Too Much Grace?


One of my projects for the summer was to read the New Testament out loud with my son. We finished a couple days after summer ended.

I’ve read through the entire Bible a few times, and through the New Testament more times than I can remember. But I had not read straight through the New Testament in perhaps five years. That was certainly too long, but we have a tendency in the Church to break down everything into acceptable chunks rather than dealing with larger wholes, so I suspect my failing is more common than not.

This time through the NT, one theme kept hitting me in the face. John sums it up:

Everyone who has been born of God does not commit sin, because His seed remains in him, and he cannot sin, because he has been born of God.
—1 John 3:9 MKJV

Whiter than snowWe Protestants love to talk about grace. At one point, we loved to talk about holiness too. Today, we don’t talk much about that second one at all.

What struck me hard in my read-through of the NT this time was that every writer of every book warned the Church about sin. Believers were commanded not to sin. Believers were warned of the consequences of sin. The writers were pretty darned serious that Christian faith and sin cannot coexist. The Book of Revelation holds nothing back regarding what happens to those who sin and those who do not.

The Bible makes it clear that we believers are commanded not to sin. We are also commanded on the flip side: to be righteous. If this is a command, then it must be something we have some control over.  If we are told, “Don’t do that!” or “This you must do!” then some means exists for us to take action or else the command is pointless.

Some might argue that these commands sound too much like New Testament Law. Maybe. But they are there in the pages of the NT nonetheless.

I see Christians today excusing all manner of bad behavior under the blanket of grace. We seem to have room for all manner of grace for all manner of sin. I’m not sure we have the same room for holiness though.

When Jesus says that calling your brother a fool is murder, and the Bible says God won’t let murderers inherit His kingdom, do we take that seriously? Do I even have to ask that question? Because the answer today seems to be that we don’t. At all. Or else we believers would look more distinct from the unrighteous hordes who have chosen the wide, sin-strewn way that leads to destruction.

To the Christian, All of Life Is Holy


Heard  a good message recently that was marred by someone adding her thoughts to it. The ruinous addition was that we need always to be careful about those things in life that distract us from God or bring us down to a more worldly level.

When I was younger, I would have heartily endorsed that addendum. Now, I see it as a dilution of the Gospel.

One of Paul’s consistent understatements in his books is that the sacred/secular divide is something of a hoax. Yes, the OT is filled with illustrations about what is holy and what is not, but doesn’t Christ’s death redeem ALL of life?

What verse in the Bible is more astute than this one?

To the pure, all things are pure, but to the defiled and unbelieving, nothing is pure….
—Titus 1:15a ESV

Nothing destroys the joy of Christ more than dogmatic, persistent sin management. We encounter these semi-tortured folks who burn worry lines into their faces from all the concern over potential sinning. It’s like grace doesn’t even exist. To those people, I recommend reading about Martin Luther’s rediscovery of grace and his own fight against perpetual sin.

Can I have a glass of wine, play a game of Ca$h ‘n’ Gun$ with friends, and read a novel that makes no pretenses at being Christian? Why would anyone have to even ask that question? Yet there are M-A-N-Y Christians out there who struggle with all that. (Why? Because well-meaning Christians in authority positions keep knocking certain actions as sinful when those actions are anything but.)

One of  the reasons people don’t want to be Christians is that they don’t want to constantly monitor themselves for “sinful” behavior. You know what? I don’t blame them. Call me lazy, but I don’t want to either. That’s not what being a Christian is about.

Crazier still, the sins that most bother some Christians are the ones the Lord Jesus spent the least amount of time denouncing. He wasn’t so worried about how people dress, what they eat and drink, their leisure activities, and so on. Instead, He was angered by pride, injustice, lack of concern for other people, factionalism, materialism, and the like. Last time I checked, those latter sins were the ones least addressed and most stumbled over by the greater crowd of Christians in North America.

Even if we are guilty of any and all of those sins, let’s deal with them and move on. Let’s not keep wallowing in our own filth and lamenting it. Instead, be glad for grace and live fully.

To the Christian, all of life is holy. And there is joy in that!

The Missing Virtue


Almost a year ago, I wrote about 100 truths I’d learned in 30 years as a Christian. Every year I learn a few more truths about life and faith.

I consider this to be one of the most penetrating truths I’ve learned this year:

A man who lacks humility, no matter how gifted he might be , will have that lack taint everything good in his nature. On the other hand, a man who is humble will bolster the excellence of every positive trait he possesses.

God is holy. His holiness permeates every trait in Him. I believe that humility may be the equivalent transcendent virtue in men and women. It may be that this is the reason Jesus found pride to be so hellish.

Indeed, humilty may be the one virtue most lacking not only in Americans in general, but in American Evangelicals. I used to know many more humble people, mostly older. With that generation dying off, I fear that those humble folks have been replaced by a generation characterized by boasting and privilege.

Jesus must increase, while we decrease. I hope we learn this reality before it is too late.