of rocks on your way in. You will want to cast them at me before this is over.”

    I took the opening disclaimer of this post to come off as quite self-righteous. I have long read and respected this website for the realistic look at Jesus and grace that it offers, but I think the opening to this post is off-putting and in contrast to this website’s intention.

    • I agree with your assessment. I tried to take it in the personal frustration I felt it was meant rather than accusatory frustration that came across, giving Jeff the benefit of the doubt.

    • You have not read comments in the past when we talk about grace. No self-righteousness intended. Michael Spencer often spoke of rocks, garbage, etc. being hurled his way.

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says

        Sometimes the only way you can tell you’re on the right path is when you’re getting shot at from both sides.

  10. Faith without works is dead – so we read in the book of James. If we do actually and without trappings recieve grace as God intended, we cannot help but want to “DO” for His glory. I liked your thoughts Amanda, because in our acceptance of grace also comes the Holy Spirit to teach and convict to the point of submission to the Lord. To submit to His grace means we accept it. If we have trouble accepting God’s grace than we are probably finding ourselves administering grace to others for our own gain. As of about 10 minutes ago I posted on my blog a review of “Generous Justice” by Tim Keller. I realize I cannot send you to my blog but I am wondering how that book would fit into this post Jeff? I hope you will get a copy. I am really curious because you said that Jesus doesn’t need our help (which of course he doesn’t). But then you say that all he wants is for us to drink with HIm. That is, just drink His blood that was given freely to you and He will take care of all there is to care for. Are we to abandon our works and do nothing but sit at His feet? That would be more scarey to me when I see what Jesus did for me when I did not deserve it. Should we not have the same attitude towards giving grace to others? We are to love Him with all our heart and soul. How much do I love Him if I abandon the poor and needy. Am I not receiving His grace in the proper way with that attitude? What am I missing here?

    • Ardnas, what did Jesus say to Martha? While Mary sat at His feet?

      Sitting still, at the feet of Jesus, is supposed to be scary. He just might show you something. Being too busy working to hear His voice, that’s not scary at all!

      If anyone can sit at the feet of Jesus, soak up all He is and has to offer and STILL doesn’t want to get up from that “feet sitting session” and go shower others with grace, help the poor and needy, they were sitting at someone else’s feet.

      Think about this for a minute. Calvary. Jesus. Dying. We know the entire story today, but those who followed Him there, they didn’t know the whole story. And those who walked with Him, where were they when He drew His last breathe? At the foot of that cross.

      Interesting? Maybe? Maybe not?

      But something to think about. Along with the very gracious fact that those who bailed on Him, denied and rejected Him at Calvary and throughout history, are welcome to the exact same amazing grace too.

      MAN this stuff is just awesome!!! You really can’t make this stuff up!!!

      • On Mary- for people actively receiving grace, actively sitting at Jesus’ feet, the “what we should do in response” question is about as far from their minds as it can get. Often when they get up, they go back to relatively average lives, doing just what they did before, only thanking God.

      • Rebekah Grace – I believe you missed my point. But perhaps that is my fault for spitting it out too fast. There is nothing more precious than sitting at the feet of Jesus. There is where your soul is cleansed and your relationship with Him leaves the world behind. But there comes point when we are filled with His presence and we must empty or shower the grace He has given on others as you say. We must get up from His feet at a time not for me or you to say. It is for the Lord to say. That is what I did not see in Jeff’s words. “Come unto me all you are weary and heavy laden and I will give you rest.” How is that scary? Yes I have a fear of God, but my fear comes when I have been centered on myself. When I sit at His feet I am no longer afraid. I am comforted by His grace that I do not deserve. I know He cares for me. I know I can trust Him. I know He has my future in His hands. I may sit at His feet and cry in shame or pain because I am so unworthy, but I can do that because I am not scared. His grace is completely covering my sin. His grace is His love for me. Yes, perhaps years ago it would have been a new and awsome thought and it would have scared me. But, Oh my, I am sorry but with the Holy Spirit deep in my soul I cannot even come close to being scared. God just is not the author of fear. It is coming from another direction. I cannot believe He wants for us to be scared when we are submitting to Him.

        • Thank you for clarifying, I was simply responding to your, “Are we to abandon our works and do nothing but sit at His feet? That would be more scarey to me when I see what Jesus did for me when I did not deserve it.” comment.

          I believe, in the depths of my soul and rarely can I verbalize or write it to express it well enough, that it is in the abandoning of our works when true freedom comes into play.

          “We must get up from His feet at a time not for me or you to say. It is for the Lord to say. That is what I did not see in Jeff’s words”

          The fear, or the scary thing about the word, meaning and danger of grace is that it covers even those who never “get up”. I believe that is what Jeff was getting at. Of course, I could be wrong.

          • Thank You Rebekah Grace for your kind reply. Yes, I must be more careful because that statement was not worded correctly.
            I do have to say that I do not understand your last statement about what you thought Jeff meant. Maybe it is because I do not understand the last statement in Jeff’s post by Father Capone.
            Jeff does say at the end of his piece, “After you have drowned in God’s grace, how could you want to live anything but the resurrected life of Jesus.” I would wish perhaps for Jeff to enlarge on that a little so as to help me understand what he thinks living for the resurrected life of Jesus looks like.

  11. No stones here Jeff. And no pun intended.

    Okay, joke time is over.

    And I will NOT be adding any kind of “yes, but” to this post because I do not follow the “yes, but” crowd.

    The scary thing about grace, for me, is the fact that it covers not just my sins, my failures, my shortcomings, my screw-ups, but everyone else’s too. Even those, especially those, who have hurt me and hurt me deeply. And whom I still hold deep seeded unforgiveness and resentment towards.

    And yet I am totally forgiven, unfailingly loved and gratefully drowning in His grace every moment, in spite of my stupid self.

    It doesn’t get any better than that!

  12. Jeff, thanks for the kind mention.

    “Amazing grace, how sweet the sound,” except when we realize it means we can no longer use the law to beat up on others (and ourselves). And, when we realize it means that good works are great… we just can’t earn anything with them.

    But, for those losers out there like me who don’t stand a chance if keeping rules count, it truly is an amazing and wonderful thing.

  13. What are you going to do with it–Freedom–indeed!
    It’s a scary thought, eh?

    Jeff stop this right now–it would be nicer if we could have some rules to follow!


  14. I too, am one of those who cannot live by the rules. I need a Savior. I cannot even add one little bit to what Christ Jesus has done for me.

    The Gospel Uncensored: How only grace leads to freedom, is a great little book which I would suggest people read at least once a year, if not more.


  15. I’d like to try this one more time. If any of my comments in the past have come across as “yes, but” Pharisaism, you’ll have to pardon me, because that certainly was not my intention. I’m a universalist, for goodness sake, and I think that nearly the entire Christian community is far, far too limiting of God’s scandalous love and grace. Nothing we could ever do could make God love us less, and there is nothing we do that earns his love. He simply loves us. All of us. Period.

    Two simple questions:

    1) Is sanctification optional? At some point does God simply wave a magic wand and force us into perfection? Saying that sanctification is a product of the Holy Spirit (a statement I would heartily agree with) is far different from saying that it’s optional. I seem to remember Michael Spencer saying somewhere (maybe in the Grace Q&A?), that he had learned to accept that his character probably wasn’t going to be refined too much further before death. But does God greet us at death with that supposed magic wand of his? Or does the process of sanctification continue into the next life as well?

    2) Is participation with God in the restoration of his good creation optional? Is caring for the poor, sick, homeless, and orphaned, and pushing back against war, hatred, greed, and violence an optional thing? Nice stuff to do, but in the end not really necessary, because God is just waiting around to consign this earth to the garbage heap anyway?

    I realize my views are outside the evangelical mainstream, to say the least. But these are honest questions, and this is the post-evangelical wilderness we’re in here, right?

    • Good questions. I’m nowhere near in a position to answer, just wanted to say that I appreciated your honesty.

    • John From Down Under says


      Unless Jeff clarifies otherwise, “optional sanctification” is EXACTLY what I got out of this post.

    • I find that the more i understand grace, the more closely aligned with the heart of Jesus I become. The more I cease striving, the more I find myself walking alongside of Jesus, being made into his image. “Let yourself be made perfect as I am perfect” is the more correct translation. And that is where I am: I am allowing myself to be made into his image.

      • John From Down Under says

        Ok Jeff, I get the ‘cease striving’ bit, as some folks get neurotic and tyrannically introspective about that stuff, but I’m still not clear how that pans out in practical day-to-day life for you.

        Do you make ANY effort on your part to ‘do right’ or you just abandon your flesh to its impulses because ‘grave covers you’? In other words, if you get the impulse to swear (you guys call it ‘cuss’), do you just go ahead and swear, if your wife gets on your nerves, do you yell at her, if someone in a mini skirt with nice long legs sits across from you, do you just gawk?

        You’re presenting a passive position to sanctification that requires no conscious decision on our part whatsoever. So with the examples I gave you, do you just surrender to your impulses (whatever they are, as we all have them in different shapes and forms) because of ‘grace’?

        While this abandonment theology sounds deeply spiritual, I am curious how that works out in real life situations for you.

        • I think you’re presenting a bit of a false dichotomy in what you’re describing as sanctification and not making an effort to control our impulses. First off, I don’t see anything Jeff said that says we should just behave in any way our flesh wants to. It’s quite the opposite, really. Because we have experienced God’s we no longer are slaves to our impulses. Now I don’t think that means we won’t ever lose our temper, look at a woman too long, etc. It means, though, that we need not be slaves to those things. If it does happen, we have to walk secure in the knowledge that we are still loved and still forgiven.

          I do believe we have free will, and I think that our choices certainly matter. What I also know, though, is that God’s stance towards us is unchanging. Our sanctification isn’t simply to make us more moral people – it’s to let us experience more and more freedom from the things that would hold us back. I think there are choices we can make that work against this, certainly. I guess what I see is that it’s hard for Christians to look beyond the paradigm of thinking their actions are either ticking God off or pleasing Him, and that in turn is somehow affecting our position in the Kingdom.

          • John From Down Under says

            @ Phil

            I don’t see anything Jeff said that says we should just behave in any way our flesh wants to

            I was referring to this comment:

            The more I cease striving, the more I find myself walking alongside of Jesus, being made into his image. ……I am allowing myself to be made into his image.

            Does ‘cease striving’ mean make NO conscious decision whatsoever? Does ‘allowing myself’ mean I don’t have ANY responsibility at all because I’m a recipient and not a participant? Unless he clarifies I have no idea what he means and I can take it either way.

            The frustrating part with such posts is not what Jeff says but what he DOESN’T say. Rather than spending your time always clarifying and correcting what others misunderstand about your writings, isn’t it better to take some time and put up a post clarifying what you are NOT saying and set the record straight?

