Can you imagine Jesus giving everyone a gold card? The card would not be made of plastic, but of real gold, and the purpose of this card would be to offer forgiveness for sin whenever it was needed. Furthermore, imagine that every time you sinned, you could just pull this gold card out of your pocket and, by waving it over your head, whatever sin you had just committed, would be immediately erased, and life would just go on as usual!
Hmmm, does that sound kind of cheesy? Does that make grace sound cheap? Well unfortunately, in some circles that's exactly what the church has done by focusing on grace to the exclusion of other Biblical truths.
You see, in the 80's and 90's in the body of Christ in America, we saw way too much teaching on the topic of faith. Faith, faith, faith! There were faith teaching tapes, faith seminars, faith churches, faith colleges. We even had a City of Faith! That was part of Tulsa OK, which seemed like the faith hub of the country. After a while, the reports came in of people taking the valuable Christian doctrine of faith and going to extremes. Many lost their businesses, church and ministry start ups failed, marriages fell apart, and people missed the most important truth about faith. That is, true Biblical faith begins with God, not a man or a woman. When we seek God about His will for our lives and he drops a supernatural, God designed plan in our heart we can be sure that in His time we will succeed. Faith in reverse, a faith which starts out in man's mind and then proceeds to tell God what to do, cannot prosper!
Someone wisely said that whenever you teach too much of one thing in the Bible it becomes a heresy. In 2nd Timothy 2:15b (KJV), Paul admonished Timothy to rightly divide the word of truth. In today's churches we seem to like to take out a pet doctrine that appeals to everyone's spiritual taste buds and we run with it. We create new worship songs, we write books, hold seminars on the subject, bring in special speakers and we flood our attendee's with thoughts on one subject. We forget to add balance in order to keep people firmly planted in the harmony of the scriptures.
I remember one time as my three kids were growing up their mother got a fantastic deal at Sam's Club on a case of ketchup. I want you to know that as those first bottles were opened, we were loading everything up with ketchup. If there were eighteen French fries in the corner of our plates, there would be a huge glop of ketchup right beside them, but unfortunately half of it always got wasted. We put ketchup on everything; lots of it. It was ketchup, ketchup, ketchup, everywhere! However, about a year later, when we finally got down to that last bottle all of a sudden that ketchup got precious! All of a sudden we weren't putting the huge glop of ketchup on everything. Although we could buy some more eventually, we knew the case was about to be used up!
To use a rather crass analogy, I think we have done that with the blood of Jesus Christ. We have heard so much on grace, grace, grace, that we have cheapened its whole value. We have thrown grace around on everything. We have adopted a "sloppy agape" mindset. We make Jesus' blood seem cheap, because we use it like the proverbial gold card. As a result if we sin our mindset is, "well its no big deal! There's lots more blood where that came from Jesus"! Think about the sadness of that statement! Would we say that directly? Probably not, but in essence that is what we are doing when we either live loose moral lives, or lives serving the flesh and not the Spirit, expecting Jesus to make up for all our shortfall's.
On a commercial construction site, in places where there is a fall hazard, temporary safety railings must be erected to protect workers from falling. The railings are not there to swing on, sit on, climb on, or have lunch on. They are there for one purpose. In case you slip, they are there to catch you and keep you from falling to your death. That's exactly what the Holy Spirit taught me about the purpose of grace. Grace is there like that safety railing on a construction site to catch you if you stumble. To offer the buffer of God's forgiveness through Jesus suffering and dying on the cross for our sins. Grace is in place so that we do not fall so deeply from our stumble that we come under the guilt and condemnation of the devil and succumb to the bondage of that sin. Praise Jesus for the awesome gift of grace and the promise to forgive us of our sins found in 1st John 1:9 (KJV) "If we confess our sins He is faithful and just to forgive our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness". Always remember the second half of that verse is as important as the first!
When we partake of the elements of bread and grape juice together every month on Communion Sunday, our pastor is very careful to read the scripture from 1st Corinthians 11:23-29 word for word. There are some very stern warnings there about not taking communion "unworthily". Even though such Biblical exhortations do not fit in the extremes of modern day grace teachings nevertheless we most certainly do not want to ignore them.
Paul again makes all of this very clear in Romans 6:1,2 (KJV): "Shall we continue in sin that grace may abound? God forbid. How shall we that are dead to sin live therein any longer?" Receive the whole counsel of God my brothers and sisters! For instance receive all of 1st John 1:9! Sanctification as well as grace!