The fact Jesus is the personification of grace and truth—not grace alone—has practical implications in the life of believers.
A Facebook friend shared a testimony of dramatic breakthrough in the life of someone who was once living in sin and addicted to drugs, attributing the miracle to the liberating influence of the gospel that emphasises grace.
He seems to be saying that is positive to embrace a gospel that emphasises grace. After all, what can be wrong about focusing on the fact that we are the righteousness of God? Don’t you think it’s better than being sin conscious and fearful about judgment?
Here is my response:
It is true that the gospel of grace has enabled sinners to be set free from guilt and despair, thus setting them on a journey of hope and transformation. In particular, those who come from legalistic church backgrounds will find the gospel that emphasises grace extremely liberating.
However, there are others who take God’s grace to the extreme—thinking that God will never reprove or judge them for sins—and consequently live a life of complacency and indifference to sin.
The believers in Laodicea thought they enjoyed God’s favour but in reality they were wretched, pitiable, poor, blind and naked. In God’s eyes, they were spiritually poor and in danger of being judged—unless they took heed of the Spirit’s warning and repented (Revelation 3:17).
Grace is not a license or excuse to continue living in sin. “For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age” (Titus 2:11-12).
As usual any good thing, even grace, can be perverted. Jude vehemently condemned false teachers and warned against believing their lies:
“I say this because some ungodly people have wormed their way into your churches, saying that God’s marvelous grace allows us to live immoral lives. The condemnation of such people was recorded long ago, for they have denied our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ.” (Jude 4, NLT)
“For certain men have crept in unnoticed, who long ago were marked out for this condemnation, ungodly men, who turn the grace of our God into lewdness and deny the only Lord God and our Lord Jesus Christ.” (Jude 4, NKJV)
The only way to know God and relate to Him is to embrace Him as He truly is—a God of grace, love and mercy AND a God of justice, righteousness and truth. To just know Him as either the former or latter is to live in complacency and indifference to sin OR guilt and despair over sin. The essence of idolatry is to entertain thoughts about God that misrepresent Him.
Furthermore, though the above testimony is good, we cannot let experience supercede or replace doctrine when it comes to right living. Experience helps us to understand our faith journey better, but it cannot be used as our primary guide in matters of faith and doctrine.
No one denies the power of God’s grace to transform lives as is evident in so many testimonies. But grace can be abused when we go overboard on grace, thinking that God will never get angry with us and will never point out our sins or faults.
A believer who willfully lives in sin, and comes under the deception that the Holy Spirit never convicts a believer of sin and that God never finds fault with him, will face damnation on judgment day. http://bit.ly/1OczgqH
The respected theologian A. W. Tozer says: “Much of our difficulty as seeking Christians stems from our unwillingness to take God as He is and adjust our lives accordingly. We insist on trying to modify Him and bring Him nearer to our own image.”
We all love a God whose image fits our expectation of a benevolent being. We prefer preachers who portray God as loving and forgiving, patient with our sins and deficiencies—rather than those who dwell on judgment (2 Timothy 4:3).
We need to be reminded that Jesus is a reflection of both grace and truth (John 1: 14, 17). Truth requires that we live according to His laws for all time, the Ten Commandments.
Love and mercy are important attributes of God. He is slow to anger, quick to forgive and chose us while we were yet sinners. He loved us so much that He sent Jesus to die on the cross to pay the penalty for our sins.
But He is also a God of justice and righteousness. “Righteousness and justice are the foundation of your throne; love and faithfulness go before you” (Psalm 89:14). He is the Lamb of God and the Lion of Judah as well. He who once rode on a colt as a man is now ensconced on His heavenly throne as the King of Kings.
He may be a tender daddy (Romans 8: 15) and a close friend (John 15: 15). But He is also a Holy God, a consuming fire, to be feared and revered (Hebrews 12:29).
Aren’t believers free from the law? In a sense, the answer is ‘yes’ in that we need not arduously keep the law in order to earn our ticket to heaven. As Scripture says, “You are not under law, but under grace” (Romans 6:14).
However, that doesn’t mean we can do whatever we like. We are still held accountable under moral law as revealed in the Ten Commandments. Jesus puts it succinctly: “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them” (Matthew 5:17).