            The reason why these posts generate so much heat is because grace is presented as completely incompatible and antithetical with the (moral) law. The NT position is that the law interferes with grace when it comes to justification (or ‘for entering in through the door’ to use Jeff’s words), but past that point it has a legitimate place in the believer’s life. If the time was taken to present those two in their right balance, then we probably wouldn’t be having this discussion.

            At the end of the day, if it’s not for God’s grace we can’t do anything right. And yes, the new creation in Christ is slowly conforming to his image but that doesn’t mean we have no responsibility at all.

            Sure, it sounds uber spiritual to say ‘I don’t strive, I just allow myself’ but you still need to decide what to do with voluminous amounts of NT text that talks about those ‘other things’ that a lot of folks here seem to be allergic to.

            Jeff may not be intentionally presenting sanctification as elective, but it comes across as‘no-lordship antinomianism’ where (to quote MacArthur whom I’m not a big fan of), it is belief that allows for justification without sanctification.

          • John,
            I guess I see the term “cease striving” to be pretty self-explanatory. Striving on my own to become less filled with lust, less hot-headed, less greedy, or whatever will just leave me burnt out. But when I follow Jesus and I allow Him to change me from the inside out, I will find the Spirit enables me to actually become the person He wants me to be.

            I guess the way I see it is that we can never be made into something simply be not doing something else. As humans, we naturally become what we worship. Those who worship the law become legalistic. We all have these tendencies. The thing is that no matter how many fences we build for ourselves, we are still slaves to sin. That’s what Jesus was getting at when he told people to gouge out their eyes or cut off their hands if it caused them to sin. He was speaking in hyperbole. Obviously, it isn’t our specific body parts that cause us to sin, but rather what is in our hearts. Even if we were blind and had bloody stumps, we could still find a way to sin.

            We have to get beyond seeing the Gospel as “sin management” and start heeding the call to actually become students of Christ and let Him change us. So of course it means dying to ourselves daily, but I think that goes beyond simply not choosing to do the wrong things.

        • You have it all wrong, John. As long as you live by the law, you are a slave to sin and have no choice but to sin. Once you have bathed in God’s grace, you are now free from the law and the power of sin is broken. It is only by God’s grace we are free to not sin.

          • John From Down Under says

            Help me get it then Jeff. I gave you some practical scenarios. How do YOU deal with those situations?

          • John, I will take you back once again to Lazarus. What did he do in order to experience resurrection life? He 1) died, and 2) stunk. I can do that. We can all do that.

            When I say I ‘cease striving,” that does not mean I actively pursue a lifestyle of sin. That means I quit trying to impress God with any of my actions other than dying. Each day I count myself as dead–dead to sin, dead to having to please God with my actions.

            That is grace.

          • I guess John that what Jeff is saying is when you are under grace you choose your sins. But of course, even Paul had trouble doing that which he did not want to do and he was not living under the law. Reality is, we have that old nature and we will have that constant sin battle within. Paul was no stranger to the fact that sin makes a mess of our life. Paul even spoke to the brethren at Philippi telling them to stand firm in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel. Of course we can strive to please men or we can strive to win the struggle against sin the so easily besets us. And who among us does not have besetting sins.
            At the end of Jeff’s article he speaks of living the resurrected life of Jesus. I would that perhaps Jeff, you could tell us what that life looks like to you.

  16. I’ve been on both sides. I was part of a legalistic, controlling church in college. I moved to another city because I heard that a church there taught grace, and it was something I desperately needed.

    That church broke up after two years, and the majority of us went into independent house churches . . . and the majority of THOSE folded.

    I feel burned by legalism and burned by false grace.

    • False grace is a cheap form of legalism.

      I once heard that finding freedom in Christ is like a “lifer” in prison being released and not knowing how to live in the outside world, what with all it’s freedom and no one telling them when to eat, sleep and go the bathroom. What do they want to do more than anything (most of the time)? Go back into prison. Freedom is scary. So is grace, in it’s true form.

      Also heard an analogy of a person standing on the corner of a building, they are focusing on a shadow that is coming from the other side of the building. When out of nowhere appears Jesus Christ, in all His realness, but the person continues to focus on the shadow. There He stands, arms outstretched, yearning for us, and we stand there like a dumbass looking at the shadow.

      We are a funny people. But by the grace of God go I!

  17. The scary thing about Grace isn’t grace but the glaring stares and the questioning of your salvation from others when you begin talking about Christ’s freedom in this way. That is what makes me nervous. I keep a low profile around most Christians because I think I have a complex. As far as our good works I am certain that since we are branches of the vine we will produce fruit through the vine which gives it to us. If I go out seeking to do good works in order to show myself that I am regenerate, doesn’t that mean that I didn’t do that work out of pure motives? Thus not making it a good work. Parable of Sheep and Goats anyone? What about the Wheat and the Tares? I think clearly this shows that appearances might be deceiving and this is why it is so important to first realize that Christ’s work on the cross was outside of us, 2000 years ago and that that work was imputed to us. If I may, check out the mockingbird post for today.

    Maybe we need to prayerfully go to God and ask him about our works. Can’t we go to him about anything? I mean if I am scrambling around trying to “prove” to people around me I am a Christian that seems an awful lot like slavery and not the pureness of a good work given to us through Jesus’ completed work on our behalf.

    Also, why do people get upset about this Jeff? No one questions you when you talk about say the resurrection on this site… Personally, I don’t think that many of us have been given much grace from our earthly families or churches (even Christian families) My family was huge on behaving, not using bad language, no drinking, no sex and of course dressing right. Living right was the phrase used. On my 28th birthday, my parents sent me a card thanking me for never embarrassing them. It was such a blow because what if I had embarrassed them? And the fact that if I had avoided all of those above things to the tee (which I had not they were just unaware of my many transgressions) would that make me pleasing to God? My goodness what is so different with that and being a Mormon? Would they have sent me a card had I gotten pregnant outside of marriage or gotten a DUI? No, grace is as Paul Zahl says one way love. In its purest most holy form only God can give. No human relationship could operate in this way in a fallen world. However, I pray that as I hope to begin a family that my children can experience a bit of that one way love. I never openly rebelled against my parents because honestly I was terrified of them but that moral upbringing did not make me feel that I could go to my mother or father with any trouble and know that I was loved even if what I had done was atrocious. It produced obedience but resentment and distrust of them as well. It also produced an ungodly self-righteousness that caused a rock bottom experience when I finally failed and realized my God I need to be saved. Grace is different. God is your father and you ought obey his commands because they give you life. The bible says as much. The strange thing in the mix is that it also says that none of us can do this. So, God comes down and does it for you, tells you it’s finished, and then comes back to life and instead of going around Judea taking names and kicking but i.e. chewing out Peter and Thomas he tells them to “go in peace”. I mean seriously, when you realize that, are you seriously going to say “well Jesus if you are forcing my hand here I guess I will have to obey” Yeah right! Can’t you imagine Peter and Thomas knowing that they totally screwed up! Especially poor Peter when he meets Jesus and he tells him three times to care for his sheep! He doesn’t throw a stone at Peter. He loves him anyway and that is what draws you to him. I can see Peter walking away from that event thinking wow that went better than expected… Unfortunately, Capon is right we just don’t get it and we have NEVER had anyone respond to us in that way on this earth and that makes it so counter-intuitive to us. I don’t know if you can get it but Dr. Rosenbladt gave a lecture at the Church of the Advent in Birmingham on Grace and our earthly fathers. Well worth the listen if you can find it at

    • Well said, Robin.

      Because of our Old Adam/Eve, we really don’t get it. Taht is why we have to keep hearing it over and over and over again. And I think that is also the reason that the Lord gave us the gift of the Sacraments. So we could have assurance of our salvation outside of anything we do, say, feel, or think.

      And thanks for the heads-up on the Rosenbladt lecture.

  18. Richard Hershberger says

    Only tangentially on topic, but this post is another example of using “Christian” to mean “Evangelical”. Walk into a Lutheran church and odds are excellent that the sermon will in some way be about grace. No one in the pews will think it odd.

    • Okay, so those in the Luthern pews who don’t find the sermon on grace being odd, do they receive that grace, live that grace, extend that grace? Or is it just evangelicals that get that one all kinds of jacked up? Just curious. Thank you for humoring me Richard.

      • Suzanne says

        In my experience with Lutherans, no they don’t do the things you mentioned more than any other Christians. Grace is proclaimed in church, but I’ve seen many for whom the day to day impact is minimal. Sometimes I think it is way too much focus on grace keeping you from a bad afterlife, but not much emphasis on grace making you give a rip about your fellow man, other than to let them know that they, too, can have grace as a get out of hell free card. That’s just my experience, though…

        • Richard Hershberger says

          What Lutherans usually manage to avoid is the unsustainably heavy sense of dread which propels so much works theology. Grace transforms the question of “What must I do to be saved?” (to which the answer is that you can never do enough) to “What is my response to being saved? (which leads to the observation that our response can never really be commensurate to the gift we have received). There certainly is a sense of guilt to derive from this, but it lacks the soul-crushing sense of doom and damnation we see in some traditions. It also avoids the imperative found in some traditions to regard outsiders as incorrigibles. God’s grace, after all, is not limited to Lutherans.

          How does this translate into giving a rip about others? It varies widely. Said rip is an obligation, but not in the sense of being necessary for salvation. Some recognize this obligation. Others do not. In my experience it is more common than not for Lutheran churches to have some sort of social ministry. My current church is in an urban setting. We give out about fifty free bag lunches every day. There is a clear sense that this program will be funded somehow or other no matter what. Its funding is in a perpetual state of crisis, but always comes through. I would say this is pretty typical.

    • The sermon had better be about grace or I am having a talk with my Lutheran pastor.

      It also have an aspect of the law (before the grace) to show us our need of a Savior.


    • Headless Unicorn Guy says

      Only tangentially on topic, but this post is another example of using “Christian” to mean “Evangelical”.

      Richard, “Christian” without any modifiers DOES mean “Evangelical/Fundagelical/CBA/K-LOVE/whatever”. The word got hijacked to mean “Only OUR type of Christian, none other” a LONG time ago.

      • Richard Hershberger says

        I am on a personal quest to recover the word, or at least make people aware of their usage. I’m not talking about real fundagelicals, who really do mean to exclude all others from the category of “Christian”. There is no hope there. But a lot of Evangelicals who certainly don’t mean this adopt the usage unthinkingly. My hope is to make them stop and think about the implications, and decide if this is really what they mean to say.

        • Headless Unicorn Guy says

          Listen to the guy from Furry Fandom:

          There is only so much you can do to “recover the word” after it’s been hijacked by the crazies. And since the crazies have no life and you do, they can always put more time and energy into hijacking it than you can recovering it.

