[b]THE HERESY OF CHEAP GRACE[/b]
[i]by Ernest O'Neill[/i]
Do you know how, Romans and the Greek-speaking people of the first century were able to pick out the Christians, so easily in their society. It was because of the Christians behavior. Thats how -- the Christians behaved differently to everybody else. Friends, as I dont if you realize it, but one of the great banes of life in the first century, was the Plague. Plagues and epidemics of all kinds ravage the major cities of the ancient world. And when the citizens of Rome or Corinth or Philippi, realized that the disease had got out of hand, they all acted the same way. They grabbed all the belongings they could and they fled the city as fast as possible, less they catch the Plague. They left homes behind, they left belongings, livestock, they left their own relatives behind. They were so afraid of these epidemics and Plagues that got completely out of hand in those days.
But the contemporary historians, all testified to the one fact, everybody fled except the people called Christian. And even, if they had escaped the city already, if they knew there were victims back there in the city, their own relatives or others friends, they went back despite the threat to their own lives, and they rescued those people. And so they were most noticeable in the society of the first century, by the fact that they did not seem to fear death. And that they would do whatever was needed, to express the love and the kindness of their God to others.
The Christian faith changed the way they behaved. And it was the same in the 18th century in England. In the 18th century in England, all the vices and the inequities, that were plaguing French society were present in English society. There was an upper class that was indifferent to the needs of anybody else, but itself. There was a middle class that wanted power and the ability to rule. There was a working class that saw no reason for living at all that was so poor.
And yet the evangelical revival of Christian faith under Wesley, so changed peoples attitudes to one another, that all historians say the same as Lackey. "The evangelical revival of Christian faith saved England from a French Revolution." And thats true loved ones, again the Christian faith changed the behavior of the society, so that the classes began to show real humanity and concern and care for one another. And so, they avoided the catastrophic revolution that almost destroyed French Society.
Again, the Christian faith changed the way people behaved. All just -- I think it was thirty years ago, just a little over thirty years ago. The same authentic kind of revival of Christian faith changed life in an area that I think most of you know about, but few of us have ever been to the Northern Hebridean Islands of Scotland. I dont know, if you know Scottish people but I suppose, Id be Scotts-Irish and apart from the Irish side, we are a door locked, we really are. And loved ones in the Hebridean Islands of Scotland, are our door silent locked. They can endure and bear a lot but they dont show much excitement or much interest in anything. And The Hebridean Islands of Scotland were like that, until about 30 or 35 years ago, they experienced a Christian revival of religion.
Really a dramatic movement of Gods spirit in the society, that meant that many came to know God because of their attitude to Jesus. And I think I have shared with you before. It so affected the lives of the community, with people giving back things that they have stolen, apologizing to others for things that they have done. It so affected the lives of the people in community that, the judges and the magistrates wore white gloves in the courtrooms for the first time in living memory, because they had no criminal cases to try. So, again the Christian faith changed the way people behaved.
So, today in America, everybody knows the phrase Born again. Evangelical Christian faith is more popular in America today, than almost at any other time in our history. Our president is born again, members of the opposite party, that are ousted have been born again, since the tragedy of Watergate. There are TV stars who have been born again, there are singers who have been born again, there are football players who have been born again. There is more money spent on Christian Television and Christian book publishing, than at any other time in our history. There are more people attending church today, than virtually at any other time in our history. And yet, crime on the streets of our cities has increased steadily and relentlessly. Thats true.
We have an anomaly in America at this present time, we have something that calls itself the Christian faith, but does not seem to radically affect the behavior of our society. Here, we have a break from the authentic classic Christianity that has been expressed through out the world, down through the centuries. Here, we have a Christian faith that does not seem to change the way people behave. It has not at all affected the incredible increase and crying that goes on from year to year in our society, both petty and violent crime. This is a kind of Christian faith that seems to be different from the way Gods Spirit has ever operated in the past. It is not producing a change in peoples behavior.
Now why? Why do we face this anomaly? Why are we facing a great rise in Christian activity and you must admit, its everywhere, its almost sickening at so everywhere -- but why are we rise -- experiencing this tremendous increase in evangelical Christianity, and yet no real change in the morals of our society. We have a society here, that professes Christianity loudly, individuals that profess it loudly, and yet in individual and in social life, the evidence all the moral and the psychological and the social break dance of the Pagan World, and they do you must admit, they do.