Most of us are familiar with the account of the woman caught in the act of adultery (John 8:3-11). The crowd gathered around her and wanted to stone her. But Jesus said, “He who is without sin among you, let him throw a stone at her first.” Finally, when the crowd dispersed, Jesus asked her, “Woman, where are those accusers of yours? Has no one condemned you?” She said, “No one, Lord.”
And Jesus said to her, “Neither do I condemn you; go and sin no more.
Whereas the crowd wanted to judge her, Jesus demonstrated grace and mercy and forgave her. But He did not stop there. He told her in no uncertain terms, “Go and sin no more.”
We tend to emphasise God’s love and mercy towards sinners. The need for sinners to bear fruits that befit repentance—personal responsibility—is often not emphasised to the same degree.
If we live only to please ourselves, believing that an “indulgent” God will constantly bless and forgive us, we are deceiving ourselves.
If we think that the Holy Spirit will not convict us of sin, reprove us for sin or point out our sin, we have come under deception.
Thinking erroneously that He is always meek and mild may prove disastrous when we’re confronted by God the judge at the end of our life journey or when Christ returns (Hebrews 9:27, 1 Peter 4:7, 17).
Some people think that the God will never judge believers for sin as we are under the new covenant of grace. They think that God is angry only in the Old Testament. But has God changed through the years? No. He is the same yesterday, today and forever.
- God is a consuming fire (Hebrews 12:29).
- “For if we go on sinning deliberately after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, but a fearful expectation of judgment, and a fury of fire that will consume the adversaries” (Hebrews 10:26-27).
- The apostle Peter warns us that judgment will begin with the household of God (1 Peter 4:17).
- The apostle Paul warns: “Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God” (1 Corinthians 6:9-10).
We read in the New Testament that many Israelites were destroyed after their exodus from Egypt because they did not believe in God and sinned (idolatry and sexual immorality). This falling away, according to the apostle Paul, serves as a warning to believers TODAY that they need to persevere in their faith in order that they might not be destroyed (Jude 1:5, 1 Corinthians 10:1-12).
Believers can fall away spiritually and fall out of favour with God even though they have been saved.
Believers who think they can willfully live in sin with impunity on account of the ‘imputed righteousness of Christ’ are sadly mistaken. They will discover to their chagrin on judgment day that they have to face God’s wrath.
The God in the New Testament, as is clear from the above references, is not only filled with grace, love and mercy towards man. He is also true to His name as the God of justice, righteousness and wrath.
Jesus is the personification of both grace and truth. The latter means that He requires holiness from believers—without which no man can come into His presence.
The foregoing is the full gospel, unlike the half-truth of hyper-grace that tells you what believers would like to hear—‘feel good’, sugar-coated messages such as the Holy Spirit never convicts believers of sin and God never finds fault with believers.
By avoiding harsh and unpopular passages found in Revelation and Hebrews (Revelation 3:19, Revelation 3:22; Revelation 3:15-17; Hebrews 12:29; Hebrews 10:26-27), hyper-grace presents a message to soothe and tickle itching ears (2 Timothy 4:3).
Though A. W. Tozer lived long before hyper-grace became popular, he made an extremely astute and relevant observation: “Heresy is not so much rejecting as selecting.” False teachers select pleasant, palatable and agreeable passages to attract the masses.
But we can only come to the knowledge of the truth when we consider the whole counsel of God—the whole Bible (Acts 20:27).
“Faith is good only when it engages truth; when it is made to rest upon falsehood it can and often does lead to eternal tragedy.” – A. W. Tozer.
SHOULD BELIEVERS BE SIN CONSCIOUS?
Once we commit our lives to Christ, our sins are forgiven. We who have been set free from the power of sin should no longer feel condemned. To continue to dwell on our past sin would nullify Christ’s work at the cross because God has already declared us righteous in His eyes.
That said, should believers completely get rid of sin consciousness in our lives?
No right thinking believer says grace is unimportant. But when it is carried to the extreme …
False grace was exposed in a video in which Dr Michael Brown was being interviewed by Sid Roth. It’s a clear, compelling, well-balanced, Word-based presentation.
The basics about grace and hyper-grace
Note: Dr Lim Poh Ann is a medical practitioner. He was the former editor of Asian Beacon magazine (Dec 2008 – Oct 2011). He can be reached at his Facebook page, www.facebook.com/AskDrLi
SOURCE OF ARTICLE: http://limpohann.blogspot.my/2015/09/grace-and-truth.html
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Dr Lim Poh Ann