Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Cheap Grace

Much of what I write has been on what Bonhoeffer called cheap grace: Is to hear the gospel preached as follows: Of course you have sinned, but now everything is forgiven, so you can stay as you are, and enjoy the consolations of forgiveness.

Not to expound on grace all the time, but it is the most important doctrine in the Bible. Grace is getting an undeserved gift - eternal life. As such, grace is a gift from God, and cannot be purchased. Because it can't be bought with the works of men, doesn't mean that it doesn't have value!

In fact grace was paid for at a great price:
1 Peter 3:18 (ESV)  "For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive in the spirit..."
Get that? Christ suffered!  Christ is righteous, we're not! He died that we might live forever! That is grace with high value, yet it is free. That is costly grace!

God does expect one thing because of grace. It is something valuable, and you have it - a living sacrifice. In the Old Testament it was by the blood of animals.
Leviticus 17:11(KJV)  "For the life of the flesh is in the blood: and I have given it to you upon the altar to make an atonement for your souls: for it is the blood that maketh an atonement for the soul."
Animals shed their innocent blood for mankind until Jesus came along. Grace is his shedding of his own blood, and the shedding of blood has always been necessary for forgiveness:
 Hebrews 9:22  (KJV) "And almost all things are by the law purged with blood; and without shedding of blood is no remission."
In other words, some blood must be spilled for sins to be blotted out. Many Christians were baptized in blood for Christ's sake, Throughout the ages, starting with John the Baptist, people shed their own blood for Jesus. Ironically, John who baptized with water, was baptized himself in blood. The Baptist, along with most of the apostles, sacrificed themselves for Jesus; they were a dying sacrifice.

Like the animals of olden times, the apostles gave their life for God's purposes. The animals had no choice, but the apostles did. Hence, theirs was truly more of a sacrifice than the animals. Dying sacrifice is my own coinage for costly grace -  very costly! It's giving up the entire flesh out of reverence for Jesus because Jesus' sacrifice was worth it.

Of course, their own blood was not enough to save. Only the blood of Jesus can do that. However, out of love, faith, and thanksgiving; they sacrificed themselves. We are to do the same:
Romans 12:1 "I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service."
The apostles, and many more after them, died for Jesus. That is in gratitude for costly grace - very costly. It was their own life which they gave in return for Jesus dying for them. They felt it was reasonable that they sacrifice their life because Jesus did.

On the other hand, we are to be a living sacrifice. Unlike dying sacrifices, where the entire flesh is cut off, we need only circumcise our hearts (Romans 2:29).  When we sacrifice our hearts we still live on. Even though that is easier than a dying sacrifice, it's still a great sacrifice. Indeed cutting off the flesh of the heart is difficult, and often painful, but it is expected.

The heart represents the character of the Christian. A sinner is said to be heartless, but they are hard hearted. Christians must be rid of the hardness of the heart. It's a real task to cut that toughness out. A circumcised heart is a tender one full of love, and the will to do what God wills. It's harmonizing one's own will with God. God is love. He expects us to love! The willingness to go from love of self and hate of others is called becoming a new creature:
2 Corinthians 5:17 "Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new."
Being that new creature is costly grace. We must work hard to show God thanks, out of love for him and for what he did.  It isn't as costly a gratitude as the dying sacrifice, but costly grace is that we be willing to die for Jesus, or at a minimum sacrificing the skin off our hearts.
Matthew 10:28 (ESV) "And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell."
Some died for their faith. Bonhoeffer did. That was his dying sacrifice which was his gift for costly grace. It was his reasonable service to die for the cause of Jesus, to wit: love.  Bonhoeffer didn't have to give his life out of love for others, but he did. Jesus's grace was costly to Jesus, and Bonhoeffer repaid Jesus with himself.

This seems to be more about costly grace than cheap grace.  The latter is the failure to place much value on Jesus's sacrifice. Because his sacrifice wasn't a high price to pay (in the Christian's eyes), then maybe the forgiven sinner can just neglect the living sacrifice part! Even though his very life is not required, the born-again person refuses to do his reasonable service: submit himself. Submission is the living sacrifice, and indeed it is costly grace because it's hard to circumcise a hardened heart.

Many born-again people just can't make that sacrifice. They never become new creatures. They fail to thank and appreciate Jesus for his costly grace, but treat him as if grace is cheap; hence, cheap grace. Grace always comes costly, but acting as if Jesus's sacrifice was of little value, not enough to change, then costly grace is devalued.

If a future representative of a dictator comes to demand your life or deny Jesus, will you give up your life? Bonhoeffer did. Scripture tells us that it will happen again (Revelation 20:4).

Just as Abraham was willing to sacrifice his own son for the sake of men, we must be willing to sacrifice our own life for the sake of Jesus. That willingness is because the Christian recognizes the costly grace of Jesus. The unwillingness is portraying Jesus's sacrifice as cheap grace.

What must a Christian do who places value on Jesus's grace? Become a new creature. Change! Obey his commandments to show Jesus that you value his grace!

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