  19. Call it what you want.

    If it is in any way up to me and my faith/belief/ability/need/desire/talent/duty/etc., then I am toast. Anything I might do will compound error upon mistake upon sin upon screw-up. Anything and everything.

    So why try?

  20. WIth all the crazy stuff that has gone on in our country in the last few years- would Clinton running again truly be that scary:)

  21. Okay okay I’m hopeless I know it…. lol. Yet this nice article makes my point in something I pointed out earlier on here about there being no God given calling to a life of celibacy.

    Of course, I do recognize the right of Chaplain Mike and others on here to disagree with me on this… I hope I am not that ‘fundy’ in my approach as of yet.

    So in the light of grace plus nothing being more than sufficient let me rephrase my earlier stance:
    Regardless of our marital state (wed or unwed) all we have to ‘do’ is to believe in Jesus, that’s all the works we need to ‘do’.

    I also retract my remark that it is sinful not to get married if one can for that comes across way too nasty I fear.

    So to be honest: my deep dislike of celibacy stems from my 2 years in a catholic monastery in France, a cult like setting where I was told how remaining celibate for the rest of my life was a higher calling setting me apart from the rest of us mere mortals.

    In a sense it is this experience I am rejecting.

    So a new question comes to mind: how can we live merely and solely out of grace plus nothing while still doing good works out of that same faith? How do we avoid the temptation of boasting in our works (be it being married or celibate or a great employee or feeding the poor of whatever)?

    I guess that’s the real question.

    • Just adding a personal note: I might come across as way too anti catholic on this forum. I hope that what I wrote above explains what hurts me most in that faith tradition.
      I do have to admit (reluctantly) that catholics are christians and can live out a life resplendent with grace regardless of their official approach on the topic of grace.
      Attending a local Church of England parish here in Holland I am not anticatholic: the main reason that church attracts me is the ‘mass like’ liturgy and the fact that they share the same compassionate attitude so common among catholics.
      I will even go as far as this: my fear is not that ppl turn catholic (in this I have to apologize for a remark about the late Michael Spencer and his wife who became a catholic… oops) but that in doing so they will lose living out of grace.
      As to ‘cheap grace’ I need ppl here to enlighten me on that: would that be like pretending to be saved and living a life as sinful as possible? Being a cradle catholic this notion wholly evades me.
      Finally: I keep coming back here because I just loved Michael’s articles (I reread the archives a lot and so enjoy his lucid insights) and I understand it is changing here because… well… Michael is no longer amongst us.
      I guess I feel closer to the late Michael Spencer than to Chaplain Mike and I fear his legacy here is slipsliding away.

      • As to what attracts me in the writings of Michael Spencer I post this link (it is from internetmonk so I guess it’s okay to post it!):

      • Hans,

        First, I am sorry that you had a bad experience with that French monastery. I do not take any of your remarks as being anti-Catholic. You were hurt and I hope that God heals you and that you enjoy your journey with Him (and us).

        The best example of “cheap grace” that I know of comes from the TV show, “Judging Amy”. There was a case before her about two parents demanding access to their grand child. The father had been an abusive drunk while his daughter was growing up. Both parents claimed that “He’s changed now. He’s found religion and has stopped drinking.” But there was no recognition about how much they had hurt their daughter (mother of the grandchild) nor asking for forgiveness for their actions.

        Amy’s bailiff, in a conversation with her talked about “cheap grace”.

  22. is grace then the actual divine power/energy to become (as opposed to do) a child of God? freely offered, but still needs to be accommodated/received/permitted to transform us?

    it appears grace can be received in vain:

    As God’s co-workers we urge you not to receive God’s grace in vain. 2Cor 6:1

    and it can be perverted by some:

    For certain individuals whose condemnation was written about long ago have secretly slipped in among you. They are ungodly people, who pervert the grace of our God into a license for immorality and deny Jesus Christ our only Sovereign and Lord. Jude 1:4

    and it seems we can fall short of grace also:

    See to it that no one falls short of the grace of God and that no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile many. Heb 12:15

    as precious & free & infinitely wide in scope it is, is it extended to us without having an expected effect upon us? one that God has intended for us to incorporate into our daily lives?

    and by this i do make the distinction between our good works based on fear or self-righteousness or a sense of being unacceptable to God vs. the good works prepared in advance for us to do thru grace? fruit that will last?

    and is the love of God the same as grace? not wanting to split hairs, but are they the same? what is the source of our transformation as believers? grace? there has to be some divine power of no earthly origin to make new, transform, redeem, save, sanctify, etc.

    so, is grace a static aspect of God’s character or something very active & of divine power to effect what we ourselves could not do, which is what the Law could only do: point out that yes, we were sinners in need of a Savior???

    • Joseph, I think the standard definition of grace – “unmerited favor” – is sorely lacking, especially if you try to substitute that phrase for grace throughout the NT. A better definition would seem to be “the powerful presence of God.” In other words, grace is God at work in our lives. We are being saved by grace, and we are being made holy – into the likeness of Christ – by grace. We do good works not to become Christlike, but because we are being made Christlike.

      We also do good works for the benefit of others. We tend to think of grace in purely selfish terms; that is, us becoming more holy. However, there is “work” to do because there are needs outside of us; grace is given to us so we can pass it around, so to speak. So, yes, we do good works, so that others are blessed and the grace we have received is not in vain.

      • Thank you for participating in this conversation. I appreciate your book.

      • wow. i was not expecting an answer by one of the authors of the books mentioned in the iMonk article. thanx for the response.

        early in my Christian walk i wanted to do a study on grace since the minimalist definitions being given at the time didn’t seem, well, grand enough in scope. it was insufficient in my estimation because there had to be more to it as it impacted me than simply looking at it from God’s perspective.

        i knew deep down in my spirit that grace was active & empowering & effective in such a way that should be an outward expression of its ‘presence’ or impartation or bestowal. it cannot be static in my estimation only because God is ever present in this existence exerting divine pressure if you will to encourage & equip His saints to be blessings to others. He is seeking even the minutest of cracks in the hardness of hearts to squeeze grace into & those that do finally surrender their wills+lives to His Lordship will then be flooded in grace. we become conduits of grace to others & yes, are changed (transformed) in the process…

        grace is not some namby-pamby theological notion that makes for easy distinction as the varied comments on this one topic indicate. we do ‘wrestle’ with its graciousness, free offer & all the special benefits that come with it. we desperately need it & deep down thank God in all His goodness it is given. we do not know quite how to utilize it though & seem quite selfish in granting it to others. our being gracious is one element of becoming like Him that seems to be the last lesson we learn about it.

        yes, God knew exactly what He was adopting, redeeming, claiming as His when He first made Himself known to me in a very intimate but dramatic way. what i needed was grace. what i could not do myself He did & made the invitation to, “Come, follow Me” irresistible at that time. becoming a disciple though the beginning of a faith journey i did not fully realize its total cost & the life challenges i would later face.

        doing good works for me now is not a self-conscious awareness or checklist i mentally keep tabs on. in relaxing or resting in grace i do become a more gracious individual that exhibits qualities & characteristics of Jesus more. i don’t find myself worrying about sin, but i am sensitive to its default condition & know better how to respond to it when i do miss the mark. no condemnation. no sense of having to make up for lost favor. no paranoid moroseness that drives me to balance out the bad with my good efforts. and herein lies the tension i think everyone responding to the article recognizes, but finds challenging to explain sufficiently to garner agreement from those looking at it from their own perspective…

        anyway…thanx for the response…

  23. “He who began a good work in us will bring it to cpmpletion,”

    We trust that He will.

    They asked Jesus, “What is it to do the works of the Father?” Jesus answered them, “Believe in the one whom the Father has sent.”

    Yes, good works naturally follow faith. But since every hypocrite and pagan is capable of “good works”, we cannot trust in whatever it is that we do.

    But trust in Christ alone, through faith.

    • Steve, I cannot find those quotes in my Bible. What version are you using? This does not sound like anything I have ever heard before. And who said we are trusting in whatever we do? Our trust is in the Lord Jesus Christ who is our final judge. It is not about – well, I will do thus and so today and I trust that that will give me a better standing on judgment day. If we do that, we automatically forfeit any recognition at any time. By not doing anything we automatically forfeit recognition as well. In my thinking, if you are not producing deeds you are in just as much trouble as if you were doing deeds for your own glory. They are both selfish.

  24. A Lutheran pastor once asked us the question, “How do you know that the Holy Spirit is at work in you?

    His answer: “You’re breathing, aren’t you?”

  25. Oh Yeah? My Jesus is bigger than your Jesus. My view of grace is better than your view of grace. My Bible is heavier than your bible. People through harder rocks at me than they do at you! Lord, have mercy.

  26. cermak_rd says

    Many people on here have referred to living however you want and believing that this will somehow be dreadful and they will behave like barbarians without the rules of religion.

    I’m doubtful. Human beings are social animals with a sense of empathy so I don’t think most folks are likely to start thieving, killing etc if not disposed to it already because they can put themselves in the other guy’s place. I don’t think that most folks who both love their parner and consider their partner a close friend are going to start cheating willy-nilly (IMO most adultery hits couples that are already hurting).

    My partner is an agnostic. I haven’t noticed a sudden loss of ethics as he has traveled his journey of deconversion.

  27. I would like to say to John from down under that I always enjoy reading what you have to say. I tried posting above but it would not take on the thread so hope you will catch this here. I think Jeff is saying when you are under grace you choose your sins. But even Paul had trouble doing what he did not want to do. We have the old nature within giving us a constant struggle with sin that so easily besets us. And who among us does not have besetting sins. Paul was suffering in prison when he told the brethren at Philippi to conduct themselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ; and to stand firm in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel. We can strive for men or we can strive to stand firm in Christ. I too am troubled by grace being portrayed as scary in that when we are priviledged to have it, we cannot handle it. Therefore it seems we relieve ourselves of all responsibility. Why then have we been given a mind.
    At the end of his article Jeff wrote, “How could we want to live anything but the resurrected Christ. I would like that you would tell us Jeff, just what does living the resurrected Christ look like to you?

  28. Don’t forget what Jesus told us, also.

    That “we must be perfect as our Father in Heaven is perfect.”

    If we want to hang onto the law (what we do) to make ourselves better in God’s eyes, then we might as well quit pussyfooting and go all the way.

