Archive for April, 2013

Cheap Grace & Same-Sex Marriage

April 10th, 2013 8 comments

cheap grace 1

As I watched and read the social media banter surrounding the recent Supreme Court hearing on same-sex marriage, I was appalled by the theological shallowness and simplistic moralizing coming from the hearts and mouths of those in my relational circle who profess to follow Christ. Much of the sermonizing was simplistic in that it failed to make the important distinction between personal ethics and public policy. On a relational level we are called to love everyone, including our enemies (Luke 6:27).

While this is often easier said than done, I think all Christians would agree with the principle. Are we called to love those who are trapped in a homosexual lifestyle? Yes. Is their sin any different from the person committing adultery, fornication or any other sexual sin? No. God opposes all forms of sexual anarchy. But let’s be certain about one thing – it’s all sin. And sin dishonors God and destroys people.

The good news is Jesus died for sin and sinners (Romans 5:8). If we confess our sin, He has agreed to forgive us, cleanse us, and free us (I John 1:9). That is the good news of the gospel. Unfortunately, I wasn’t seeing much life-giving, gospel advice on Facebook; just a lot of what Bonhoffer called “cheap grace.”

Best selling author and pastor, Tim Keller, explains this phrase with great cultural clarity:

“By the time of Hitler’s ascension, much of the German church understood grace only as abstract acceptance – ‘God forgives; that’s his job.’ But we know that true grace comes to us by costly sacrifice…Many Christians want to talk only about God’s love and acceptance. They don’t like talking about Jesus’ death on the cross to satisfy divine wrath and justice…Yet if they are not careful, they run the risk of falling into the belief in “cheap grace” – a non-costly love from a non-holy God who just loves and accepts us as we are. That will never change anyone’s life.”

In the words of German pastor and Nazi martyr, Dietrich Bonhoffer,

“cheap grace is the preaching of forgiveness without requiring repentance, baptism without church discipline. Communion without confession. Cheap grace is grace without discipleship, grace without the cross, grace without Jesus Christ.”

So what does all this have to do with the current public policy debate on same-sex marriage? I tried to connect the dots in my recent Facebook post:

When you claim to “love Jesus” but you promote a lifestyle which He condemned and you seek to re-define something which He already defined you are deceived. In doing so, you make a mockery out of the faith you profess.

What America needs is not a “cheap grace” that comfortably fits within the politically correct parameters of moral relativism and religious pluralism. As Tim Keller wisely noted, “This will never change anyone’s life.” On a relational level, we need Christians to return to the message of “amazing grace,” pointing the sexually confused and addicted to the powerful, life-changing message of the cross. On a public policy level, agree with Jesus’ definition of marriage and hold your elected representatives accountable to honor God’s transcendent laws over and above the evolving opinions of those who have no moral compass.

Bonhoffer’s Prophetic Question

April 9th, 2013 2 comments

Bonhoeffer (1)On this day, the 68th anniversary of Dietrich Bonhoffer’s death, we pause to honor the life of a true man of God who did not shrink from standing for truth while many of his pastoral colleagues lived under the convenient and comfortable delusion of cheap grace and a theology of cultural non-engagement. He died at the end of a Nazi noose, but before offering his last breath, he faithfully used both his pen and his proclamation in the service of the gospel.

On one occasion in August of 1934, Bonhoffer addressed a youth conference at Fano, a small island in the North Sea, a mile off the coast of Denmark. Bonhoffer spoke with prophetic clarity and authority, calling the young people to a life of radical obedience to Christ. He emphasized the need for each believer to spend time with the Lord in prayer and Bible reading and to hear and obey what the Lord was saying. The twenty-eight year old pastor told the next generation:

“Peace means giving oneself completely to God’s commandment, wanting no security, but in faith and obedience laying the destiny of the nations in the hand of Almighty God, not trying to direct it for selfish purposes. Battles are won, not with weapons, but with God. They are won when the way leads to the cross.”

According to Bonhoffer’s biographer, Eric Metaxes, “He was telling them that God had given them the power as his church to be a prophetic voice in the midst of the world, and they must take up their God-given authority and behave like the church that, by the power of the Holy Spirit, was God’s answer to the problems of the world.”

This is exactly the kind of wake up call the American church needs today. We are living in a time of unprecedented attacks on our most cherished liberties. The Church is God’s answer to the problems of the world and we have the God-given authority to speak and to act. The question is, will we.

At the close of this historic youth gathering, one of the students who was present recalled Bonhoffer’s unforgettable last words to these impressionable young people:

“What are we waiting for? The time is late.”

I believe Bonhoffer’s words are just as timely and relevant to the Church in America today. May the pulpits in America once again proclaim the Lordship of Christ over every arena of public life and may God’s people hear and obey all that the Holy Spirit is speaking to His Church in this dark hour. What are we waiting for? The time is truly late.

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Stop Lying to Yourself

April 7th, 2013 No comments

stop lying to selfIf we want happy hearts, we have to begin by telling ourselves the truth. Truth and happiness and inextricably linked. Listen to what Jesus said:

“If you stick with this, living out what I tell you, you are my disciples for sure. Then you will experience for yourselves the truth, and the truth will free you.”
John 8:31-32, Message

Unfortunately, before the Truth sets us free, it first makes us miserable.

So the choice before us is to live in freedom by embracing the truth or to live in denial. To live in freedom, we must stop lying to ourselves.

Do you remember the story of Jacob? In Genesis 25 we see that Isaac’s wife Rebekah is pregnant with twins. As she is delivering, the first child out of the womb is Esau. As he is delivered, they see something rather strange taking place. The hand of another child is grabbing on to the heel of Esau. We find out shortly that the hand belongs to Esau’s brother Jacob. His name means “supplanter or deceitful.”

And as his life unfolds, we see Jacob living up to the meaning of his name. His entire life is marked by lying and deceit. Finally, he has had enough. He can no longer live under the weight of his deceptive lifestyle. He is desperate for a change.

Jacob decides to return home. He must now face Esau, the brother he swindled. Before they meet, Jacob spent a night wrestling with God. Let’s read about it in Genesis 32:24-28 (Message):

But Jacob stayed behind by himself, and a man wrestled with him until daybreak. When the man saw that he couldn’t get the best of Jacob as they wrestled, he deliberately threw Jacob’s hip out of joint.
26 The man said, “Let me go; it’s daybreak.”
Jacob said, “I’m not letting you go ’til you bless me.”
27 The man said, “What’s your name?”
He answered, “Jacob.”
28 The man said, “But no longer. Your name is no longer Jacob. From now on it’s Israel (God-Wrestler); you’ve wrestled with God and you’ve come through.”

Before God could bless Jacob, he had to stop lying to himself. God asks him his name because he wanted Jacob to confess his true character. In effect, Jacob is saying, “I’m a lying, cheating conniver!”

The Bible warns us that,

People who conceal their sins will not prosper,
but if they confess and turn from them, they will receive mercy.
Proverbs 28:13, NLT

When Jacob stopped lying to himself, God transformed his character and blessed his life. God will do the same for you and me if we’ll just be honest about who we are.