Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Cheap Grace

“My dear children, I write this to you so that you will not sin. But if anybody does sin, we have one who speaks to the Father in our defense—Jesus Christ, the Righteous One” (I John 2:1) Have you ever met a "Christian" who claimed they didn't sin? I know a fellow who said he had not sinned in 20 years. One day he backed into a persons' car in a parking lot. He drove away from the damaged vehicle without leaving a note. Several days later, he admitted to himself "That was sin." He blew a 20 year no sinning streak. The truth is this gentleman had been very boastful and arrogant about his "Sinlessness". He constantly ridiculed his wife and was critical of his children. He was living in a fantasy world and the only person he was fooling was himself. Many believer practice "Cheap grace" this means they live as though God ignores or condones their sins. However Scriptural forgiveness is real, that means our sin is real and must be dealt with. We can't ignore it, we can't deny it, that's not grace, its a lie. Cheap grace means living without the demand of obedience upon us. When we disregard obedience to God then nothing can be labeled as "Sinful". No act is clearly right or wrong, this means there is no need of forgiveness. In the verse above John reminds us that we fall short of keeping God's commands. He also reminds us that where there is forgiveness available, it follows that certain actions whether thoughts, words or deeds, can be dealt with only when one confesses and is forgiven (I John 1:9-10). Cheap grace is grace minus obedience, which in essence is no grace at all. In this passage John is casting a glance at those who have left the church, for they undoubtedly claimed to know God. He is saying here that obedience is the manifestation or evidence of knowing God. Obeying God's commands does not require perfect obedience, if by perfect we mean living without sinning. Obedience points to the consistency of our discipleship, not to individual acts taken in isolation. Obedience is our response to a living God and not a check list of rules. God gives us the direction of obedience, its "Walking in the light," as striving to conform our character to that of God. Knowledge of God always expresses itself in obedience, and obedience is always measured by concrete actions. Jesus' obedience was made manifest in the ultimate sacrifice of His life on the cross. The child who knows his parents well also knows their expectations well. The child who loves and respects her parents, honors their expectations. The idea that knowledge of God expresses itself in obedience has its roots in the Old Testament. The prophets especially spoke of knowing God, though more often they rebuked the people for not knowing God (Jer. 9:6). A lack of knowing God did not imply intellectual inadequacy, but rather moral failure to a lack of faithfulness and obedience. Are you walking with the Lord in the light of His Word? Are you obeying the light He gives you? In discipleship nearness is likeness, are you walking close enough to Him that His character is beginning to rub off on you? Have you learned that grace isn't cheap? Dr. Ken Copley is available for counseling, conferences, and local church meetings.

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