  29. Are we also forgetting about compassion and agape love here? What is this with hanging on to the law stuff? We are to love the Lord with all our soul and all our might.
    Because we are compelled to do works out of love for Christ we are hanging on to the law???
    What has being responsible got to do with trying to make ourselves better in God’s eyes??? Could it be that this fixation on the law is causing pride to raise its ugly head here. Jesus did not come to abolish the law. The law is our schoolmaster to help us understand what is expected of us. To whom much is given much is expected. At the judgment seat of Christ we will be judged for our deeds. That judgement has no bearing on our eternal destiny. That is decided long before the judgement. It seems that some here are having trouble separating the requirements for heaven and the reqirements for rewards at the judgment seat. It all comes down to your hearts condition when your deeds are taking place. It is possible to do works with a heart that is right and pure before the Lord. Yet again, if you cannot do works except in selfish motovation, you are right about hanging on to the law.

    • John From Down Under says

      I’m not trying to antagonize Jeff or others, but none of these answers help anyone grasp what being ‘dead to sin’ means in practice. Or maybe we’re just too dense down here to get it.

      I’m no theologian or academic, I’m just a banker, but I’ve been involved in discipleship classes for years in a lay capacity. You don’t help people grow with recycled clichés (and I don’t mean this disrespectfully in any way), you need to break it down with some more practical stuff. The examples I gave Jeff are by no means a ‘list of rules’ I am trying to measure ourselves against as others seem to think (geez, where would you start listing rules? there’s thousands of things that can cause us to sin), they are just that, examples of simple day-to-day things. I’m trying to understand Jeff and how he thinks, but obviously that ain’t gonna work.

      Those who commented seem to think that I’m advocating a form of trying to ‘impress God’ and get better at ‘sin management’. We’ll obviously keep talking past each other and we can’t seem to understand what the other is saying, so to this end any further discussion from here on is counter-productive and fruitless.

      Those who know me personally, would find it odd that I’m trying to make a case in point on this, because I’d rather err on the side of grace than the law ANY DAY! However, by ignoring the other side of the coin is not helping, it’s only confusing people and then someone’s gotta clean up the mess later.

      Finally, as I’ve said numerous times in other posts, the NT does not teach disciplined moral behavior and good works IN ORDER TO achieve or earn brownie points with God, but BECAUSE we’ve ALREADY earned his approval and favor in Christ.

      Personally, I also hold to the belief that the Christian is accepted by God because of the passive and active obedience of Christ. In kitchen table English, ‘passive’ is what Christ did through his death on the cross, and ‘active’ is the perfect life of obedience he lived before God on our behalf all his 33 years on earth. Hence, whatever we ask of God needs to be asked ‘in the name of Jesus’. So’ Jesus not only died on our behalf the death we deserved as a perfect sinless sacrifice, but also lived the perfect life of obedience that you and I could never live for a day even.

      But here’s the rub, the NT is full of exhortations to go and live a life WORTHY of what we have received. Below is what I’m talking about and I’ll leave you with these in God’s good graces before I bail out (!) The recurring theme and main thrust in these scriptures is ‘because God did this, now you do that’. Not ‘in order to’ but ‘because of’. The fact that it’s all the work of the Spirit and God gets the glory does not give us a free pass to kick back in neutral and be que sera sera, whatever will be, will be.

      I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner WORTHY of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. (Ephesians 4:1-3)

      Only let your manner of life be WORTHY of the gospel of Christ… (Phil 1:27)
      And so, from the day we heard, we have not ceased to pray for you, asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, so as to walk in a manner WORTHY of the Lord, FULLY PLEASING TO HIM, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God. (Col 1:9-10)

      For you know how, like a father with his children, we exhorted each one of you and encouraged you and charged you to walk in a manner WORTHY of God, who calls you into his own kingdom and glory. (1 Thessalonians 2:11-12)

      Therefore, SINCE we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, LET US also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and LET US run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus… (Heb 12:1)

      • John FDU,

        A few observations/comments regarding the flow of the text you cite…

        It is the norm in the Epistles for the writers to state the indicative, then to supply the imperative. For instance, the first halves of both Col. and Eph. constitute the indicative (theory), while the last halves inform us what the theory looks like in practice (the imperative). That is a good teaching style, and one that is especially suited to people who think antithetically (everyone before Nietzsche).

        I use to think of the imperative as “law”, but I now think that perspective is misleading. Our souls have been so polluted by sin for so long that we naturally think the pollution is “normal” and easily trail around in cognative promiscuity. The imperative serves as a corrective, not as “law”. “Because of the reality of who we are in Christ that reality looks something like this, which is pleasing and worthy.” It’s pleasing and worthy not only to God, but to ourselves as well–it just feels so much better to be “in the groove”, so to speak.

        Because through Christ we are acceptable to God, we are freed to perform–or not to perform. Just speaking for myself though, I feel much better when I’m up to something that “hums vibrantly infused by Life”. Sin may tingle for a while, but so does stray voltage….


    • The trouble is the emphasis.

      The trouble comes when not being able to distinguish law from gospel.

      Christian encouragement, yes. Christian law, no.

      Can the Holy Spirit REALLY inspire us? Or do we need the law (do this) in order to be what God made us to be?

  30. Jeff, and Chaplain Mike,

    There is a simple remedy to counter some of the arguments you’re getting (to grace, to “it’s ok,” and to the critique of radical christianity):

    Simply reply, “Great, but are you doing it?”

    -You say we need to add our will and our works to what grace has accomplished. Great, how much spiritual progress have you made since you’ve started trying harder?

    -You say it’s not enough to just be a Christian. Great, so how are you stacking up against the most pious, studious, selfless, sacrificial, loving, risk-taking believers from church history?

    -You say we need to be radical, more committed, more ______. Great, at what point will you have arrived at “radical?”

    I think some self-examination in regard to these responses would make us all run to grace faster and harder.

    • John From Down Under says

      @ Sean

      Sorry brother but you completely missed the point. If that’s the best deduction you can make from everything you’ve read, then you either didn’t understand or don’t want to understand. Take a minute to examine the scriptures I cited to Ardnas and then come back and tell me what you think they mean and how they apply.

      “how much spiritual progress have you made since you’ve started trying harder?”

      What does this have to do with the price of fish in China? Where in your Bible do you read that the commandment to obey depends on how successful we are? We failed, and will keep on failing until we die. Some things we do well and others we suck at, that’s the whole point of progressive sanctification. Our failures don’t exonerate us from making a conscious effort to live a life worthy of our calling. You’re using pragmatism as a measuring stick, i.e. if it works I’ll do it, if not I’ll stop. What kind of theology is this?

      “how are you stacking up against the most pious, studious, selfless, sacrificial, loving, risk-taking believers from church history?”

      Bottom of the ladder but so what? Does my personal performance change God’s word?

      • Before my burn out 12 years ago I think I would have said the same things you did.
        I would have seen those arguments as excuses. It’s all a matter of the will, I would have said. People just don’t want to make the effort. If only they would try just a little harder.
        But as i wrote: it made me burn out.
        Because whatever I did it would never be enough. I would never be holy enough, either. I never doubted my salvation, I wasn’t afraid of going to hell, and I thought that was the ‘grace of God’. But I still felt deep guilt whenever I sinned. And I felt like a failure when I didn’t read 5 chapters of the bible each day, or evangelized or prayed for half an hour, or memorized bible verses.
        It was never enough. Recently a friend told me that around that time he read 15 chapters of the bible each day. And I realised that the Johan of 12 years ago would have thought that he was obliged to do that. That 5 chapters wasn’t enough. But the friend told me that even though he read 15 chapters each day, he still didn’t feel it was enough. He still felt like a failure.
        I do not want to necessarily accuse you of this, but if I would have made the arguments you made, I would have severely overrated what we as humans can do from our own strength. I believed that we WERE able to change ourselves, to make ourselves obey, to make ourselves acceptable to God. But the human will and power are an illusion. Through my burn out I have found that I am utterly powerless – I am a failure through and through. It’s only by the grace of God that I stand.
        This is the ‘dying to self’ that Jeff talks about, the descending into death, in utter despair of your own efforts to climb up the religious ladder. To find out that God came down that ladder in Jesus. That he is already there in our burn out, in our powerlessness, in our failure and in our death. And he loves us anyway.
        Then there’s the promise of the resurrection. But the resurrection is solely God’s work. There’s nothing of us in there. Our only part is to receive it. To welcome it in our lives. To be receptive to it as a child.
        I strongly believe in a theology of weakness. I think that is the theology the bilbe puts forward, in the gospels (first will be last et cetera) and in the epistles (read 1 corinthians for that). And I love what Paul says that he will be proud in his weakness, because the power of God becomes visible in it. When we are weak, he is strong.
        That’s the gospel for you. No self effort. No self improvement. No Jesus and (bible study, prayer, church attendance, evangelism, et cetera).


      • @ johnfromdownunder

        Before my burn out 12 years ago I think I would have said the same things you did.
        I would have seen those arguments as excuses. It’s all a matter of the will, I would have said. People just don’t want to make the effort. If only they would try just a little harder.
        But as i wrote: it made me burn out.
        Because whatever I did it would never be enough. I would never be holy enough, either. I never doubted my salvation, I wasn’t afraid of going to hell, and I thought that was the ‘grace of God’. But I still felt deep guilt whenever I sinned. And I felt like a failure when I didn’t read 5 chapters of the bible each day, or evangelized or prayed for half an hour, or memorized bible verses.
        It was never enough. Recently a friend told me that around that time he read 15 chapters of the bible each day. And I realised that the Johan of 12 years ago would have thought that he was obliged to do that. That 5 chapters wasn’t enough. But the friend told me that even though he read 15 chapters each day, he still didn’t feel it was enough. He still felt like a failure.

        I do not want to necessarily accuse you of this, but if I would have made the arguments you made, I would have severely overrated what we as humans can do from our own strength. I believed that we WERE able to change ourselves, to make ourselves obey, to make ourselves acceptable to God. But the human will and power are an illusion. Through my burn out I have found that I am utterly powerless – I am a failure through and through. It’s only by the grace of God that I stand. Believe me, it’s a scary place to discover that you have no power or strength at all. That you have no strenght in you to make a ‘conscious effort’. What is a conscious effort, if not your own power of will, your own strength? But if this fails you, there’s nothing left to lean on. One has to accept that one’s a wreck, and totalle dependent on God. On Grace.

        This is the ‘dying to self’ that Jeff talks about, the descending into death, in utter despair of your own efforts to climb up the religious ladder. To find out that God came down that ladder in Jesus. That he is already there in our burn out, in our powerlessness, in our failure and in our death. And he loves us anyway.
        Then there’s the promise of the resurrection. But the resurrection is solely God’s work. There’s nothing of us in there. Our only part is to receive it. To welcome it in our lives. To be receptive to it as a child.
        I strongly believe in a theology of weakness. I think that is the theology the bilbe puts forward, in the gospels (first will be last et cetera) and in the epistles (read 1 corinthians for that). And I love what Paul says that he will be proud in his weakness, because the power of God becomes visible in it. When we are weak, he is strong.
        That’s the gospel for you. No self effort. No self improvement. No Jesus and (bible study, prayer, church attendance, evangelism, et cetera).


