The Compromisers

 

Grace 101

Have you ever noticed how everyone jumps on a popular topic or style?  Today’s marketers are hardly original.  They wait until something begins to gain attention and then grab it to use to sell their product.  Once people realized that carnival hawkers actually sold product through their abrasive and loud approach, our televisions and radios were bombarded with obnoxious advertisements telling us what we need and the number to call to get it.  Today every business has to have a website just because every other business has one.  By far the majority have yet to find ways to make money from their sites.  We are so used to riding on the bandwagons that come our way that we don’t think twice about the value of doing so.

Sadly, the church does the same thing.  Once contemporary music became identified as progressive, almost every church moved to do it, most of them poorly.  For over 35 years I have watched so many fads come through the church.  Some are good and last; others were not so good.

Now the message of grace is exploding among the people of God.  People are beginning to understand that rules and standards are not the real gospel.  They are finding freedom and peace in their Christian lives.  New books are being written, ministries are rising up, and a new vocabulary is coming into the churches.

So it should not surprise us to hear pastors and teachers proclaiming grace and freedom from the law from the pulpit.  No one wants to be left out of the excitement.  But not all understand or accept the message.  Some want to use it to keep their people in their church.  Others want to use it to build their church.  And most want to use it as evidence that they are not “stuck in the law.”  After all, who would want to be considered legalistic?

And from those pulpits comes a compromised message.  “Yes, we believe in grace, but . . . .”  The message of law has not gone away, it has just been redecorated by the words of grace.  “Jesus loves you and you should work to deserve His love.”  “Jesus has done it all for you and now He expects you to do this and that.”  The people hear the words of grace and are happy to believe that their pastor is teaching truth, but it is truth mixed with lies.  They come away from a Sunday morning confused and burdened.  This grace message didn’t lighten their load.  They found no real peace or victory.  It was just words that sounded right.

Listen: the words of grace are not the message of grace.  The message of grace lifts your heart and sets you free.  You walk away knowing that you are loved and accepted, in spite of your struggles and weaknesses.  The message of grace is the message of Jesus and the love of God.

It can never be Jesus plus.  It is Jesus alone.  When you hear, “Grace is nice, but law is important,” run.  That is not the message of grace.  That is the message of the compromiser.  That is the message of the Pharisee.

Paul encountered these people and had strong words for them.  They said, “Yes, Jesus is Lord, but you also have to be circumcised and stay away from certain foods and keep certain rituals if you want to be right with God.”  They led people away from Christ and back into bondage.

When you hear that there is some division of spirituality between those who are saved and those who are “really saved,” you know that a standard other than the love of God in Jesus is being applied.  When you hear that you are saved by grace but have to maintain your salvation by works, the message of grace has been compromised.

I understand that a preacher can only teach what he has learned, but a compromised message is dangerous for the people.  It is just the old message of law and performance in the new language of grace, a predator that steals the joy away from those who need the true love of God.

8 Comments

Filed under Freedom, Grace 101, Grace definition, Legalism

8 responses to “The Compromisers

  1. SueM

    So love this post!

  2. Kate

    So, I identify as an Orthodox Christian (Greek Orthodox, specifically) and I guess some of the terminology in this blog is new to me. I was raised with understanding that fasting and prayer are ways to strengthen one’s relationship with God and cleanse one’s spirit, especially when too engrossed in the world. Our liturgies are full of ritual and symbolism and I find it beautiful and transformative. It’s all so humbling as well, an aspect I’ve struggled with, but what is this journey without it?

    This blog reminds me (in some ways) of “Wild Geese” by Mary Oliver:

    You do not have to be good.
    You do not have to walk on your knees
    For a hundred miles through the desert, repenting.
    You only have to let the soft animal of your body
    love what it loves.
    Tell me about your despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.
    Meanwhile the world goes on.
    Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain
    are moving across the landscapes,
    over the prairies and the deep trees,
    the mountains and the rivers.
    Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air,
    are heading home again.
    Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,
    the world offers itself to your imagination,
    calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting —
    over and over announcing your place
    in the family of things.

