No Grace without Jesus

There’s a new move away from the church these days. If that’s all it was, I wouldn’t be concerned. The church needs to get its act together in so many ways. We went from stuck in the past to stuck in the market. But I think that will happen over time. I think the church will return to the place and the message it should have.

What concerns me about this move away from church is that it is also a move away from Scripture and away from the Lord. The people who have made this move act like they are having a lot of fun, with new moral standards and new goals, but many of them are empty and hurting. And many of them are angry. The anger I read against the church on Facebook these days is sobering.

But anger indicates that something is unresolved. The pain that led to the separation is still there, still hurting. The confusion and feelings of betrayal and injustice continue to churn within the heart. The unresolved emotions look for cause and explanation and see the answer in the church.

What is particularly sad to me is that much of this is coming out of the grace community. Some have found freedom, but little else. They threw away their formulas and standards, left behind the condemnation and shame, and went out to enjoy life their way. And, I confess, that was all that was offered to some. They were shown the futility of striving to measure up, then set free to try to make sense of life on their own.

It is natural to chafe against the structures of religion. The rules and the expectations are binding and shaming. Who wouldn’t want out of that system? So, when the Scripture is made clear that no one ever accomplishes their own salvation and no one can earn God’s love, the human heart rejoices. Many people attend church every week only to hear how bad they are and how they should work harder. Then, when they work harder, the goals are shifted and they find that they are still lacking. When they hear the message of grace, their hearts are lifted up. They jump at the acceptance and forgiveness and freedom that is offered.

But the grace message isn’t about freedom. It isn’t even about acceptance. The message of grace is about Jesus. Freedom and rest and acceptance and peace and joy—all are found in Him. But the center of the message, the real heart of our proclamation, is Jesus. And I am afraid that Jesus is sometimes left out.

Without Jesus there will be no freedom. There might be lack of control, lack of guidance, lack of wisdom—but no real freedom. It’s like the little kid who runs away from home. Hiding under the tree, he is free of his parents’ rules, free to do whatever he wants. But without money or wisdom or the means to get what he needs, what kind of freedom will he enjoy? Instead, he becomes prey for whoever or whatever offers to meet his needs. Freedom apart from Jesus only opens people to a new bondage.

I used to have a little framed note directly across from my desk and I had to look at it all the time. It reflected the words of some people who came to Philip in John 12. They said, “Sir, we would see Jesus.” I wanted to remind myself that the people of my church didn’t need me nor did they need lessons on how to work harder. They came with longing in their hearts and only one message could truly satisfy. Whether they understood their needs or not, they needed Jesus.

Church without Jesus is a waste of time.

The Scripture without Jesus is a burden.

The message of grace without Jesus is a lie.

Freedom without Jesus is just different bondage.

Listen: if the message of grace that you have heard has not brought you into a deeper and right relationship with Jesus, a personal relationship where you are learning to walk with Him day by day, then you have not heard the true message of grace. You are not meant to be alone, left to wander in your own wisdom until the predators find you. You were set free from the bondage of legalism and performance so that you can walk hand in hand with a Friend who loves you and will guide you. The only right grace message is the message of Jesus.

9 Comments

Filed under Freedom, grace

9 responses to “No Grace without Jesus

  1. Carol

    Thank you for guidance. You are right about leaving the bondage and the difficulty of replacing it with grace. For those who were not trained to recognize it can easily flounder with trial and error. It is unfortunate that teaching on grace is so intertwined in the everyday teaching in even the best churches, that it will be hard to learn. Especially with the name of Jesus being low on the totem pole of most words used. Pastors use the word ‘I’ much more freely than the word ‘ Jesus’.

    I was married to a minister and on a regular basis, I would tell him, on Sunday morning, “Be sure to give us Jesus”, “I don’t want Sunday to end without having heard who Jesus is”.

  2. Becky

    May I quote you on my Facebook community page?

  3. UnForsaken

    This is beautiful.

    On Sunday we had a guest speaker….and what a difference! Usually I feel plagued by the total self-centeredness of the minister, but although this man said many of the same things, he Obviously didn’t mean them the same way. It was the humility, it was the way he joyfully shared scripture, it was the lack of self based illustrations, it was the Grace he was Practicing !

    And when he referred to the Church he didn’t mean only the local body ( often called ‘ our community’ ), but the World of Believers, the Church Universal, all of us as a loving Family. The true church is Inclusive in Christ : He loves us all equaly. It’s about Him. It is not an exclusive club, that even devalues it’s own members. ( That seems to happen because the leadership and people are looking outward/downward, not upward. ) We must be lights by seeking Christ first, Individually, or we cannot have a world view of the body of Christ or function well together. ❤

    Fantastic reminder, Pastor Dave! I needed this!

    • Honest Abe

      I always love to simplify thoughts! This time I am thinking that I go to church to celebrate Jesus! I have never felt I was there for any other reason but the joy of celebrating. Do people forget that celebrating Jesus is for all our days, not just the Christmas holidays? Do we need to remind ourselves of that at times to keep our balance?

  4. Honest Abe

    Unforsaken,

    There you go again supporting my thoughts and insights. You did it when I wrote as Narsissis Spouse and now I have turned into Honest Abe because I did not want to represent myself as being in an “abused” state as I moved into a less specific brainscan, if you know what I mean. I do wish we knew each other besides on this blog because I know we would be truly friends!
    Thanks for being here……you are special!

    • UnForsaken

      Honest Abe, what very sweet thing to say!! Actually, I need someone to simplify my thoughts a lot of the time and you have a special gift for it.

      Thank You for being here…..your kind words made all the difference for me today! Praying for you and God Bless! ❤

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