        • Headless Unicorn Guy says

          It’s all a matter of the will, I would have said. People just don’t want to make the effort. If only they would try just a little harder.

          Because whatever I did it would never be enough.

          Johan, that describes my entire life. I was raised as The Perfect Kid Genius, and whatever I did it was never Perfect. “How Could You make a mistake? YOU’RE A GENIUS!!!!”

          To this day, I am terrified to attempt anything. (I do, but it’s rough.) Why attempt anything when no matter what you do it’ll always be wrong and you’ll catch hell for it?

          • You too eh?
            I find it stifles my creativity as well. Passivity is one of the forces I struggle with.
            For the longest time after my burn out I couldn’t even say a little prayer – because I would think it wasn’t enough – once I started to pray, I should pray at least so much for so often. It was easier not to pray at all.
            And I still struggle with this.
            Maybe that’s why I always like your comments – I get where you’re coming from (at least a little bit).


  31. I love this! And can say I have experinced people and pastors a like that are absolutly terrified of the word.

  32. Grace does not preclude growth. What shall we say? Shall we continue in sin that grace may abound? God forbid! How can we who are dead to sin live in it any longer?

    Or as the apostle Peter said at the beginning of his second epistle:

    His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to[c] his own glory and excellence, by which he has granted to us his precious and very great promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped from the corruption that is in the world because of sinful desire. For this very reason, make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue,[e] and virtue with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness, and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love.

    For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they keep you from being ineffective or unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. For whoever lacks these qualities is so nearsighted that he is blind, having forgotten that he was cleansed from his former sins.

    Therefore, brothers, be all the more diligent to make your calling and election sure, for if you practice these qualities you will never fall. For in this way there will be richly provided for you an entrance into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

  33. Steve Newell says

    In order to truly understand how great God’s grace is, we must be willing to accept how sinful we really are. In Eph 2:1-10, Paul states very clearly that we are all dead in our sins. He goes on to state that we are made alive by God’s mercy. Even our ability to believe through faith is a gift of God, so we cannot even claim the ability to make a decision about our salvation.

    I believe that we don’t like to talk about God’s grace & mercy because it forces us to realize how sinful we really are.

  34. At the risk of getting stones cast at me, I am going to suggest that part of the problem is our tendency to go to extremes in explaining concepts.

    There is no doubt that the Church Fathers taught grace clearly into the early 800’s. I have before pointed out that two of the anathemas after the iconoclastic controversy were, “To those who foolishly say that the coming of the Son of God into the world in the flesh, and His voluntary passion, death, and resurrection were not necessary for our salvation and the cleansing of sins, Anathema! To those who reject the grace of redemption preached by the Gospel as the only means of our justification before God, Anathema!”

    St. John Chrysostom’s famous Easter sermon also said, “Come you all: enter into the joy of your Lord. You the first and you the last, receive alike your reward; you rich and you poor, dance together; you sober and you weaklings, celebrate the day; you who have kept the fast and you who have not, rejoice today. The table is richly loaded: enjoy its royal banquet. The calf is a fatted one: let no one go away hungry. All of you enjoy the banquet of faith; all of you receive the riches of his goodness. Let no one grieve over his poverty, for the universal kingdom has been revealed; let no one weep over his sins, for pardon has shone from the grave; let no one fear death, for the death of our Saviour has set us free: He has destroyed it by enduring it, He has despoiled Hades by going down into its kingdom, He has angered it by allowing it to taste of his flesh.”

    But, and you knew a but was coming, everyone of the Church Fathers insisted on the necessity of striving for the faith. If it was anathema to preach a justification that relied on anything else other than grace, it was also tantamount to anathema to preach a faith that had no works. To preach grace does not necessitate works being reduced to nothing more than things you do if you feel like it, or you feel “called” to do them. Works will not save you, but you were created for works (Ephesians). Our justification relies on grace alone, but that does not free us to sin the more, as Saint Paul said. Even John Calvin, one of the great Protestant defenders of grace (and election) had the dual doctrines of election and perseverance of the saints. The saint who did not persevere was not truly elect (according to John Calvin). (The Orthodox would not word it that way.)

    Somehow we must never preach grace in such a way that works become superflous. Neither must we ever preach works in such a way that they appear to have us earn our salvation. It is a very tough balancing act.

    • Thank you! all these “grace” arguments are just comparing silly extremes. I’m done fighting them it’s just stupid. everyone is comparing their formulas with other formulas. Faith, Love, Grace & Salvation can not be put in formulas. They only work in relationships. peace.

    • One more Mike says

      Thanks for bringing the voice of reason Fr. Ernesto.

    • John From Down Under says

      Finally someone with balance and biblical sense. Thank you for your gracious spirit in which you conveyed your thoughts Fr Ernesto.

    • It is a very tough balancing act indeed. Especially when you have all kinds of people coming at it from different backgrounds with different scars. Preach grace to the exclusion of works, and you will find an addict who never took concrete steps stop her slide into addiction until she hurt everyone she loved–because those concrete steps felt an awful lot like works, and we’re under grace, not law. But then, talk about the necessity of works without ensuring that those works are always placed squarely in the context of grace, and you will find someone who has driven away everyone in his life after being browbeaten and guilted into becoming a mean little jerk who holds on to everyone’s slightest flaws and peccadilloes–because after all, the Bible says “Be holy, as I am holy.”

      There is something that seems inherently contradictory about grace and good works, and yet it seems like the holiest people have spades of both. At the risk of sounding trite, maybe the best way isn’t to work out a formula that avoids contradicting itself (because those often end up contradicting reality, anyways). Maybe just accept the paradox, while keeping in mind that God loves us and has taken steps to make things right between us, and go forward. After all, as Chesterton pointed out, the cross itself is a contradiction.

    • I agree with all you wrote here, but I still don’t believe it contradicts anything Jeff said in the original article. Grace doesn’t save us simply so we can go be bigger sinners, or give us a license to sin (on a side note, I’ve often wondered about that phrase. Does anyone actually live like they need a license to sin? Most people simply sin without being told they can.)

      The problem with add an “and” or a “but” to the complete work of grace is that the question of how much work or fruit is necessary for someone to actually be considered a Christian. I’ve seen people tormented by this question. There was a time when I myself was tormented by it, especially growing up in a tradition where we were constantly harped on to do more and more. Eventually, people just give up. I’ve found, though, that it was at the end of my rope that I was truly able to experience grace and the love of God.

      I actually see very little of preachers handing out licenses to sin, or perhaps we’re simply defining that term incorrectly. Even those on the “liberal” side of things still tend to use emotional manipulation to guilt people into doing certain things. I suppose there are preachers who try to convince their parishioners that they can serve Christ as well as serving lesser gods like the American dream, patriotism, a big bank account, etc. Telling people that Jesus only wants part of their life, is actually giving them a license to be an idolater.

      All I know is that I can’t choose to bear fruit anymore than an apple tree can choose to grow apples. Fruit is the natural function of who we are, and only Jesus can change who we are at the core.

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says

        The problem with add an “and” or a “but” to the complete work of grace is that the question of how much work or fruit is necessary for someone to actually be considered a Christian.

        Many times it’s “More than YOURS, but less than Mine.”

        A lot of this can all be lumped under “Christian One-Upmanship.”

    • ppssttt?? Is it safe for Catholic to sneak in a visit? I mean, I’m done burning babies and getting my secret coded messages from Rome about invading fundamental churches, and I have ALMOST gotten my daily quota of KJV bibles destroyed. Let me tell ‘ya, it is EXHAUSTING!

      Is there some rule that states that comments start out thoughtful and kind and get crazeeeee-er as the night goes on? Because the institutionalized misinfomation and hatred of other families of believers doesn’t strike me as much of a Christ-centered value…

      Having said that, my comment (and I do have one!) is that grace and obedience are very similar to the two ends of good parenting: unconditional love and firm guidance. They are BOTH important, and a child raised without either one is deeply unfinished as a human.

  35. Jeff,

    Thank you for posting this. I am a performance driven man and am a perfectionist. Grace is one of the hardest things I struggle to accept inside. I can speak passionately about it but a friend told me recently that I dont believe it in my heart. Several years ago my mentor told me: “Bob, I get this image of you in my head. You are in a river and you are fighting to keep your head above the water.” Wow!

    If grace is an ocean, we’re all sinking.

    How He Loves by John Mark McMillan

    Again, thank you. And, no stones my brother, only gratitude.


  36. Being “dead to sins” means we are positionally dead. Our position in Christ is sealed. We abide in Him and He abides in us. We cannot loose that position. We are redeemed and when this body is gone, our position is finalized in heaven with Christ. I would still ask Jeff to tell us what He thinks “living like the resurrected Christ looks like.

  37. John From Down Under says

    We’re approaching 100 comments and going!

    To all of you who tried to correct me I want you to know that I appreciate your efforts and I know that you had the best intentions at heart.

    After so many comments there’s a clear pattern that has emerged (as in other posts in the past). All of those who argue against what people like me are saying, are arguing out of personal experience and opinion. I am longing to see someone put forth a solid biblical argument, not necessarily an academic thesis (I’m not an academic), and explain the position of grace and the works/law/sanctification as to how they fit together.

    I really feel for those who say they’ve been burnt in the past for all sorts of reasons (I’m no different btw). However, it seems quite clear from your comments that you have allowed your experience to shape your theology and understanding of the Bible. Your experience and feelings are dictating how you view grace. You are arguing more AGAINST works rather than FOR grace. Instead of ACTING from biblical conviction, you’re rather REACTING against anything that sounds like law.

    So, as Michael said above, ‘accept the paradox’ rather than pitting one against the other.

    • I don’t see anyone arguing “against works”. Is anyone saying that we should all go out and try to sin as much as possible so that grace may abound? Not that I see.

      All I am saying is that when we were made alive in Christ, we were made free as Paul says in Galatians,

      You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the sinful nature; rather, serve one another humbly in love. For the entire law is fulfilled in keeping this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” If you keep on biting and devouring each other, watch out or you will be destroyed by each other.

      We still have the ability to sin and to choose rightly or wrongly as Paul says, but that freedom exists outside of our position as Kingdom people. Now I actually do think that apostasy is a possibility, and that if a person decides they absolutely don’t want to follow Christ, He will allow person to walk away from Him.

      The way I see it, spiritual fruit and Christian ethics are related but they aren’t the same thing. I can choose to react kindly to a person I don’t like very much simply because I know I should even though my heart isn’t in it. Eventually, though, I believe I will be at a point where my heart will be in it. That won’t be by an act of will that my heart is changed. It will simply be by my submitting to the Spirit’s work.

