Taking Advantage of the Gospel, But Not Taking it for GrantedFriday, August 18, 2006
Tension fills the Christian life. Only the honest believer who has embraced this truth is equipped to function along the way of the cross. I have come to see tension as one of the most important fundamentals of doing theology. Without an embracing of tension, one's theology is only tenuous. The ever-increasing and maturing ability to hold two seemingly competing or difficult truths in our hands at one time is the mark, I believe, of theological maturity. It is too easy to lean heavily toward one set of truths or another, depending on which set strikes our fancy. One day I hope to write a book on these tensions which fill our daily lives.
One of those tensions is applying the gospel to our sin. The gospel speaks of good news that is infinite in depth of love and breadth of forgiveness. God promises it to us under any circumstances and in any condition. There is no sin too great. No sin or history of sinfulness is a match for forgiveness. So when you sin…take advantage of the gospel!!!
But don't take it for granted. This comes from the double-mindedness that wants heaven and the beauties of Christ, but also wants to sin. This attitude leads to liscentiousness…that attitude which says that if God's grace is in fact infinite, then don't worry about sin, cause after all God will forgive it! It treats 1 John 1:9 as a "signature verse," as if confession is nothing more than sticking a check in front of God and asking Him to sign it without asking any questions. It gives no serious thought to repentance, to acknowledging the sobriety and necessity of self-control, self-discipline, and self-denial.
Take advantage of God's grace in the gospel, but don't take it for granted. Run to Jesus when you sin, just like Peter jumped the boat to swim to Jesus on shore. But don't indulge in sin while following Jesus, just like Judas maintained a covetous and thievous heart for money and power while folloing Jesus for three years. The cross is a tool God has given us to forgive sin, not enjoy it; to repent from it, not indulge in it; to defeat it, not ignore it.
The failure to properly embrace and handle this very tension has caused many who hear of the doctrines of grace, for example, to reject them. In their thinking, if the "U" in TULIP were true, then unconditional election would make us tend towards taking grace for granted. The failure in logic comes in at precisely this point: because it is true, unconditional election can't be true. The same argument would apply with the "P" for perseverance of the saints. If God will unfailingly keep us and preserve us from falling away, then the thought is that we will be tempted to just go out and do whatever the heck we want to. True again. The temptation will be there. But False again. That temptation does not necessarily mean that the "P" is not biblical.
Paul foresaw this error in logic in Romans 6, didn't he? He began the chapter with what he knew would be a very logical argument regarding the infinite supply of gospel grace. If God's grace is glorified and magnified because of man's sin, then the more we sin, the more God will be glorified. Right?
"Hell NO!" This is the most probable, common, modern-day, though slang translation of the strongest negation possible in the Greek language - me genoito! Accept my apologies if it offends, but try to see my goal. Paul's reasoning makes human reasoning seem illogical, showing us that it is possible to reason logically to a wrong conclusion. 1 plus 2 do not always equal 3, unless 1 and 2 have been biblically formulated.
The point is that yes! grace is infinite, always available, overwhelming, and overcoming our sin. And yes! we will be tempted to take it for granted by willfully sinning. But yes! we should take advantage of God's grace when we sin...even when we sin willfully. But no! we should not take it for granted, sinning however, whenever, and with whomever we please just because God will forgive us. Paul's case is clear enough in Romans 6 that our baptism with Christ precludes this kind of lifestyle altogether. And Romans 8 is even more clear that the Spirit of God within us won't let us get away with it.
So then, in conclusion, take advantage of the gospel, but don’t take it for granted.