I have been hearing a few people complain about hyper-grace and the “abuses of grace” lately. A book was written on it, and I’ve heard a few sermon fragments online. The problem is that they use the word incorrectly. Grace is the unmerited favor of God. I can’t get too much of that. I can’t use too much of that. Grace is the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Grace is what the entire Christian life is composed of. Grace is walking in freedom.
These people feel that if I completely walk in grace, then I will start sinning a bunch as a celebration of grace. The problem is that these people are using the wrong word. The correct word they are thinking of is not grace, but “license” or “licentiousness”. The concern is that grace will lead to sin, so we better reign in the grace, to keep people behaving correctly. This, is living under the law.
In simple terms, Grace is Christ. Legalism is the law, and license is ignorance of the saving life Christ. The legalistic person is under the impression that we need the law to keep people under control. They have no understanding of grace. The law was designed to drive us to Christ, because we can’t do it on our own. The licentious person does not understand that they have been freed from sin. They have no understanding of grace. They are still trapped in their sin.
The Bible does not advocate a balance of grace and law. It teaches grace for the believer, and the law for those who wish to be under the curse of the law. The true understanding of grace, is that I have been reconciled to Christ, and have been made free from sin and it’s bondage. I have also been freed from the law. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. I am led by the Holy Spirit, and empowered by Christ. If I return to sin, then sin becomes my master. In Christ, I am freed from the penalty of sin, and the penalty of the law, but I am not free of the consequences of sin. If I choose to go on sinning, I am still fully loved by Christ, but I am living back in bondage.
I lead a bible study at a prison, and one of the men said “I gave up drugs for Jesus”. I replied “No, you did not”. My explanation was this: When you say “I gave up drugs for Jesus”, what you are actually saying is:
- Drugs are good.
- I was willing to sacrifice the goodness of drugs so that Jesus would benefit from my action.
This if course, is a complete misunderstanding. The real situation was:
- I was in bondage to drugs
- Christ freed me from slavery
When we have the right perspective, we can have the right attitude. Sin is not something I get to do because of grace, but rather sin is what I have been freed from by grace. I cannot abuse grace, but I can be abused by my sin. The holy spirit will lead me in all truth, and will show me what to do and when to do it. That is walking in freedom. Christ came to bring us true freedom. True freedom is not living in sin. That is bondage. True freedom is being led by the Holy Spirit moment by moment, and enjoying the places that He will take me, and knowing that He loves me because He is my Father, not because of how I perform.