I saw the email pop up. The subject had one word. "Hypergrace". I smiled, then chuckled. I knew exactly what this person was going to say. We have a Grace for Man Event coming up. I always I put a lot of thought and prayer into setting up events to help men overcome struggles through understanding grace and who they are in Christ. I always try and choose speakers who have a story about their revelation of grace. The speaker joining me for this event is definitely one who experienced the transformational power of grace. Grace is one of the key components of our Christian identity that I feel most churches today totally misunderstand and get wrong. Our mission statement for Men Passionate About Christ is "Discovering Grace One Man at a Time".
Anyway, I opened the email and sure enough, there were the same words that I often see, “Trey, I’m concerned about your selection of speakers for this event coming up. First off, this speaker is hypergrace.” (There was actually some obscure 6-year-old article attached to the email he tried to use to prove his point.) "Secondly, this speaker had a moral failure as a pastor years ago. I really don’t’ think it’s a good idea or representation of the church to have a confessed philanderer and someone who stresses grace so much on stage. Is this guy going to tell us grace makes it ok for us to sin? Has he truly repented of what he did to his wife and family? Is he going to say the law isn’t important to the walk of a Christian? That we should do away with teaching the Law of Moses and not follow it? I think you should set up a program that represents the truth of God’s word and that grace is only a part of the equation. Talking about grace so much takes our minds away from the gravity of sin in our lives. I will not be attending this event.” Then he gave the salutation, “In Christ – Pastor Johnny” (Name changed to protect the innocent.)
GRACE. Oh, how this word is such a hot topic and so polarizing in today’s Christian world. “Yeah Trey, we need to give people grace. But you gotta give them the truth of what a sinner they are or call them out if they aren’t living a Chrisitan lifestyle, or tell them how hopeless they are. How they need to always remember they have a sinful nature so they won’t get complacent and fall back into sin. There is such a thing as too much grace Trey. You don’t want to be known as hypergrace do you? You know, we are Christians and have grace through Jesus, but that doesn’t mean we can do whatever we want and go sin more.” (Most of you who know me, understand what a ludicrous statement I think that is.) What Christian, who is indwelled with THE HOLY SPIRIT (that’s all Christians. See Acts 2:38) would ever say such a thing? The answer . . . NONE!
Many clergy today teach a Grace AND Truth message to cover all bases with their congregation. Almost as though they have to qualify the word grace. “Yes, you have God’s grace through Christ, BUUUUUUUT . . . . you better watch out; the truth is, you’re still a sinner!“ (Fist pound on the lectern)
My question . . . Do we understand what GRACE truly means? Why do so many churches downplay grace and try to emphasize the consequences of sin so much? (Stop. Yes. Sin is awful. I know this. I’m not downplaying it. I’m actually still suffering some consequences of past sins in my life. So don’t misunderstand the point here) From a personal standpoint, I grew up in a church that emphasized how bad we were. Grace was only kept whole if we didn’t screw up and sin. That message always makes me think how it contradicts Paul’s words, “I do not nullify the grace of God, for if righteousness were through the law, then Christ died for no reason.” -Galatians 2:21
Think about that for a second. Why did Christ die? What did His crucifixion do for us who believe? What did His resurrection do to us? The answer to both questions is THE TRUTH OF THE GOSPEL! If we don’t believe in the most powerful event in the history of the world or we discount His grace given to us through faith, and not by any work of our own (i.e., by obeying Jewish law, being good or never sinning) then Jesus should have never been hung from that cross. Let’s just take him down!! If we don’t believe in the power of grace, we will live a miserable life of fear, guilt and shame. That's the life many Christians live out every day, because they don't know what grace truly is.
