God uses very flawed, damaged, and “imperfect” people to accomplish great things for His kingdom interests. After all, damaged, imperfect, and flawed people are all He has to work with to begin with, including you and I! The expansion of His kingdom is not held hostage to the development of our character. Faith works by love, not by holiness and this is offensive to all spiritual over-achievers.
Some say this makes grace a license to sin. God forbid. However, this truth of radical grace is very offensive to religious sensibilities of propriety: how unholy people can be used to accomplish dynamic, holy results. It is, never the less, the way it is. Does this mean we do not deal with sin or behavioral issues? God forbid. Does this mean that our transformation into the image of Christ is of no value? GOD FORBID! Transformation is EVERYTHING that matters to us subjectively and for all eternity!
HOWEVER . . . .
it also does not mean that in order to go forward in and through human vessels, OBJECTIVELY FOR THE BENEFIT OF OTHERS, that God’s kingdom requires a preconceived notion of some level of personal holiness (Begs the question . . . How holy do you have to be, and who measures it?)
Yes, this is the offense, the risk, and the contradiction of putting His Holy Spirit in clay vessels and the offense of radical grace. It just doesn’t seem right, fair, equitable, appropriate. It pricks and irritates the little Pharisee hiding in each of us. It irks that carnal religious desire for “fairness” and “equity.” We often have a language of grace on our lips, but in the deepest recesses of our soul, we still live and think out of a merit-based system. We operate under a contractual understanding with the Almighty, rather than covenantally from a revelation of His love.
It is deeply offensive to our religious sensibilities to see someone who in thinking, doctrine, and behavior, is in error, sin, immaturity, or gross misbehavior, experience LEGITIMATE kingdom fruit in greater degree and measure than ourselves and the people we associate with. “God . . . how can so and so be so used by you?” “I mean, they are______.” (Fill in the blank with the egregious and morally offensive shortcoming of your choice). In response to this reality, many send up straw-men and red-herring anecdotal arguments and stories about the “dangers of grace.” The danger is not in grace. The danger is in having clay vessels to begin with. God took the risk. The rest of us need to knock off the hyperbole.
If we are honest, grace just bugs us.
When that question comes out of our consciousness, it proves we still do not understand the grace of God. The obvious question to ask in response is: “How can God use you?”
Do you really think your acquisition of personal holiness merits His special favor? The Lord is LORD of His own! He can do what He wants, how He wants, when He wants, with His own. Before Him, and Him alone, will each of us stand. How the LORD of the harvest uses other broken sheaves in His field, is none of our business.
What then of obedience? What value is there then to obeying? It breaks my heart to even hear that kind of thinking come out of believers’ mouths. It reveals such a meager understanding of the gospel.
Jesus is His own reward. Is not He enough to elicit obedience? Does obedience have to accrue some benefit to ourselves to make it worthwhile? I have actually had “Christians” tell me that if there is no pragmatic benefit to themselves in making Jesus Lord, they see no reason to be an obedient believer! Obedience is the logical fruit of the new nature, the logical return on the investment of the life of the Son of God in us. It is the reasonable expectation of the husbandman on the seed of the Son that has been planted in us by and in the Person of the Holy Spirit.
I don’t obey because of some sort of quid-pro-quo negotiated benefit contract with the Almighty! I obey because obedience is His gift in me, He is worthy of it, and most of all . . . because I love Him! Why would I not want to obey? Fish are created to swim, birds are born to fly, horses are born to run, and believers are born to obey! It’s as natural as breathing is to or lungs. Obedience is the supernaturally natural response of the new creation nature! It is HIS LIFE in me, released through the power of an endless life, via the cross daily taken, in cycles of death and resurrection to my soul . . . all the days of my life. We are born to it . . . if we are really born . . . if we are really participators in the new creation life . . . and the longer I live, the more I agree with Dr. D. J. Kennedy who said before he passed, that it was his conviction that 75% of the people in evangelical churches are not born again/converted. I think he may have been an optimist.
Obedience is its own reward. Our “reward” (If we must use that language) is not necessarily harvested in this life. Eternity is not a commune with everyone in a white robe and a halo sitting on a cloud and strumming a harp and singing praise songs forever! We will be occupied in eternity with unspeakably glorious co-regency privileges of mature, overcoming sons and daughters like unto the First-born . . . things so glorious that like Paul, I can’t share them with you here. What we do with Christ, the gift of God in us . . . how we live . . . in this life . . . matters. It determines eternity.
I often wonder if the people who ask that question (“Well, if grace is so radical as you say, what’s the point of obeying?) have ever really met the Lord? I can’t help but think they haven’t, or at least not the Savior I know and love. They may have been introduced to some system of religious beliefs and behavior modification based on the Bible, but I have doubts about their encounter with a resurrected, God-Man in glory, the ever living Son of God and Son of Man who is the lover and Redeemer of their souls, who has united His Spirit with theirs, who has taken up residence in them, and who will be in them forever . . . .
Joy unspeakable . . . and full of glory . . .
All glory, laud and honor to thee Redeemer King . . .
When we’ve been there, ten thousand years . . . . we’ve no less days to sing His praise, than when we first begun . . .
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