Does grace make us lazy?

If Jesus did it all for us at the cross, and “it is finished” actually means that our justification before God is irreversibly finished – where’s the motivation for us to live to His glory?

Historically speaking, the fear of preaching a message of constant grace in Christ was that it would invite the church to be lazy. Let’s look at this. Paul planted churches, spread the gospel as far as his voice could carry, served the church by writing a comprehensive theology of the cross via 13 epistles and was beheaded in Rome for his faith. I have difficulty categorizing that as a lazy.

When Paul began preaching justification by faith and grace in Christ,  the religious leaders accused him of teaching an incomplete message. Paul’s letter to the Galatians is a passionate Jesus + nothing gospel manifesto.

The teachers that followed Paul around to “correct” his doctrine of salvation by grace and faith in Christ alone, had an agenda.[1] The fact of the matter is, historically speaking, the utter simplicity of Christ’s gospel has always been a threat to religious leaders fixated on controlling people.

“The gospel is so simple a child can understand it. Yet it is so endlessly rich, the wisest theologians will never exhaust it’s depths.” ~ C. Hodge

Though justification in Christ is not all Paul wrote about, it served as the foundation for everything else he wrote. All of his epistles have a natural flow from justification (being right before God) to sanctification (living more and more to the glory of God).

However, when us preachers get up to preach, we don’t read Paul’s letters in their entirety, which is precisely how the original audiences read them. Therefore all the more, our sermons need to carry the tone of His letters in their entirety: recalibrate the church by drawing them back to the grace they have received in Christ.

In other words,

Our incessant craving for biblical application will shrivel our soul instead of nourishing it if that application isn’t dripping with redemption.

We all come to church with our ears tuned to “do this” because we spent 6 days in that world. The power to “do this” comes from “remember this”.

When Paul wrote to the Galatians, he repeatedly contrasted God’s law and God’s gospel.[2] That important distinction is what separates what justifies us (faith) from the evidence that we’ve been justified (works).[3] By keeping those categories crystal clear, he was able to speak unapologetically about the sufficiency of Christ’s grace without fear that the church in Galatia or Rome (6:1) would run off to enjoy a wheels-off sinfest.

Preaching the grace of Christ doesn’t produce lazy Christians, it produces loyal Christians.

Only the gospel of God’s grace produces the desire in our hearts to keep God’s law. We will always struggle with our sin and therefore our obedience will always be imperfect. The work of justification frees us from slavery to our sin. The work of sanctification replaces the love for our sin with the love for our Saviour.

Both justification and sanctification are works of God’s grace:

Justification is done. 
United to Christ, His righteousness justifies you. Done.

Sanctification is done and being done.
United to Christ you are holy. Done.
His Spirit working in you will produce the desire and the power to do what God wants instead of what your sin wants. Being done – over the course of your lifetime.

Preaching Christ’s grace does not downplay obedience – His grace is the only means of empowering our obedience. [4]

Christ’s grace assures us that when we stand before God we will hear “Well done, good and faithful” because our trust is in the only One who was good and the only One who was faithful – by God’s perfect, holy standard.

We don’t gather for the purpose of learning how to live better lives and increase our obedience, namedropping Jesus at the start of our sermons to simply serve as the launching point to what we really want to talk about.

That’s completely backwards.
We’re not the point – He’s the point.

Living  lives of increased obedience is what a heart set free will want to do – and therefore, obedience is downstream from why we gather. Sanctification is not the spiritual discipline of obsessing over how obedient we’re becoming.

Christ is the subject and the church is the object of ALL of Scriptures. [5]

We gather to remember & marvel.

We gather to eat, drink and celebrate that our sin has been absolved. We gather to sing and raise our voices in worship because the handwriting of the requirements of God’s perfect law against us has been entirely and irreversibly wiped out.

We are loved and we are free.

As our hearts explode with the wonder that God has saved us from death itself, they begin to burn with an ever increasing desire to live to the glory of the One who saved us.

As Christ is preached from every text and we are recalibrate back to the goodness of His grace, the Spirit renovates our hearts. Our restless souls find their rest in the grace of God. We leave refreshed and by His Spirit, we extend His love and grace to others more and more over the course of our lives.

No friends. The grace of God does not make us lazy – it makes us loyal.

Press on,

Paul

Here’s my response in a Q&A session at Theology@Symposium to “Should we put guardrails on grace?” [3 min]

[1] Galatians 1:6-9
[2] Galatians 2:16-21, John 1:17
[3] Ephesians 2:8-9, Romans 3:28, Galatians 2:16 … to name a few.
[4] Titus 2:11-14
[5] Luke 24 – the Emmaus road, Jesus says, “you know this whole thing is about me, right?” (paraphrase)

One Comment on “Does grace make us lazy?

  1. Wonderful and simple… just my thoughts too. I too have problems when preachers start from the last few chapters of Paul’s epistles, while it really should evolve from the beginning chapters that lays the foundation -emphasis on justification by faith in Jesus, the fellowship and stand that we have in him; before we go into the standard of Christian living. Religious folks do label as a “sugar-coated message” preacher, when we really talk of the One who is “honey from the rock” who would satisfy them through and through-Jesus Christ.

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