      In your other comments you mentioned the exhortations we are given about living a life worthy of our calling. I do take those seriously, but I don’t take them as a negative motivation. I see it more like something like a king exhorting his son to go live a life that is worthy of his royal position. In other words, he needn’t go live in a way that denies who he is or his lineage. If he does do that, it doesn’t means he ceases to be a prince. It just means he’s not doing what he was intended to do.

    • John I am reminded of the Chapter 13 in 1 Corinthians, which says in essence that we now see through a glass darkly. Now we know in part but then shall we know even as Christ is known. Point being, that there are mysteries in this life we cannot understand while here. Perhaps we are getting too close to something that no one can really understand. We try in our intellect and or emotions to explain what God perhaps chooses not to bring complete illumination to. We are told to accept by faith that which we cannot understand but is clearly put down in His word. Some think they have the perfect answer, including me at times. I dare say, including all of us at times. What makes it difficult is when a fixation on that perceived answer becomes scriptual to some. Grace is receiving undeserved redemption. We are saved by grace and not of works lest any man would boast – Ephesians chapter 2. But – and there is that but again. Study the sermon on the mount as well as the 10 commandments. What do you have there. A block of instructions as to how to live. So I see it as a matter of marrying the two elements together which is personal between you and God. You need grace to be accepted by God and you need the good works to show your position in Christ before the world. The mystery is, how to marry the two correctly. That takes great faith in prayer and trust in God who is orchestrating our lives, or should be. If we lack wisdom we are to go the God. It begs the question, where are we getting our wisdom from. I believe the strength of our intimacy with God will pretty much determine where our wisdom is coming from. and of course our intimacy with God needs daily renewal. Our lives are so coloroed by our knowledge and experience that the dangerous trap of our own wisdom can catch us unaware. The truth is, God’s wisdom is just that. God’s wisdom. Our wisdom is just that, our wisdom. The two do not mix nor can they ever. And it is encumbant on us to know the difference. Yes, we seek His face emptying ourselves in humble submission. I am convicted.

  38. I actually came across a great quote this morning while reading that I think applies pretty well to this thread.

    “Grace can be dissected, as a frog, but the thing dies in the process; and the innards are discouraging to any but the pure scientific mind.”

    E.B. White (as quoted by Philip Yancey)

  39. “When I came to you, I did not come with eloquence or human wisdom as I proclaimed to you the testimony about God. For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified.” – 1 Cor 2:1,2

    There is much confusion and fuzzy thinking about the simple truth of the gospel in the church today; I would hazard a guess that many of us have never actually heard the gospel preached. We have been raised on practical sermons about how to live better lives, given various methods of “sin management,” and so on. But, the simple gospel – Jesus plus nothing – is where we need to start, and where we need to return, on a daily basis. We need to hear, over and over, “It is for freedom that Christ has set you free.” As someone wrote to me last week, “I am invited back into real truth but it’s like i need to be re-acquainted with it every day.”

    We don’t try to reconcile grace with works or religion; we start with grace. Everything flows from there. The fear that grace leads to sin (or slothfulness, which is also sin) is unfounded; grace can never lead to sin, for sin is bondage, not freedom. We are not “free” to sin; we are “free” to love, and to live in freedom. If we live in grace, we don’t have to worry about works, or perseverance, or whatever. Start with Christ crucified. And, come back to Christ crucified.

    “It is for freedom that Christ has set us free.”

    • amen…

    • Very well said Alden – Yes, we start with grace, and yes, everything should just flow from there. We still have a sinful nature within however, and we wrestle with powers that need to be reckoned with. Satan, in otherwords is alive and well. He is always seeking an opportunity to destroy what God creates. So our lives get sidetracked and messed up to the point wher we end up with the confusion and fuzzy thinking you mention. That is why I contend it to be something we will never understand until we meet in glory. Satan and God are both smarter than we are. Satan does not like the “Jesus plus nothing” scene. But as you say, if we would all start at the place of Jesus plus nothing each and every day, which of course I fail to do many days, that would most likely go a long way into the heart of God. This post has been very inspirational for me. With my disagreement over Jeff’s idea of what grace is, has flowed many thoughtful and helpful words from others.

      • Amen again!

      • Ardnas,

        A question; In your experience/understanding, is it ok with Jesus, whom you know, when you fail/succumb to the “flesh”? I’m not asking if you think Jesus wants you to sin, but rather how YOU think Jesus “reacts” to such.


        • I am sorry for not answering sooner, I have been away from the computer.
          I am puzzled as to why the question, but my thoughts run to the person who Jesus was when here on earth. That is the person I see when I read scripture. He was firm but for the most part compassionate in His response to His followers, but railed without apology against those who would not believe. I see Him getting a little more forceful in replying to the deciples however. When we study the parables, He was in, His compassion, appearing to seek out those who were in need of the savior. He love lead HIm to be always in search for sinners.
          According to Romans 8:34, Jesus is seated on the right hand of God inteceding for us. The very fact that he spent time in hell just for us, and then was gloriously raised up along with what else we know about His compassionate existence of sacrificial love, leads me to the inability to believe His reaction would be anything but sorrow. No, it is not okay to sucumb to the flesh,. If it was, why then so many verses warning us to flea from such a fate? But a contrite heart brings His unrelenting forgiveness. Just look at the life of David.

          • I ask the question because your prior comments *seemed* to indicate that Jesus is surprised or disappointed by our sins. I don’t think that he is either surprised or disappointed because both responses are conditioned upon not knowing before the fact or on having false expectations.

            I agree that sin causes sorrow to well up in Jesus — sorrow at the reality of sin’s damage and pain. Sin constitutes a denial of who we are in Christ and the reality of our new nature. That’s serious.

            I think the “forcefulness” that you notice in many of the parables is the extreme measures Jesus employs to “preclude the conversion of the argument”, that is, to eliminate the possibility that his listeners would take the radical-ness of his Kingdom teaching and shoe-horn it into their accepted moralistic paradigms. And, not the least of it is that Grace is so outlandish that “good” people view it as “immoral”.

            Yes, Jesus labored to “seek and save that which is lost” — every last one of us. His condemnation was directed only toward those who thought of themselves as successful entrepeneurs in the religion business of placating God by their right performance.

            I have studied the life of David, and yes, after his pride and lust was rubbed in his face he then demonstrated resolute contrition. David knew that YHWH was the only rock of refuge from guilt to which he could flee and always be welcomed.


  40. Excellent post. I have to tell you that one of the few things that attracts me to God is the topic of grace. But I don’t know if I can find it, or find a community that really believes what is written here at IM. These posts by you Jeff and Chaplin Mike melt me and I really hunger after it. Though I think of myself more of an agnostic I still have no problem with the concept of me being sinful. But that sad truth is that you and Chaplin Mike can blog all you want about grace, scream it to the world, etc.. but the disappointing reality is that you can’t find it in a local church. It will be an elusive and distant desire. All I will find is what I have found…legalism. Consider….

    I remember going to one fundgelical mega church here in the DC area and heard the pastor say, “You want to hear about grace, well instead you need to know how rotten you are, and as such we are not going to talk about grace.” I remember in my Christian days sitting there thinking, “I know how terrible I am…you don’t have to remind me, I know my track record, mistakes, brokenness. Why do they have to add to that shame?”

    I remember in Campus Crusade grace was tied to action. Your forgiven so you won’t have any more problems. You will go to this almost perfect life no temptation in whatever form it exists in. You will sin less as a result of grace. That’s the crap I heard…I remember when I was baptized and 2 days after being baptized I felt the same way as I did before hand. What happened? Baptism was so talked up to? I thought things were supposed to change?

    I love the posts I read here…however I would also like to know why I couldn’t hear messages like this in the communities I was involved in. Why are so many “Bible believing” churches legalistic on this topic? Are they afraid of condoning alcohol use, abortion, pornography, etc…. or are they afraid of losing control of people and do they enjoy being in control?

    • Eagle, you’ve hit the nail on the head. Fear and control (control follows fear) is precisely why many churches disregard grace. “Bible believing,” unfortunately, seems to always mean “you’ve got to believe our interpretation of the Bible” and therefore are legalistic. There are some good churches out there. I’ve been in some. It may take a bit of research, however. The best advice I have is to become grounded in grace yourself, so that you can spot and avoid the snares of legalism as you encounter them. Our book, and others mentioned on this site, can help in that regard.

    • Eagle,

      I know how difficult it can be to find a good, Christ (grace)centered church. I drive 40 minutes one way to my church and one of our members drives an hour and 15 minutes, one way.

      Alden’s and Ken’s book (The Gospel – uncensored) is great to have on hand and will help you recognize the good ones from the bad ones. I have read it and highly suggest you read it.

      I know of several people all over the country who are in exactly the bind that you are in. They regularly listen to sermons and classes by my pastor who is one of the best preachers of grace and Christ crucified for sinners, that I have ever heard. These folks say so, as well. here’s a link to many of his sermons and classes. I hope you’ll enjoy them and bask in the freedom that Christ has won for you on the cross, and in your Baptism. Yes, something DID happen there, and you don’t have to feel it, to know that it is true.

      Take care, and God bless!


  41. Eagle – How I feel for you. It is going to be an interesting meeting when some of those who have done so much harm in the churches meet face to face with the Lord. Yes, it is difficult to find grace in the church. That is because the church is full of sinners who need grace themselves. That is why we cannot depend on people. People fail you. They misunderstand you. They cannot know your heart. You could be crying in pain inside and they would not know. At the end of it all you go to the Lord and accept by faith His grace. Because the Lord knows you and will not fail you. He does not misunderstand. He knows your heart and when you are suffering inside. I cannot explain to you why pastors and churches collectively tend to lean toward legalistic practices, but it is a sad delema. I have been a follower of the Lord for many, many years. I have had personal experience with lack of grace in churches. I just made up my mind that undeserved forgiveness was given to me by the Lord and therefore who am I not to forgive those who have wronged me. It is doubly difficult however when Pastor’s and those in leadership lack the compassion and grace that Jesus portrayed while here on earth. But the Lord knows all about that and His judgment is just. I have also realized through the years that we are responsible for our own lives before the Lord. There is nothing in Scripture that gives us an excuse to blame another for our refusal to come to God on His terms. It is really a matter of falling in love with Jesus. Yes, I mean falling in love with the Counselor, Redeemer, Friend, Giver of life, Almighty, King of Kings, Prince of Peace, Lord of all and on and on I could go with the many names of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Getting to know Him personally and taking our eyes off every other person who did you wrong. I know that you recognize that no one is perfect. But you know what – Jesus is. I cannot wait for that day when I am with Him.