Many of us here, no loved ones have had all kinds of moral, social, psychological break dance, and yet they say, yes but we are Christian. Now why loved ones, do we face this? What is wrong with the Gospel that we are preaching in these days; that is preached on radio, on television, that is shared by us in our books and with each other? What is wrong with this Gospel? Because, it isnt producing the same results as it has produced in the past, in other societies. Two words describe it; two words express the problem with our present Gospel, cheap grace. Thats it, loved ones, honestly, cheap grace. We are preaching and living a Gospel of cheap grace, not costly grace, but cheap grace and the verse that wed like to look at it, that were studying today, is one of the verses that is used repeatedly to reinforce this idea of cheap grace, and its Romans 11:6.
But if it is by grace, it is no longer on the basis of works, otherwise grace would no longer be grace and thats a great and a true statement but we misuse it and we misinterpret it. But if it is by grace, it is no longer on the basis of works; otherwise grace would no longer be grace. Now, we are not the first loved ones, to follow this heresy of cheap grace. Dietrich Bonhoeffer, that German Theologian, who you remember was executed in connection with the plan to assassinate Hitler; wrote in his books repeatedly of the resurgence of cheap grace in our generation. George McDonald, the old Scottish preacher, whose writings lead C.S Lewis into real Christian faith; pointed out that, cheap grace is the idea that Jesus death covers our sins, so that God cant see them even though they are there.
Instead of the true grace, that believes that Jesus death is there to destroy sin in us. And thats what drew C.S Lewis to the Gospel. When he saw that Jesus death is not there to cover up our sins, so that God cant see them, but Jesus death is there to destroy sin in us, so that we can be like God. And old Paul you remember, was so stratified in that letter that we read, the part of the letter to the Romans; said what shall we say then, are we to continue and sin that grace may have abound, by no means. How can we all die to sins, to live in it? Dont you know, that those that were baptized into Christ Jesus, were baptized into his death. We were buried therefore with him, by baptism and the death, so then as Christ was raised from the death by the glory of a father, we too might walk in newness of life. We know our own self was crucified with Christ, so that the sinful body might be destroyed and we might no longer be enslaved to sin, for he who has died is freed from sin.
But, that isnt the Gospel that is preached loved ones on the whole among us, it isnt and if you would forgive me just saying, to those loved ones that, my colleagues, who are pastors on television and they are watching, we may think, we preached that but that isnt what the majority of us are getting. It isnt that Gospel. Loved ones, I really know this, because Ive to taught to so many of you and Ive listen to you and the majority of this, the majority of us get this Gospel. God once decided that only those, who obeyed the Ten Commandments, would get into heaven. But he saw, that we couldnt obey them, because we all acted everyday an act. We all sinned everyday an act, thought and word. So, he changed the condition, he punished his own son instead of us, for our sins.
So, that any of us, who believe that he did that would get into heaven, whether we obeyed or not. Now, loved ones, you may sit there and say, no thats not what Ive got but thats what the majority of our society belief. They believe that the Gospel is this that God once required obedience to the Ten Commandments from us, but he saw that we cant obey, because we sin and act thought and word everyday. So, he changed the condition and he punished his own son instead of us and then he said, any of you would give mental assent to this idea, that I have done this, will get into heaven.
So, the majority of people, who are here the Gospels day, have the idea that they are now at last relived from the fear of future retribution of any kind for their sins and so, they dont even have fear, which the normal agnostic has to keep him from sinning or to kind of limit his selfishness. They have the idea, well, it doesnt matter what I do, it doesnt matter about sin or obedience or anything now. Obviously, God isnt concerned about those things. All he wants me to do is to believe, that his son has died for me and he'll let me into heaven, whatever I do and so, what relieved from the normal constraint that even an easiest task to avoid selfishness, Christians tend to feel, well lets face them getting into heaven anyway, because I believed Jesus died for me. Ive to do my best, I certainly have.
