“But by the grace of God I am what I am, and His grace toward me did not prove vain; but I labored even more than all of them, yet not I, but the grace of God with me.”
- 1 Cor 15.10
There is an epidemic running rampant in the American Church spiritually killing people left and right. And that is self-acceptance. I am who I am. And God is love, and He loves me just the way that I am. We are building mega-churches that have dynamic speakers who are considered “real people” because they have just as many problems as we do. We are so offended at authority and expectation that we do not establish any standards for our behavior, accountability to keep ourselves in check or consequences for our failures. But it is all OK because God loves us, and wants us to be happy.
Pastors are alcoholics and serial adulterers. Missionaries abandon the faith. We get divorced, hate our brothers, live for the weekends partying and embracing the world.
Because that is, after all, who I am.
I fear that the old critique that we heard for so long, “the church is full of hypocrites” will no longer be the primary response to us, because we now condone such activities as “real”. In order to be able to relate to others, we must have the same vices as the world. But it doesn’t matter because even though we know them to be sin, “where sin increases, grace abounds all the more” (Rom 5.20). God loves me. God is grace. And He will forgive me. The more I sin, the more he gets glory because He shows His grace more and more.
And the world listens. They want an answer without having to change.
It is true. God is love. But God’s love is not blanket acceptance.
“Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends.” - John 15.13
“We know love by this, that He laid down His life for us; and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren.” - 1 John 3.16
Let’s chew on that for a minute. Jesus showed us the greatest example of love by dying for us. Why did Jesus die for us? Because we are sinners and we deserve to die for that. Jesus did not deserve to die because He is perfect and He is God. But he paid the penalty for sinners who would repent. Jesus’s grace to us is not cheap. It cost Him His life.
- Call on the name of the Lord (Rom 10.13)
- Faith through grace (Eph 2.8-9)
- We must confess our sins (1 John 1.9)
- We must be born again (John 3.3, 7)
- Lose our life for Christ’s sake (Matt 16.25)
- We must repent: turn away from our lives of sin (Acts 2.38)
- We must make Jesus the Lord of our lives (Rom 10.9)
- The sin must pass away, being made into new creatures (2 Cor 5.17)
- Abiding in Christ (John 15.4)
“When Christ calls a man, He bids him come and die” (Dietrich Bonhoeffer).
There is one group that hits the nail on the head. Alcoholics Anonymous. Almost everyone who enters rehab – of any kind – knows that he has a problem. You do not go to get help if you do not need help. And step number 1 is to admit that you have a problem. I am not saying that we have to be perfect, I am saying that we need to admit problems as problems. And consequently set out to find the solution. Step number 2 is to acknowledge and submit to a higher power. It is God alone who will forgive us and who can change us. We do not need to be changed to come to God. But when we come to God, He will change us. If we are not transformed through our relationship with God, we do not have a relationship with God.
- By our fruit the world will know that we belong to God (Matt 12.33).
- The one who perseveres to the end will be saved (Matt 24.13).
- But because of your stubbornness and unrepentant heart you are storing up wrath for yourself in the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God, who WILL RENDER TO EACH PERSON ACCORDING TO HIS DEEDS: to those who by perseverance in doing good seek for glory and honor and immortality, eternal life; but to those who are selfishly ambitious and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, wrath and indignation (Rom 2.5-8).
Pastors screw up. Missionaries make mistakes. Anyone who is in a human body and has come to faith in Jesus Christ for the salvation of his soul has an ongoing war within Himself:
“For the flesh sets its desire against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; for these are in opposition to one another, so that you may not do the things that you please.”
- Gal 5.17
Our purpose and goal, however, ought not be to normalize and accept these truths. It should be to push one another on the holiness and righteousness. To work out our salvation with fear and trembling. Do not idolize someone who embraces sin because grace covers it. Run. As fast as you can. Because that is a lie from the pit of Hell. And do not idolize someone who says He has conquered sin and is living as though he is perfect. We all sin. We all need a Savior. Be real in your admission of sin and in your pursuit of righteousness by the power of the Spirit who lives within you to work out those good deeds that God prepared for you to do before the foundation of the world (Eph 12.10)!
Meditate on these twelve steps. According to the sin that easily entraps you.
1. We admitted we were powerless over [personal sin]—that our lives had become unmanageable.
2. Came to believe that [only God] greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.
3. Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God.
4. Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.
5. Admitted to God, to ourselves, and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.
6. Were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character.
7. Humbly asked Him to remove our shortcomings.
8. Made a list of all persons we had harmed, and became willing to make amends to them all.
9. Made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.
10. Continued to take personal inventory and when we were wrong promptly admitted it.
11. Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God, as we understood Him, praying only for knowledge of His will for us and the power to carry that out.
12. Having had a Spiritual awakening as the result of these steps, we tried to carry this message to [sinners], and to practice these principles in all our affairs.