  42. Kelby Carlson says

    I’ve hesitated to weigh in on this, precisely because I neither want to cast stones nor disagree with your fundamental premise. You are simply stating the hallmark of the Reformation: justification by grace through faith because of Christ. It’s the heart of the Gospel, and the Christian faith is lost if we ever forget it. But…

    Law and gospel are two sides of the same coin. Humans were created to reflect God, which is why God’s laws are holy–it is precisely how we are meant to live. The “freedom in Christ” Paul describes is not, I would assert, the kind of freedom that says “just do what you want.” It is the freedom from sin, the freedom from being enslaved to our own will and the freedom to begin to reflect God back into the world. The Gospel must always be at the center–because nothing, nothing that happens in this process really has to do with us. Sanctification comes through our Union with Christ–receiving his Word and Sacraments by the Holy Spirit, we grow in grace to reflect him. Luther was correct in observing that this process is often hidden from us, and that the “old man” will always be in conflict with the “new man”. THis is why we need jesus–because we are assured of our final glorification because of him. The problem with this post is it presents a fluffy, ambiguous idea of grace which really doesn’t do it justice. Sola gracia–grace is responsible for everything, but it extends far beyond just dying to our sins and accepting jesus.

    I say all of this as someone who is deeply endebted to the Internet monk in a lot of ways. I honestly don’t think the arguments here are because we have a bunch of legalistic gospel-deniers. They crop up because you seem to be saying that the Law doesn’t matter, and that our efforts are not just useless for salvation but useless for, well, everything else too. I am trying my best not to miss the point of this article, because at its heart it is entirely correct. But grace is bigger and more comprehensive than you seem to think it is. I’m also not fundamentally convinced of the total antithesis of Law and Gospel, especially after justification. After all, Jesus did not come to abolish the Law, but to fulfill it. It is through his fulfillment of the Law that we have any hope for justification as well as sanctification–the law is necessary in this process, both for Jesus and for us.

    • John From Down Under says

      Spot on Kelby! – you’ve articulted it far better than I ever could.

      While I think we flogged this horse to death after 136 comments, I’m glad the best was saved for last!

    • So, it is still Jesus + law (?)

      Kelby wrote;

      The “freedom in Christ” Paul describes is not, I would assert, the kind of freedom that says “just do what you want.”

      Did anyone here write/say that grace means “just do what you want”?

      In reality, if the truth is admitted, NO ONE ever does anything other than what they want. No one ever acts in opposition to their will. Never, except in the process of dying perhaps.

      Humans were created to reflect God, which is why God’s laws are holy–it is precisely how we are meant to live.

      Really? Law brings/produces life? (Paul thought otherwise in Rom. 7) The Law constitutes the entirety of Who God Is?

      We are meant to live as fully human un-flawed by sin (which is rebellion to God=not believing that God has our best interest at heart). Before Gensis 3 only one proscription existed, and that was necessary because God presented Man with the choice of life or death and also allowed/provided a secondary source of persuasion–the Serpent.

      At the Cross God declared His guilt and accepted the death sentence. Now, that God in Christ is reconciling the world to Himself He has declared that He’s no longer in the condemnation business but the romance and resurrection and life business.

      Can we just do whatever we want? Yes. Is doing whatever we want without cost or consequences? No. Freedom is not only “free from” but “free to”, so, the question yet remains; “What will I/we do with such freedom??”

      Is grace opposed to effort? No. Is grace opposed to merit? Always. The basis of all law is merit. Law and grace are always in opposition. Will law keep us out of trouble? Yes, sometimes. Will law transform us into the image of Christ? No, never.


      • Kelby Carlson says

        I have to wonder whether you actually read what I said or not. I am emphatically not saying that our salvation consists of Jesus+Law, nor am I saying that the Law is the entirety of God. (Whatever that might mean.) Am I saying that the law does give life to one under God’s grace? I absolutely am, and there’s biblical precedent for it:

        How blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked, nor stand in the path of sinners, nor sit in the seat of scoffers. But his delight is in the Law of the Lord, and in that Law he meditates day and night.

        Paul’s point in Romans 7 is not that the Law is entirely bad, but that on our own we are fundamentally incapable of keeping it. But, because “there is no condemnation in Christ Jesus” our union with Christ begins to transform us from within and conform us to the image of Christ. The Law does not save us–only God does that, and it was that way under the Old covenant just as much as the New. Nor does the Law “save” us in the New Testament. Instead, it is a guide to the character of God and how we are supposed to reflect his image. Books like Ephesians are in large part concerned with our response to God’s grace. Am I saying that I’m perfect, or that I keep the Law? no, I’m not–and good thing, because if that is what was expected of me I would fail every time. But the Law is much a blessing as it is a curse, as long as Gospel is not collapsed into Law. I have to wonder why so many people around here seem to have such antipathy towards God’s commandments. I can completely understand the fear of legalism–I’ve encountered it before, and I completely approve Chaplain Mike tearing apart “radical Christianity”. But there has to be some kind of balance to what we’re talking about.

        • I read your post several times before I began a response. I could only conclude that you view law and grace as having a necessary linkage/conjoining in our salvation. In your next comments you quote Ps. 1:1 as evidence that law produces life. In view of the Gospel the psalmist is wrong. If the psalmist is correct then Jesus’ sacrifice was not necessary except as an aide to help us do a better job of law keeping.

          Paul’s point in Rom. 7 is that the law is incompetent to transform us into sinless people, and actually intensifies sin in sinful man and works death in us. In II Cor. 3:7-11 Paul ramps up the rhetoric by referring to the law as “the ministry that brought death”.

          Law produces death. The Gospel is the proclamation of God’s favor apart from law — unless you’d like to call the rule of love a “law”.

          I sense that grace is being infused with connotations of “anarchy”, therefore the necessary felt need is control through rule structures — which is the epitome of the carnal nature.

          I don’t think the antipathy around here is actually toward God’s commandments as what it is against having the facinating Good News, which is the only taproot of Christian enthusiasm, being turned into something which is not good, new, facinating, joyful, astonishing, or fun (to say the least).

          Let’s throw out the blighted baby of Law with all of its bath water laws and instead challenge each other in one thing; To Know Jesus And Him Crucified. Pursue that and be transformed.


          • Kelby Carlson says

            I may not be communicating myself clearly here. I am not saying that the Law justifies–I am not even saying that the Law sanctifies. It doesn’t. It can’t. only Christ can do that. But that does no mean that the Law is useless, or that it shouldn’t be the principle guiding our lives. (And yes, incidentally, i do see a necessary linkage between law and love–love is the fulfillment of the law.) The point is that because of the Gospel, the Law is no longer a ministry of condemnation to those who believe. jesus fulfilled it, and it is in him that we have our righteousness. I’m not articulating this very well. Ironically, the way I see this mostly comes from Luther in “On Christian Liberty”. I’m just trying to phrhase things a little differently.

            Also, I feel sort of sad that you’re so cavalierly willing and able to throw out a good portion of the Psalms (which praise God’s ways/law.) The point of those passages is not that the Law saves, but that the Law, being God’s law, is fundamentally holy. You seem to be arguing that it isn’t–which is something i, along with Scripture, would have to take serious issue with. There’s a point that’s been brought up numerous times which nobody seems willing to answer. What do we do with the imperatives in the New Testament, gospels and epistles? Ignore them because they don’t fit into our comfortable little system? No, sorry, that doens’t work for me.

          • iIgnore them because they don’t fit into our comfortable little system? No, sorry, that doens’t work for me.

            interesting turn of a phrase…

            yet that is exactly what Tom has been patiently pointing out…

    • “The “freedom in Christ” Paul describes is not, I would assert, the kind of freedom that says “just do what you want.” It is the freedom from sin, the freedom from being enslaved to our own will and the freedom to begin to reflect God back into the world.”

      As I understand Jeff’s statement, what you’re asserting here is not making sense. You say it’s not “do what you want” but it IS freedom from sin and enslavement, and freedom to reflect God. As far as I can tell, that’s exactly what every believer wants. To be free from sin, and reflect Jesus. So the phrase “do what you want” seems fine to me. At least taken in the Augustinian context “Love God and do as you please.”

      • Kelby Carlson says

        Point taken. “Do what you want” was being used more rhetorically–the idea that we can just casually abuse our grace by sinning over and over. (Romans 6 was written to counter that idea.) It was a careless use of language, so I apologize for that.

        • Completely understandable. I’m just wondering if the use of language people typically use concerning sanctification isn’t doing more harm than good. If a dichotomy is created between freedom and obedience, we immediately go down the wrong road. Which is I fear where people take it. But if freedom to love Jesus is the place where we keep coming back to, by the compulsion of the grace of God, we generally, imho, don’t need lectures on sanctification and the necessity of fruit. These things always seem to happen most readily when there’s very little interest in simply proclaiming the Gospel. And possibly celebrating. So I get somewhat sensitive around the issue.

          • Kelby Carlson says

            Sanctification is a tricky thing to get right, though i approve of your solution. Michael Horton did an excellent job treating the whole justification/sanctification idea in his Systematic Theology. (Rather interesting, in this point, because he holds to the Law/Gospel distinction, as I do, but seems much more open to the third use of the Law for Christians.)

        • Kelby,

          The site wouldn’t allow me to respond directly beneath you last comments, so I shifted down in this thread.

          I’m sorry that I’ve probably misled you by my use of polemic. Allow me to clarify concerning Law.

          As Paul said in Rom. 7;

          So then, the law is holy, and the commandment is holy, righteous and good.

          Then, in vs. 14 he says that the purpose of the Law, which is holy, righteous and good, is to produce “death” in us by showing us the utterly sinfulness of sin.

          Paul then indicts the effectiveness of the Law to produce righteousness in the law keeper;

          We know that the law is spiritual; but I am unspiritual, sold as a slave to sin.

          Law will never be effective in producing righteousness because people are incapable of making themselves right by law keeping. As James said,

          For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles at just one point is guilty of breaking all of it.

          Therefore, the purpose of law is to demonstrate/prove that every last one of us is a law breaker and devoid of adequate ability to be right with God through obedience and wholeness of body, mind, and spirit.

          What purpose does law serve for the Believer? None. Our righteousness is not our own, rather it is the righteousness of Christ conferred upon us (“imputed”) through the work of God and His favor toward us. To seek righteousness through any means other than trusting in the righteousness of Christ constitutes a denial of Christ “and crucifying the Son of God all over again and subjecting him to public disgrace” and a fall from grace. And that is the essence of the letter to the Galatians and the Hebrews. That is also what Luther believed and taught.

          I do not “throw out the Psalms”, though I do put their understanding of God within the context of the Psalmist’ incomplete revelation. The fullness of God is expressed in Jesus Christ, not in the Decalogue or the Statutes or the Psalms (or any combination there of).

          Again, you seem to be saying that Christ + Law = salvation. Read again Galatians.