So, let’s look at some powerful truth from the bible about grace:
1) Before our belief in Christ and accepting his grace through faith, our truth was DEPRAVITY. We are born into this world depraved and doomed. Yes, even as a baby. “Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me.” -Psalm 51:5 Before our faith in Christ, we were in THE FLESH (Another Translation – We had a SINFUL NATURE). No one is born righteous, but doomed. Adam insured this depravity. Therefore, just as sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way, death came to all people, because all sinned – Romans 5:12-14
2) God’s plan was to send a savior to make us whole with Him again because of Adam’s transgression and its effect on mankind. The Lord God said to the serpent, “Because you have done this, cursed are you above all livestock and all wild animals! You will crawl on your belly and you will eat dust all the days of your life. And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; he will crush your head, and you will strike his heel.” – Genesis 3:14-15 That savior was God walking the earth as a man thousands of years later, whose name was Jesus. See John 1:1-8. Jesus would be the perfect sacrifice, according to God’s law, to break down the wall between our depravity and salvation by His grace through our faith in Him.
3) After our belief in Christ, we are indwelled with His Holy Spirit. And Peter said to them, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.” -Acts 2:18 His Grace through His Spirit now makes us righteous in the eyes of God, instead of our inability to follow Jewish law (which most of us, as gentiles, were never required to keep anyway), to be good and to keep from sinning.
4) Our identity changed from depraved and sinful the moment we believed in our heart on the blood and resurrection of Christ. Our belief in Christ immediately made us forgiven, holy and justified in the eyes of The Lord. Paul refers to our depravity in the past tense. We are no longer sinners. Sinners are who we used to be; “. . . and such were some of you . . .” – See 1 Corinthians 6:11 Did you know that Christians are not referred to as sinners anywhere in the New Covenant?
5) As believers in Christ, we no longer have a SINFUL NATURE or are a part of THE FLESH. I believed this lie for years as it was preached to me that my nature was still of sin. This thought process is opposite of what Paul teaches that our sinful nature or “the flesh” was cut away (circumcised) as we were crucified with Christ upon our belief and relationship with him. That sinful nature was “nailed to the cross” – See Colossians 2:9-15
6) Through our belief and relationship with Christ we have His righteousness. That’s right, we walk as righteous as any person ever, even Jesus; because of Jesus. “But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it—the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction: for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God's righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins. 26 It was to show his righteousness at the present time, so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus. -Romans 3:21-26
7) Grace is responsible for our salvation and is the most powerful gift God has given us in helping us overcome sin in our Christian life. “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, waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works.” – Titus 2:11-15. Hmmm . . . Do Paul’s words indicate that grace is soft on sin?
8) As Paul cried out to Jesus to remove the thorns planted in him by Satan, Jesus replied about the strength of grace for a believer, “But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’Therefore, I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” – 2 Corinthians 12:9-10 Now . . . Grace is mentioned over 120 times in the New Testament. But this passage on grace is the cornerstone for our faith. If Jesus isn’t sufficient for every part of our life, our behavior, our mental state, fulfilling our roles as spiritual leaders, then what or who do we as Christians have to turn to in order to help us turn from sin and clearing life’s hurdles? Think about it.
I’ve heard it all the past three years on the topic of grace. Grace vs law; grace as a crutch; grace as a license to sin; the hypergrace scare tactic; grace isn’t enough. Through scripture, it seems crystal clear. GRACE IS THE TRUTH. It’s what God promised. Grace emphasizes the power and perfection of the law. It doesn’t diminish it in any way. The entire law of Moses. Grace doesn’t downplay the law or sin. Grace actually magnifies both as Jesus emphasized that His grace should be our focus. God wrote the law as an absolute, in order for us to see our need for Christ in every aspect of our life so we will turn to (repent to) him, in our depravity. To save us from our “born in Adam” sinful identity and to help us heal from past sin while training us to turn away from future sins. We shouldn’t downplay the law at all, but we don’t live by it since Christ died and our heartfelt belief in HIM. Christians live by his Grace, until the day we die or when Jesus comes back . . . there’s NOTHING hyper about that!