I recently heard a world-renowned, young television preacher say that there was no way he could sin his way out of the grace of God.
I cringe when I hear those attention-getting, flashy catch phrases bantered about so casually from an international platform, without any qualifiers, conditions or caveats. They may draw an audience. They may excite a crowd. But, they could also easily lead an undiscerning audience to self-destruction.
That is what Dietrich Bonhoeffer called cheap grace.
When you camp out on any one aspect of who God is or how he works, it becomes so easy to get weird or, worse yet, flirt with heresy.
Don’t get me wrong, without God’s grace none of us would have any inclination towards God or any ability to respond to His overtures of love towards us. It is what John Calvin called “Common Grace.” John Wesley called it “Preventing Grace,” because it is the only thing that can prevent you from an eternal hell.
But, if grace is where you camp, you are going to miss out on all the places in Scripture that speak of yours and my responsibility…response-ability…to do the things God requires of us because His grace is at work in us.
(I must interject this here: The reason I really like the Bible reading plan I use is because it leaves me little room to camp out on any one attribute or revelation or work of God. On any given day, I am in one chapter from the History books, on God’s design for and original dealings with humanity. Then, I am in one chapter from the Poets and Wisdom books, moved to worship or wonder. Then the Prophets where I come face-to-face with the disastrous consequences of sin and the reality of God’s judgment. Then the Gospels where I encounter God’s remedy…its Jesus. Then I’m in the Epistles where I am instructed how this Christian life is to be lived out.)
Here is an example of what I am talking about:
The other day I was reading Zechariah 1, and got to verse 3, where God tells His willful, stubborn, wayward people, “Return to me, and I will return to you.”
The grace to hear and receive this word is all God.
The grace to respond to this call of God is all God.
But there can be no question about the sequence in this passage…God calls us clearly to act first.
You return…THEN He will return.
He is waiting for you to act…to return to Him in faith, in repentance, in expectancy.
Grace doesn’t mean for you to sit around doing nothing.
To put it in New Testament terms, “Draw near to God, and God will draw near to you.”
It’s your move.