Ive to do the best I can, to obey what is convenient for me to obey, but any falling short in my part, will be covered by Jesus death anyway. So, really it doesnt matter, it doesnt matter, whether I obey that much or that much as long as, I make good shot at it, I am going to get into heaven anyway. And loved ones, the majority of Christians feel, that God has changed his mind, that he once required obedience to his laws, but now he simply requires mental assent to the idea that Jesus death will get them into heaven and so, they have adopted that. And they have adopted that mental assent attitude and theyve believed thats all thats required and so, of course we have a monstrosity now in our society, called the "Sinning Christian".
The Christian, feels that, you have to avoid sin if you can, but if you cant, it wont hurt him and God will forgive him and thats all thats needed. And so, he does his best but he has the feeling all the time, that it doesnt matter even, if he does as well as a non Christian and thats the incredible thing. Have you ever thought that? Sometimes, Ive looked at loved ones, who are not Christians at all and have you not felt at times, that they all seem to have a greater sense of responsibility they love other people and be kind to other people and to be honest and aboveboard in their business, than many Christians do. Because sometimes the Christians feel, we have a free ticket into heaven anyway, so there is no great constraint to particularly avoid immorality or be moral. Whereas the poor old nonchristian, who hasnt that kind of cushion, he feels, well I better be as good as I can, in case there is a man up there and he is going to meet me at the end.
But loved ones, is it not true that the majority of us feel that, thats the Gospel. That God once required us to obey his commandments, but he saw we cant possibly do it so, he invented this new idea of punishing Jesus instead of us, so that, if we give mental assent to that wed get into heaven. Of course, its meaningless to the intelligent agnostic. Do you know that? It is meaningless. The ordinary intelligent agnostic can see nothing but injustice in a God beating up their own guy, for somebody elses sin.
The ordinary agnostic thinks its madness. How can you claim that a God is just, if he kills the wrong person, for somebody elses sin and of course the ordinary agnostic doesnt want to be in heaven, because he thinks, if its going to filled with all these weak willed ideologists, who arent at all like Jesus, I dont want to be there. So, the normal agnostic thinks, this is foolishness but what many Christians do is, they so lovely say, Oh! Brother but thats the foolishness of the Gospel. Well loved ones, its not the Gospel at all, it isnt.
What is the true Gospel? The true Gospel is pointed out clearly in that verse that we have often quoted in Matthew, where you remember the Angel said to Joseph and Mary, "You shall call His name Jesus for He will save his people from their sins", not in their sins but from their sins.
God does not change; He is the same yesterday, today, and forever. He has always wanted us to be like Him, He has always wanted us to live in accordance with His will. He did not create an Old Testament of law and obedience, and then replace it with a New Testament of indulging disobedience. God has always wanted us to be like Him, but He looked down and saw that we had used our free wills to get from the world the love that He wanted us to get from Him. Moreover He saw that by that activity over a centuries, we had perverted our own personalities, so that they were so utterly dependent and addicted to things and people for love that we could no longer obey His will for us.
So, He saw that, but loved once He did not then back off and say, "All right, I am contempt to have a group of satanic demons with me forever, who are not like me." He did not say that. Immediately he made a plan to bring us into a state where we would be able to obey as well, and so, He took our perverted little personalities that cannot too good, you are right. "The good that we would we cannot do, the evil we hate is the very thing we do." He took those perverted little personalities, and He destroyed and remade them in the cosmic depth in His Son Jesus, in this super special world of eternity. Heart of which cosmic death, He expressed through Jesus in 29 AD on Calvary.
Now that general death and resurrection that destroys the urgings to anger and then the unjealousy in each one of us, that general death and resurrection can be experienced by you and me day by day. As we submit to the working of the Holy Spirit, who realizes that death and that realization in us as we live each day, and thats we submit to Gods will with Jesus whatever the cost or the inconvenience, and by that means do you see that miraculous destruction of sin in each one of us, that took place in Jesus eternal death can be made real enough day by day. So, that we move from glory to glory, so that instead of Jesus death being a historical static event, which we give mental assent to, as a reason for our free ticket into heaven, Jesus death becomes a dynamic present operating principle within us, and the power that begins to deliver us from self, and from self-centeredness, and from sin. But loved ones, it is costly, it is costly grace.
