The Abuse of Grace

I don’t know if you’re familiar with the Bugatti Veyron, but it’s a magical machine. It has 1,000 horsepower.

That’s right — 1,000. It has a special key you must insert and turn, while at rest, to allow it to use all those horses. When you do, it will travel over 250 mph. That’s powerful. The special key is a safety feature, because Bugatti knows that a lot of power can be very dangerous.

Have you ever noticed that almost always, when something is very powerful, it is very dangerous? Take a waterfall for example. As beautiful as Niagara Falls is, it would be a dangerous place were it not for the railing. Or farm equipment. Perhaps one of the most dangerous places to work is a farm because of the power of the machinery. Or tools. There was not much danger in an old hand-saw. But there is great danger in power tools.
The more power, the more danger.

This is true of grace. Grace is a powerful thing. The Bible tells us that grace is more powerful than law.

Romans 8:3a (NIV) For what the law was powerless to do in that it was weakened by the sinful nature, God did by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful man to be a sin offering….

The Law of Moses is powerless compared to grace. Grace is the only thing powerful enough to procure your salvation, to keep you from judgment, and to find you forgiveness. Without grace, you would be forced to face God’s wrath.

Yes. Grace is powerful. And with that power, comes great danger — the danger of abusing grace. This podcast addresses this danger and encourages us to avoid it at all costs.

Walking the Walk of Grace…

It was Phillip Yancey in his book What’s so Amazing about Grace, who first showed me the “new math” that God uses. He writes:

“I grew up with the image of a mathematical God who weighed my good and bad deeds on a set of scales and always found me wanting. Somehow I missed the God of the Gospels, a God of mercy and generosity who keeps finding ways to shatter the relentless laws of ungrace. God tears up the mathematical tables and introduces the new math of grace….

…. Grace means there is nothing we can do to make God love us more—no amount of spiritual calisthenics and renunciations, no amount of knowledge gained from seminaries and divinity school, no amount of crusading on behalf of righteous causes. And grace means there is nothing we can do to make God love us less—no amount of racism or pride or pornography or adultery or even murder. Grace means God already loves us as much as an infinite God can possibly love.” ~Philip Yancey in What’s so Amazing about Grace, p. 70.

A few pages later Yancey observes…

“At the center of Jesus’ parables of grace stands a God who takes the initiative toward us: a lovesick father who runs to meet the prodigal, a landlord who cancels a debt too large for any servant to reimburse, an employer who pays eleventh-hour workers the same as the first-hour crew, a banquet-giver who goes out to the highways and byways in search of undeserving guests.” Philip Yancey in What’s so Amazing about Grace, p. 91.

That’s not good business, but that’s what is happening in our text. Leaving behind 99 sheep to go find one is not the old math of the law. It’s generally not considered a good idea. But it is the idea that Jesus uses to show us how God loves us. It’s the new math of grace. It’s the way God loves you. He loves you with a reckless love.

This podcast speaks of his great grace.

Christian Extremism…

I am really enjoying a casual read of Tim Keller’s The Reason for God. He says things in ways that make such sense that I find myself saying, “Yeah — that’s what I always thought.”

For example, Keller writes:

Perhaps the biggest deterrent to Christianity for the average person today is not so much violence and warfare but the shadow of fanaticism. Many nonbelievers have friends or relatives who have become “born again” and seem to have gone off the deep end. They soon begin to express loudly their disapproval of various groups and sectors of our society–especially movies and television, the Democratic party, homosexuals, evolutionist, activist judges, members of other religions, and values taught in public schools. When arguing for the truth of their faith they often appear intolerant and self-righteous. This is what many people would call fanaticism.

Many people try to understand Christians along a spectrum from nominalism at one end to fanaticism on the other. A nominal Christian is someone who is Christian in name only, who does not practice it and perhaps barely believes it. A fanatic is someone who is thought to over-believe and over-practice Christianity. In this schematic, the best kind of Christian would be someone in the middle, someone who doesn’t go all the way with it, who believes it but is not too devoted to it. The problem with this approach is that it assumes that the Christian faith is basically a form of moral improvement. Intense Christians would therefore be intense moralist or, as they were called in Jesus’ time, Pharisees. Pharisaic people assume they are right with God because of their moral behavior and right doctrine. This naturally leads to feelings of superiority toward those who do not share their religiosity, and from there to various other forms of abuse, exclusion, and oppression. This is the essence of what we think of as fanaticism.

What if, however, the essence of Christianity is salvation by grace, salvation not because of what we do but because of what Christ has done for us? Belief that you are accepted by God by sheer grace is profoundly humbling. The people who are fanatics, then, are so not because they are too committed to the gospel but because they’re not committed enough.

Think of the people you consider fanatical. They’re overbearing, self-righteous, opinionated, insensitive, and harsh. Why? It’s not because they are too Christian but because they are not Christian enough. They are fanatically zealous and courageous, but they are not fanatically humble, sensitive, loving, empathetic, forgiving, or understanding–as Christ was. Because they think of Christianity as a self-improvement program they emulate the Jesus of the whips in the temple, but not the Jesus who said, “Let him who is without sin cast the first stone” (John 8:7). What strikes us as overly fanatical is actually a failure to be fully committed to Christ and his gospel.
~Tim Keller in The Reason for God, pp. 56-57.

In addition to feeling this way about the ethic/moral pharisees I’ve known, I always felt this way concerning strongly Calvinistic/Augustinian thinking.

Man — if you really believe that, then relax!

🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