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.