    • There is wonder and beauty in liturgy when it is used to help us calm our hearts and remember the truth about the love of God in Jesus. The liturgy and the prayers were art as offering to the Lord. I enjoy and appreciate these things and I think they can be very helpful. At the same time, they have been used by the church as substitutes for a relationship with the Lord. Who needs Jesus if I can just pray this little prayer twenty times and feel better? A relationship is messy and unpredictable, while I can control the rituals. Used in this way, the rituals, the liturgy, and the prayers can be detriments to our walk with Jesus. Anything, even good things, that lead me away from a direct relationship with Him are harmful to me.

      There is certainly a sense of peace and freedom in that poem and it does speak to my heart. I read it in the context of Jesus, of course, even though the writer may not have meant for me to find such peace in Him. In Him I do find the freedom to enjoy this amazing life – and I can hardly wait for whatever comes next.

  3. UnForsaken

    Hmm. Raised with a “mild” form of this, but it still creeps into thinking patterns. Seeking and truly desiring to please God are just results of His love pouring into us, from being near Him. I’ve come to enjoy some traditions that serve to point me back to Him, but it has been a long journey from seperating Actions from a Walk with Him !

  4. Repol

    Oh, I’ve experienced this “grace, BUT” thing for a decade and a half, and it does slip in gradually and work its way through all the dough. So many little cultural laws and rules and expectations, and if you dare to live free then you are labeled and treated as “ungodly” or “less godly.”
    That is actually something I was struggling with this morning. The friendship I had with another in the same body of believers, which I have written about here before, ended in part because of condemnation from other believers who have very rigid rules about how relationships across the body of Christ “ought” to look. Very isolationist. Nuclear family ONLY.
    I wonder what those people would have said to Jesus on the cross when he looked in loving concern down upon his own mother and the beloved disciple, the youngster John, and told them to move in together. Their bond to him was so deep that even Mary’s own natural children couldn’t meet her need in losing him on the cross and later to the ascension. And John’s own love for Jesus was deep and pure enough to love Jesus’ mother as his own and take her into his home.
    I befriended a very damaged young man, half my age, when he was 18. He befriended me back when he saw the terrors I was living in. Both of us believers. Never to either of us did it occur to think this friendship might turn into something inappropriate. But in addition to its own struggles (his deep self-absorption, probably because of his childhood wounds, and my sincere but possibly excessive need to know that he was doing OK–because I knew I was *not* doing OK when no one cared to check on me), the loudest voice coming from the Christian community that he was close to was “Impossible! Male/female friendships outside of marriage or very, very close blood kin ‘appear’ sinful, and so they can’t be godly.” Well, they’re wrong, but that’s one of the cultural laws that the compromisers adhere to in order to keep themselves “looking pure” like the Pharisees did.
    Jesus certainly associated with whomever had need. Paul broke down male/female relational barriers in the church and exhorted for purity in those relationships. Peter did too. Brotherly love, genuine, from the heart, BECAUSE we have been born again of unperishable seed.
    “You have grace, THEREFORE. . .” ought to be our reply, not “You have grace, BUT. . .”

    Oh, the legalists, the grace-killers… they really helped kill me too. Where is the hope? Where is the transformation?

  5. UnForsaken

    People seem to need to distort what exhists as truth to actually be able to use it…..perhaps a show of power over it, superior knowledge. The last church mess I experienced was spiritually abusive and suposedly based on Keswick……but it didn’t even resemble it. They tried to re-define it as being able to be Perfect on this earth…… thier definition of perfect .Amazing what God can save us from…. even other people’s view of goodness!

    • I learned a great deal about grace from the old Keswick teachings and I appreciate you saying that what you experienced didn’t look like Keswick at all. This illustrates my point very well. Keswick was wonderfully popular in its day and many teachers wanted to connect with the conferences. Not all of them understood grace. Some of them believed the message up to a point. Some just used the word and taught a new form of legalism. Updated, redecorated, but still legalism.

  6. UnForsaken

    Yes, Yes, Yes!

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