          The Law is holy. However, the Law can never make people holy. Jesus fulfilled the Law, therefore the Law has ceased to be the standard by which God confers righteousness. God now considers us righteous because of Christ’ perfect obedience and our trust in the obedience of Christ. It’s simple, beautiful, and extravagantly unimaginatively stupendous. It’s the only Good News. When anything else is added to the Gospel it immediately becomes just another variation on the theme of the old bad news.


    • “It is through his fulfillment of the Law that we have any hope for justification as well as sanctification–the law is necessary in this process, both for Jesus and for us.”

      The theological purpose of the law is to kill us off to the self-justification project.

      It is to expose our sinfulness, NOT to make us better. The law can only make you worse, towards righteousness.

      That is why we need the gospel. After the law has done it’s work on us, then the gospel gives new life and raises us (yet again) in Christ.

      “Christ is the END of the law for all those who have faith.” I believe that.

  43. I don’t think from my reading of Jeff’s post that he is saying that effort is “useless”, but he is saying that our efforts have as often as not been useless because of misdirection.


  44. Grace. Can’t get enough of it. Can’t ponder it enough. Can’t bask in it enough. Can’t ever ‘overdo’ it. Can’t live without it. Can’t understand or love others without it. It is part of the Christian’s daily bread – the by-word which guides our every step, the benchmark by which we measure our attitudes towards others. And the supply of it is unlimited from the very throne-room of heaven. It is what we all need, long for, live for, hope for, but so few receive or find or accept. The God of all grace be with you.

  45. dumb ox says

    The John Mark McMillan lyrics remind me of a song by Glenn Kaiser on this “All My Days” album (1993):

    “Jesus is like an ocean
    He’ll engulf and gently surround
    With the tide of His love He’ll astound you
    And He’s teaching me how to drown
    In the ocean of His love”

  46. Joe Faith says

    I believe that drowning in Gods grace will not ease our willingness to sin. Actually, it may at first, but the answer is a deeper understanding of the completeness of grace. I think a deeper understanding of sin is also necessary. Sin is much more than an event. I may be able to rid myself of a list of sinful occurrences at the foot of the cross but my pride (whose tentacles infiltrate every aspect of my life) still remains along with a host of other heart issues. How much sin or unholiness does it take o separate us from God? After I get through my list of sins there are things lurking inside me that I can’t even begin to recognise yet as sin. The kneejerk response now becomes “But God knows my heart!” But does the condition of my heart make my utter sinfulness more compatible with Gods holiness? Saved by grace and a well meaning heart? If its not a completed work even before we begin the ” daily list” then we really have nothing. Let me confide in you all that I’m not a theologian. I’m a clarinetist. I had to sin A LOT to come to these conclusions.

    brother joe

    • Brother Joe,

      I’m a cellist.

      All musicians are theologians in drag ;o)


      • Tom – you asked a question of me a few days ago – check out my answer –
        With that out of the way, I am wondering what it is that is causing this lengthy discussion about grace? It almost seems that some sort of manipulative mind games are going on here. Either each one is attempting to manipulate the other or the one is manipulating his own mind. Albeit unconsciously perhaps. So much of it just does not fit with scripture. Don’t you think that we should be thinking and doing more about the lost and dying world out there? What does the bible say about that? How is the grace of God working in your life right now? As I asked of Jeff and never got an answer, What does living the “resurrected life” he mentioned look like to Him? I think if He would answer that, it would go a long way in settleing this.

        • Ardnas wrote;

          I am wondering what it is that is causing this lengthy discussion about grace? It almost seems that some sort of manipulative mind games are going on here. Either each one is attempting to manipulate the other or the one is manipulating his own mind. Albeit unconsciously perhaps. So much of it just does not fit with scripture.

          You’re exactly right — there’s always manipulative mind-games afoot when Grace is appended, amended, stipulated, or conditioned. Any such of that stuff turns us away from the joy of the only secure truth upon which we can stake our life and our death. And, it doesn’t square with the life, death, resurrection and teaching of the Son of God. When the pure gospel is proclaimed people will walk through fire to get to the author and perfecter of their faith.

          Another aspect of the “problem” is expressed in the very words you use; “…lost and dying world OUT THERE.” That language misleads because it infers an us and them perspective that denies that in ourselves every last one of us is lost and dying, and, to add insult to injury, even we who have recognized our found-ness still die. So, instead of telling people about their found-ness in Christ, that perspective harps on their lostness. How’s it working for you? When was the last time that in applying law in your own life you were caused to marvel that “there is none righteous; no not one” and that caused you to marvel and revel in the fact that as far as God is concerned He’s let you get away with murder?

          How is the grace of God working in my life right now? It’s the ONLY thing that works because it only works for failures–of whom I’m top-dog. Because I’m a rotten failure beloved by the Father I’m much more likely to love, forgive, and assist the other failures of life I encounter every day. (Bad drivers are still an area of weakness and continuing failure.) I’m much more likely to admit my lies, prejudices, bigotry, self-serving pride, pettishness, and dishonesty and then say, “I’m sorry, I’m wrong, you’re right”. It means that when someone calls on the phone and ask me to help to build a place for a 66 yr.old bull-headed recluse to live in who’s trailer has been condemned by the city — I can pitch in and not worry about loss of income or loss of jobs because I didn’t get to them in a timely manner and I know my lovely wife will say to me, “I’m glad you’re doing that.” I’ve been empowered to let go of a lot of stuff I used to grasp firmly. Grace is teaching me to live much more open-handedly. Grace has taught me that I don’t have control of very much, and what little I seem to control will turn to dust soon enough. I venture to say that everything I’ve learned and experienced about Grace has been the fruit of failure. Grace has taught me that I will live again because Christ remembers me–I am alive in Christ, in His anámnesis of me and every last one of us — and all He ask of us is to trust Him to be who He says He is and to believe His promise to raise us up again in the Day. And, one more thing — When He remembers us and we stand again–please enter the party prepared from the foundations of the world and DON’T BE A PARTY POOPER by trying to rope God into playing the black-jack merit game.

          Ok, I hope my response has troubled you enough to cause some discomfort. Without discomfort we are rarely open to God’s comfort, His Grace. Grace is not an idea or a concept. It is the atmosphere of life.


          • On the contrary – I am not lost and I am not dying. Yes, my body is dying, but my soul lives on. My body is not me. It is only the house that I live in.

            John 10:27-29, “My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me; and I give eternal life to them, and they shall never perish; and no one shall snatch them out of the Father’s hand. My Father, who has given them to me is greater than all; and no one is able to shatch themm out of the Father’s hand.”

            John 5:24 ” I tell you the truth, whoever hears my word and believes Him who sent me has eternal life and will not be condemned; he has crossed over from death to life.”

            John 6:47 ” I tell you the truth; he who believes has everlasting life.”

            There are many more verses such as this. And it is a fact that there are TWO camps in this world. The saved and the unsaved. When Jesus refers to “My sheep” it follows that there are others “out there” who are not His sheep. When it is written in Romans 8:1 “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” The word “those” implies that there are others who are “out there”.who are not in Christ Jesus.

            Then there are those word in John Chapter 3. Whoever beleves has eternal life, and the one who beieve shall not be condemed but the one who does not is comdemed already. Again, how can we not separate those who are in Christ and those who are not?

        • Well, if any word is indicative of manipulation and/or mindgames, it is the word ‘should’.
          Especially used in a question like ‘don’t you think we should …?’ – implying that if the other person thinks that we do not have to do whatever follows the ‘should’ should reconsider his answer and is not part of the right group.
          ‘Shoulds’ in any way or form are killing to grace. And I know. I’ve been ‘shoulding’ myself since I can remember being a christian, and it has never brought me anywhere but frustration, a sense of condemnation and utter burn out.
          Any thing you do from a motivation of ‘should’ becomes a burden, and that burden will grow unbearable.
          If a wife tells her husband that he ‘should’ bring her flowers every week – and he brings the flowers, will it be out of love, because he genuinely thinks her worthy of the flowers? Or will it be because she told him and he is afraid he is not a good husband if he doesn’t get her flowers, or that she will reject him for failing to bring flowers once or twice?
          I think motivation has to come from inside: ‘want’ instead of ‘should’. And grace – knowing the unconditional love of God – is most effective in making us ‘want’ to serve God and others lovingly. It is as the apostle said. We love, because He first love us.
          We do not love because we should love.
          Gods love comes first.


          • Matthew 28:18-20 “And Jesus came up and spoke to them, saying, ‘All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go theefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the HolySpirit, teaching them to observe all that I COMMANDED you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.'” *(emphases mine).
            These verses are just one example of many given in scripture about what we “should” do. We are not told here to “go” if we want to “go”, we are told “to go”. What we think does not supercede what Scripture plainly says. There are numerous upon nurmerous commands in Scripture. We follow them because we love the Lord. One cannot understand that if he does not have the truth of grace within.

  47. The reason for this discussion on grace is explained in Galatians 1:6-9:

    “I marvel that you are turning away so soon from Him who called you in the grace of Christ, to a different gospel, which is not another; but there are some who trouble you and want to pervert the gospel of Christ. But even if we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel to you than what we have preached to you, let him be accursed. As we have said before, so now I say again, if anyone preaches any other gospel to you than what you have received, let him be accursed.”

    and as Martin Luther wrote,

    “…because we have to fear, as the greatest and nearest danger, that Satan take from us the pure doctrine of faith and bring into the Church again the doctrine of works and men’s traditions.

    “The devil, our adversary, who continually seeks to devour us, is not dead; likewise our flesh and old man is yet alive. Besides this, all kinds of temptations vex and oppress us on every side. So this doctrine can never be taught, urged, and repeated enough. If this doctrine is lost, then is also the whole knowledge of the truth, life and salvation lost.”

    Paul says that to add anything to grace is to lose the gospel, to believe a different gospel, and he says it in the strongest terms possible. Grace is so challenging because it causes us to ask ourselves, “are we committed to the gospel, or to our need to earn our holiness?” This is not to say we shouldn’t do good works… but we do them motivated by love, not our fallen need to earn something. We just need to keep our categories straight.

    So, talking about grace is not playing mind games, or whatever. It’s contending for the gospel (which is, by the way, a good work).

    • I don’t know. I guess I do not see why Ephesians 2:8-10 is not a simple enough explanation of how “grace” and “works” are to penetrate your life. “For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift fo God; not as a result of works, that no one should boast. For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.

      What is grace? It is the gift from Christ. What was that gift? It was Jesus shed blood for the remission of our sins so we are free now to reign with Him in glory. Grace cannot be obtained through our efforts. But we are created for good works. And those works are prepared for us by God to be performed after the gift has been received.

      The mind manipulation comes when one attempts to put too much spin on what is not confusing at all. Granted, there is altogether too much manipulation of grace in the churches. You do not have to go far to find it. I am not sure this discussion is going in a direction that will solve that.