The Case for Grace —  November 4, 2013

Ephesians 2:8-9 God saved you by his grace when you believed. And you can’t take credit for this; it is a gift from God. Salvation is not a reward for the good things we have done, so none of us can boast about it.

“Of all professed Christians, Seventh-day Adventists should be foremost in uplifting CHRIST before the world”. Gospel Workers, p.156

 The first time I understood grace I was 25, sitting in a class on Romans in college. This seems strange, because I am a PK, 3rd generation Adventist that was studying theology. It is troubling that I did not understand the most basic Christian fundamental building block. I have two questions:

How can this happen?

Why is it still happening?

If we are honest with ourselves, we must recognize we could have done better in presenting grace in the right context. I believe there are three points you should consider:

1. Grace acts as fear repellent.  

“The shortness of time is urged as an incentive for us to seek righteousness and to make Christ our friend. This is not the great motive. It savors of selfishness. Is it necessary that the terrors of the day of God be held before us to compel us through fear to right action? This ought not to be. Jesus is attractive. He is full of love, mercy, and compassion…It is our privilege to have a calm, close, happy walk with Jesus every day we live.” (E.G. White, Review and Herald, August 2, 1881)

This I believe. Fear changes outward behavior temporarily. Grace changes your heart, permanently. There are too many in our churches that fear the end times, fear the persecution, fear the judgment. Fear, fear, fear.  The problem with living a Christian life based on fear that is fed with sensationalism is that fear is as addictive as heroin. People develop tolerance to it, until nothing scares them into right living and fear is replaced by apathy and in many cases rejection of all things religious. Christ-less eschatology is like sugar-free pudding. Sure, you could eat it, but why would you?

2. Grace is risky.

Someone has said that if you are preaching grace and no one complains about it, you are not really preaching grace. I have been in countless seminars, camp-meetings, and church gatherings where people complained, griped, wrote letters and were just mean to presenters that spoke about grace. I have hardly ever been at the same events, where a legalistic presentation was followed by complains about the need for more grace and balance.  No wonder outsiders look in and say: Why bother? In some ways we have become like hospitals with sick employees that require only patients in perfect health to be admitted (or to at least cover the wound so we don’t see it). This is not just an Adventist problem, as Billy Graham’s grandson points out:

“It amazes me that you will hear great concern from inside the church about too much grace, but rarely will you ever hear great concern from inside the church about too many rules. Indeed, the absurdity of God’s indiscriminate compassion always gets “religious” people up in arms. Why? Because we are, by nature, glory-hoarding, self-centered control freaks— God wannabes. That’s why.” Tullian Tchividjian One Way Love: Inexhaustible Grace for an Exhausted World.

3. Grace from Ellen White.

It wasn’t until I was older (over 25) that I discovered the balance, growth and grace in EGW writings. Be truthful now. If you grew up Adventist, when you heard the words “Ellen White says” what usually followed was a correction, a warning or a list. I must admit I had a hard time with her for a while. Then I started reading her for myself. I have found gem after gem that I have never been exposed to before. If grace is to be made central, we must get serious about not just using Ellen White as a hammer. Truth was given to us as a map, not a mallet. In blogs that will follow this one, I will share with you some beautiful, Christ-centered quotes that will leave you hungering for more of Christ’s grace. Here is one:

“There need to be far more lessons in the ministry of the Word of true conversion than of the arguments of the doctrines. For it is far easier and more natural for the heart that is not under the control of the Spirit of Christ to choose doctrinal subjects rather than the practical. There are many Christ-less discourses given no more acceptable to God than was the offering of Cain. They are not in harmony with God.”{VSS – The Voice in Speech and Song pg. 342.3}

Amazing grace, how sweet the sound. Let’s not push the mute button.

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