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 . . .
Copyright 2014, Dr. Stephen R. Crosby, www.swordofthekingdom.com. Permission is granted to copy, forward, or distribute this article for non-commercial use only, as long as this copyright byline, in totality, is maintained in all duplications, copies, and link references. For reprint permission for any commercial use, in any form of media, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
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Amen! Amen! Amen!
This is the radical grace and unfathomable love God in real life. If we, as Christ followers, really understood radical grace, we would live free to set others free. LORD, please help us see the Gospel as the Good News and not a list of do’s and don’ts.
Well said, Steve.
Wonderful word! This also encourages people to be free to see ministry as an extension of their loving relationship with God. Posts like these lead more people into the harvest, with a joyful heart. Thank you for your willingness to express beauty whenever possible!
What value of obedience/meager understanding of the gospel? Well, am glad you addressed that, Steve. Actually, am not sure it is all that unusual [maybe, not to speak] but to at least “fleetingly” entertain the “why obey” thought. Or, might it be a typical question of our adversary? The main issue to me is how one responds to that thought vs. the freedom in God’s radical grace. Was it St. Augustine who said; “love God and do what you want”
Which, kinda has merit when any still ‘why obey” thoughts come our way before they evaporate into eternity.
Which, would be: to first ‘LOVE GOD’ and then think about doing what we want. In the light/relationship of knowing/experiencing our love for Him; is only due to that He first loved us.
Awesome Steve I was in great need of this word this morning Thanks for hearing the Lord!
Great post Steve – thank you for this – I have often been looked at funny when I say that “God” is to be credited for my better health, new job, happy kids etc and I get these stares even from people in my own community who don’t get this…I am DEFINITELY not saying I deserved it, I am saying it was grace! Probably the tension that I strugle with the most right now is the amount of folks who think that my desire to be obedient is a search a different God than theirs…Ive heard that “my Gospel” is simply a “different Gospel” than theirs….That He dies for me, so I might be free to love and die for others is simply melodrama to most, and I thank you for the truth and its encouragement. I just want Jesus, and hopefully more and more of my wicked heart becomes willing to do whatever it takes to have Him always. I thank God all the time that I had a chance to meet you, a extremely learned man willing to preach love above knowledge and Christ above all things…Thank you for your posts – they strengthen us in The Spirit!
Hope to see you in Oct., Aaron.
Thank God for your gift of perspective Steve. It is a blessing. I think our focus is to be a partaker of his Divine nature, which is only reserved for sons, who only become sons through obedience, and we learn obedience through suffering. This is the way i cope with the “obey question” . More grace to you
Hi Owen. well said.
Amen! Well said!
Well said, Steve. I get varied responses when stating that God could care less about our weaknesses, faults and yes, even our behavior. Most Christians still believe they’re being evaluated on a daily basis, or that holiness is the fruit of obedience. That we are holy in Christ, are the righteousness of God in him and that our sins are not counted against us are truths often parroted and treated as legal standings void of any practical reality. We don’t trust ourselves to toe the line if stepping over it has no severe consequences, and indeed, we shouldn’t. We can never be trustworthy. But when we trust in Christ and his finished work it becomes evident that obedience is the fruit of love. Correct behavior is not obedience when motivated by anything less than love. Unless we completely give up on ourselves we will always strive to improve and always fail miserably. Letting go and throwing ourselves on God’s grace is scary as hell, but hopelessness is even more frightening. Praise God for his indescribable gift!
Amen, David. Praise God, indeed, for his unspeakable gift.
A can of worms, indeed. In all the years of walking as a son, this is one of those endless controversies that continues to rage within The Bride. I say that not as an accusation, no!, but more so as an observation.
Our Father is HOLY. He said He was/is Holy before He said He was/is Love. We tend to forget that, since we view His Holiness as meaning He has no sense of humor or fun. Holy means ‘other than’. IN example, consider He is ‘other than’ we are. His version of Love is ‘other than’ ours. His thoughts are ‘other than’ ours. Can we walk as He walks, see as He sees, speak as He speaks? Sure, of course, absolutely! His Holiness is beyond us, but He imparts as much of it as we can handle through Christ Jesus. We do see as though through glass darkly and for a good reason.
Now then, how are we to be holy as He is HOLY? Hmm. I reckon we could swear off all elements of The World (no TV, dancing, music, or movies), avoid smoking and drinking, stop cussing, and wear appropriate clothing at all times, as though we were off to church. We could also memorize The Holy Bible through hours of study, and spend hours on our knees in prayer and supplication. Fasting would be good, too, as well as tithing 12% instead of the normal 10.
Or….wait for it…
We could simply be ‘other than’ The World in our posture of heart and purpose of spirit, whatever that means as far as our Father reveals it to us. His Holiness is upon us through His Spirit of adoption and Salvation. To create a list of requirements to physically manifest His Holiness to others without having a son’s identity is religion at best, and dangerous at worst. Indeed, we will see the things of The World that we once embraced fall away as soon as we put them in their proper place according to His Will for us. But none of us can force this issue, nor can a one of us make it magically happen because we feel we need to be ‘that person’.
Just a thought or two.