Summary: I’m going to talk today about something we’ve probably all done on some level and that it abuse God’s grace. We presume on the kindness and mercy of God. We take advantage of the grace that has covered us, thinking it gives us freedom to sin and “get away
INTRODUCTION: I’m going to talk today about something we’ve probably all done on some level and that it abuse God’s grace. We presume on the kindness and mercy of God. We take advantage of the grace that has covered us, thinking it gives us freedom to sin and “get away with it”. What’s wrong with that attitude and what we can do about it?
1) How do we abuse God’s grace?
• By not truly believing in it. We can desire grace and respond to it. We can repent and be baptized. But what if we have a difficult time believing in the reality of it? It’s true that God’s grace is so magnificent that it’s hard for us to understand why he would grant it to us. Because of that, we can be convinced that it has not been awarded to us or that if it has it’s conditional. Although it’s true that we are undeserving of it but that doesn’t mean that it hasn’t been given to us. In this we are abusing the concept of grace by not believing it. We are basically making God out to be a liar and less than who he really is. I am saying his grace is not what he said it is. I am saying God’s grace is based on my deservedness or is dependant on my performance. In order to truly benefit from grace we need to believe that God has granted it; otherwise we won’t embrace it or live free in it. In 1982 an unusual thing happened on the island of Guam. A Japanese soldier came out of the jungle. He had been living in the jungle for 37 years since the end of World War II. Why? Because when the news came at the end of the war, he couldn’t believe that Japan had surrendered and the war was over. So for 37 years, he lived in the jungle. During those 37 years was he free? Sure. At any time from 1945 until 1982, he was completely free to come out of the jungle. It’s not like General MacArthur was coming in to get him. He was free. He could come out whenever he wanted to. But because he didn’t believe it–because he didn’t reckon the fact of his freedom to be true–he lived in self-imposed bondage in the jungle for 37 years. Was he free? Yes and no. Theoretically, he was free. But because he chose to stay in bondage, in hiding, in fear in the jungle, in this way, he chose not to be truly free. Maybe some of us are still living in the jungle. We have been saved, Christ has had the victory, grace is ours, we have a new life but in essence we live like it’s not true. We continue to live in self-imposed bondage to fear. We are still in the jungle spiritually because we refuse to truly believe that Christ has set us free. We abuse God’s grace when we don’t truly believe it and accept it for what it is.
• By taking advantage of it. Rom. 5:20-6:4, 14-15. Paul had to address the concern that since we were saved by grace and not by works this could lead to continued immoral behavior, setting the stage for moral irresponsibility. In the Greek Paul is basically asking, “Shall we remain in sin?” The answer is, “No way! Why would you want to? You’ve been set free from bondage, why do you want to go back to Egypt?” The problem with this thinking is that we would view God’s grace as a license to sin. “I’m saved I can sin as much as I want.” I’m sure we wouldn’t come right out and say this is what we think but is that how we live? Do we willingly sin knowing God’s grace covers us? Do we view grace as the ability to compromise then confess? With this attitude we do not understand the seriousness of sin nor do we understand the purpose of grace. We think because God isn’t striking us dead when we sin like he did to people in the OT that that means he is more tolerant of it. And in that we misunderstand and abuse his grace. In that we have ingratitude and a lack of appreciation for God’s grace. And because of this we take advantage of God’s grace. We take advantage of grace because in the same way we often do that when things come “easy” to us or we don’t have to earn it. Eph. 2:8-9, “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith-and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God-not by works, so that no one can boast.” When we don’t work for something and it’s given to us we often times don’t treat it with the utmost care and concern. But if we have invested a lot of our time or hard-earned money into acquiring something then we usually treat it and protect it much better. We can be that way with God’s grace. Because we didn’t work for it but rather it was a gift of God, given freely out of his love and because he isn’t going to take it away from us we can easily abuse it. Dietrich Bonhoeffer called this mindset the mindset of Cheap Grace. He writes, “Cheap grace is the deadly enemy of our Church. Cheap grace means the justification of sin without the justification of the sinner. Grace alone does everything they say, and so everything can remain as it was before. Let the Christian live like the rest of the world, let him model himself on the world’s standards in every sphere of life, and not presumptuously aspire to live a different life under grace from his old life under sin. Cheap grace is preaching forgiveness without repentance, baptism without discipline, Communion without confession. Cheap grace is ultimately belief without obedience, hearing without doing, intellectual assent without life commitment.” Cheap grace says you don’t have to be concerned about purity, holiness, and obedience. So when someone says that grace is just a license to sin, that is a correct assessment of cheap grace. Cheap grace is grace that does not require death; that is death to the flesh and the self-life. 1st Pet. 2:16, “Live as free men, but do not use your freedom as a cover-up for evil; live as servants of God.” The fact that God forgives us and blesses us when we don’t deserve it, and of course, we never really deserve it, is what makes grace such a risky thing. Author Philip Yancey, in his book, What’s So Amazing About Grace, calls these things loopholes. We all understand loopholes. Webster’s defines a loophole as a means of evading something unpleasant - a hole that provides a means of escape. Yancey notes that in his book he provides what he calls "a one-sided picture of grace - portraying God as a lovesick father eager to forgive, and grace as a force potent enough to break the chains that bind us. He writes: "depicting grace in such sweeping terms makes people nervous, and I concede that I have skated to the very edge of danger. I have done so because I believe the New Testament does, too." He then proceeds to tell the story of a friend of his he called Daniel. Daniel was about to leave his wife of 15 years for another woman, someone younger and prettier. He knew the personal and moral consequences of what he was about to do. But he had a larger concern - and he asked his friend "Do you think God can forgive something as awful as I am about to do?" What a question, huh? Yancey pondered, "How can I dissuade my friend from committing a terrible mistake if he knows forgiveness lies just around the corner?" Yancey told his friend that, yes, of course, God could forgive him. But he also challenged him with these thoughts: What we have to go through to commit sin distances us from God. We change in the very act of rebellion, and there is no guarantee we will ever come back. He said to his friend, "You ask me about forgiveness now, but will you even want it later, especially if it involves repentance?" Gal. 5:13a, “You, my brothers were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the sinful nature.” Those who think they have the freedom to sin because they are not under law anymore but are under grace are under the delusion that there ceases to be any consequence for their sin. It might not be eternal damnation but there will be consequences nonetheless. Sometimes we’re not taking advantage of God’s grace through sinning but through apathy and laziness. “I’m saved, now I can just coast through life and wait for heaven. Wrong. This is abusing God’s grace. God saved us for a purpose. Eph. 2:10, “For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” We are not saved by works but we are saved for works. When we are saved we have an obligation to actively pursue holy living. Our baptism isn’t the end of the road it’s the beginning. God didn’t place his Spirit in us just to sit there and do nothing. Faber said, “God does not save us by grace so that we may live in disgrace.” We are abusing God’s grace when we take advantage of it.