Grace means two things, first of all unmerited and undeserved favor, and that was costly to God, God showed unmerited and undeserved favor towards all of us in this room, because even though He could have left us in our perverted tangle personalities, He generously of His own free grace took us and put us in Jesus, and allowed His Son to bear the unbearable agony of having our all contorted personalities with their addiction to peoples opinion onto selfishness, onto pleasure, destroyed in Jesus. Out of His own unmerited and undeserved grace and favory did that. Thats one meaning of grace and it cost, cost to the very point where Jesus felt, He was loosing touch with even His father and cried, "My God, my God why has thou forsaken Me?" thats one meaning of grace and it was infinitely costly to Jesus.
The other meaning of grace is that as we submit ourselves to this death to ourselves with Jesus day by day, His death and resurrection is actualized in us, but only through our paying the price and it is a price loved ones, it is a costly price. The Holy Spirit will come to you when youre demanding satisfaction from your loved one, or when youre demanding respect and acknowledgement from a colleague at work, or when your anger is rising as somebody doesnt give you what you feel you ought to have, the Holy Spirit will come and will say to you, "You were crucified with Jesus." As he died to the unjustified treatment, the Roman soldiers were meeting out to him, so you died with Him. Now do you want to stay with Him or do you want to get off this Cross, and at that point youll have price to pay.
Youll have to say if you want to continue to experience the power of Jesus life in you, youll have to say, "Lord I will", Ill die to what they think of me, Ill die to my right to reply an anger here, Ill die to my right to get what I want, Lord Jesus Id rather be with you with nothing, then on my own with everything." And at that point the grace is costly loved ones. Thats why all Thomason Ecampus (ph) talks about The Royal Lord of the Holy Cross, because it is a daily experience of self denial, and of dying to what the Holy Spirit is exposing to us of our all self, that was crucified with Christ, but that we arent yet willing to let go. Thats what real grace is, and thats what the real Gospel is. And of course you can see its exiting in one sense, and yet its hard and painful and another, and yet loved ones as you begin to go through scripture, you begin to see that, that Gospel makes sense of all the verses of scripture, it just. Just think -- and of that verse in II Corinthians 4. He made him to be sin who knew no sin.
That we might become the righteousness of God in Him, or think of that one in Roman 6, we knew that our old self was crucified with Him, so that the sinful body might be destroyed, and we might no longer be in slave to sin, for he was died he is freed from sin, or think of that one in Roman 8, God did what the law could not do. Sending His own Son in the lightness of sinful flesh and forcing, He condemns in the flesh, that the law might be fulfilled in us. A new sense that Jesus died instead of us in every sins that we died with Jesus, and above all else what is this Gospel do, or what changes us from saints into sinners. It changes us from children of darkness and the children of light, it changes our lives. So, that the world stops and stares, and begins to wonder by what power have you done this.
Theres a contagious disease in the world, and our dear maker is saying, "I have an antidote for it." Submit yourself to these series of injections that I want to give you as you live your life day by day, and I will forgive, and it means partly I will give before you ought to receive it, I will give before, I will forgive you the life that you would have, if youd never had this disease, but you must submit to this series of injections of my Sons life, that will involve the taking away of some of your own life that you treasure, and thats the moment the evangelical world is standing back and saying, "We believe that, that is true, so were free from the disease." And you see, you cannot be free from the disease unless you submit yourself to the treatment, but the evangelical world stands back and says, "We believe that, we believe that if we submitted ourselves to the treatment, we would be healed and we would be clenched. Therefore we are healed and clenched. And thats why loved ones the spirit speaks to one of the seven churches in the last days and says, "You think you are rich and whole and healthy, but youre poor, blind and deceased." And I think that, thats the state of much of our evangelicalism, because were believing a truncated Gospel that is no Gospel, because it is simply a mental assent. It is mind game, it is not a submission of the will to our dear saviors experience for us on Calvary.
Now I would pray that you would not listen to this and go back to a pure mental assent, to an idea. I would pray that we might be among those who would begin to be changed, and to express scriptural holiness throughout the length and breadth of this land, because thats what it needs more than anything else. A lot less of the talk, a lot less of even the TV shows, and a lot more Christ like men and women who are honest and kind and dont lose their temper and make the same impression on this world as our forefathers made
SI Moderator - Greg Gordon