Occasionally we will receive an e-mail from an upset Corner’s reader protesting something we have written. Lately, a few have gone on to emphasize their disagreement by presenting us with the question, “Where’s the grace?” It is very important to Teri and me that what we write and speak is consistent with Scripture and presented in a loving manner. Therefore, we must seriously consider the points raised by those who disagree with us.
From reading the defense of their dissenting positions, I can now see that foundational to the question, “Where’s the grace?” is the sister statement, “I’m free in Christ.” The reason this is an important Dad’s Corner topic is that if we want to raise children who love the Lord Jesus Christ with all their hearts, souls, and minds throughout their lives, we must see how dangerous the “Where’s the grace?” and “I’m free in Christ!” attitudes are.
Jesus prepared His disciples for service by telling them how they would be treated by the world. The picture He painted for them was not “pretty.” Serving Jesus would be difficult and risky. After reading Matthew 10:16-23, one might wonder, “Who would ever want to be a disciple of Jesus?” He does not promise freedom, fun, recreation, and entertainment to those who will follow Him. However, if children are raised with the philosophy of “I’m free in Christ” and “Where’s the grace?” they are going to expect a cushy Christian life. They will not be prepared for the difficulties that will come, and when they encounter them, they will become disillusioned, wanting out. We must prepare our children as Jesus prepared His disciples if we desire for them to stay the course.
When I was reading 2 Peter recently, some verses “leaped” off the page at me regarding “Where’s the grace?” and freedom in Christ. Peter is talking about false teachers who will bring in heresies and will deceive those who follow their pernicious, destructive, evil ways. We would think that surely the believers won’t be deceived into receiving what these false teachers have to share. Surely Christians will see that the message they are sharing is harmful.
However, Peter says that these false teachers will be able to convince believers that what they have to say is from God. 2 Peter 2:3 tells us how this deception occurs. “And through covetousness shall they with feigned words make merchandise of you: whose judgment now of a long time lingereth not, and their damnation slumbereth not.” The false teachers beguile the flock by appealing to their covetousness. That is a trade secret of the deceiver. That is what makes a temptation tempting. It appeals to what we desire.
We read about the first part of the bait in 2 Peter 2:18: “For when they speak great swelling words of vanity, they allure through the lusts of the flesh, through much wantonness, those that were clean escaped from them who live in error.” They dangle a message before their prey that appeals to the flesh. Many will be snagged because the flesh is powerful in wanting to fulfill its appetites. Giving in to temptation is still no excuse if we have been saved, since we have the Spirit on which to rely. “And they that are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts. If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit” (Galatians 5:23-24). “For they that are after the flesh do mind the things of the flesh; but they that are after the Spirit the things of the Spirit” (Romans 8:5).
The second part of the bait is found in 2 Peter 2:19. I believe this one is even more powerful, as it appeals to the flesh, but in a way Christians will embrace. I say they will embrace it because this has been the rallying cry of so many who use it as an excuse to walk the line of sin. “While they promise them liberty, they themselves are the servants of corruption: for of whom a man is overcome, of the same is he brought in bondage” (2 Peter 2:19). Liberty is the opiate of the masses. “Freedom in Christ!” is the cry of those who want to justify all sorts of things Jesus never told them to do.
I wrote two Corners specifically about our freedom in Christ and division in the body of Christ. Without going back through them, the essence is that we are free in Christ from the bondage of sin. We are not free to do whatever we want to do. We have been bought and paid for by the blood of Jesus, and we are not our own to do as we please. Our freedom from sin is to enable us to serve one another in love, not to serve the selfish desires of our flesh. “For, brethren, ye have been called unto liberty; only use not liberty for an occasion to the flesh, but by love serve one another” (Galatians 5:13). Misuse of liberty is the false message that is often being preached.
Of course, only a few would use their freedom as a cloak of outright sin. We are all too “good” of Christians for that. However, from my observations and personal experience, freedom is usually a ruse for walking the line of sin. We want to get as close to that line as we can but not step over it. We don’t want anyone to be able to say that we are bad Christians, and at the same time, we want to have as much fun in life as we think the unsaved do.
To help us have the mind of Christ, let’s look at a few of Jesus’ statements and evaluate them. Jesus said unto His disciples, “If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me” (Matthew 16:24). That is an incredibly strong statement to a new believer. Where’s the freedom, fun, entertainment, and recreation? Where’s the grace?
Jesus and the disciples were in a boat in the midst of a terrible storm. It was so bad that the disciples were afraid for their lives. Several of them had previously made their living by fishing and would have been experienced sailors. Yet, they were still greatly afraid. This tells me that it must have been a terrible storm. “And his disciples came to him, and awoke him, saying, Lord, save us: we perish. And he saith unto them, Why are ye fearful, O ye of little faith?” (Matthew 8:25-26). Some might wonder about Jesus’ words, “Where’s the compassion? Where’s the grace?”
Jesus was telling His disciples that He was going to Jerusalem, would suffer many things, and would be killed. Peter was brokenhearted about losing the One he cared for most in all the world. Jesus turned toward Peter and said, “Get thee behind me, Satan: thou art an offence unto me: for thou savourest not the things that be of God, but those that be of men” (Matthew 16:23). Jesus gave one of His strongest rebukes to a man who loved Him and was concerned for Him. Some might say of Jesus’ response, “Where’s the understanding? Where’s the grace?”
Is it any wonder that the United States is no longer a Christian nation? Many seem more interested in pursuing their liberty, fun, and recreation than their Lord Jesus. It appears they want to walk as close to the line of sin as they can get, thinking that is where all the fun is. That may be true if someone is carnally minded, but it is not true if we have the mind of Christ. “If ye then be risen with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God. Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth” (Colossians 3:1-2).
Can you imagine someone telling Peter he was too hard on those he was encouraging to be joyful during their trials? “Wherein ye greatly rejoice, though now for a season, if need be, ye are in heaviness through manifold temptations: That the trial of your faith, being much more precious than of gold that perisheth, though it be tried with fire, might be found unto praise and honour and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ” (1 Peter 1:6-7).
Paul did not live a life of easy discipleship. Look at the life he lived. “Are they ministers of Christ? (I speak as a fool) I am more; in labours more abundant, in stripes above measure, in prisons more frequent, in deaths oft. Of the Jews five times received I forty stripes save one. Thrice was I beaten with rods, once was I stoned, thrice I suffered shipwreck, a night and a day I have been in the deep; In journeyings often, in perils of waters, in perils of robbers, in perils by mine own countrymen, in perils by the heathen, in perils in the city, in perils in the wilderness, in perils in the sea, in perils among false brethren; In weariness and painfulness, in watchings often, in hunger and thirst, in fastings often, in cold and nakedness” (2 Corinthians 11:23-27). Of all people, Paul could have cried out to Jesus, “WHERE’S THE GRACE? What about my freedom?” Yet, he didn’t.
Jesus said to crucify the flesh, not cater to it. Jesus did not say, “Come and I will give you a life of leisure and recreation.” The life Jesus called the disciples to was a difficult life.
The answer to “Where’s the grace?” is an easy one. “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast” (Ephesians 2:8-9). As Jesus hung on the cross for our sins, He could have asked the Father, “Where’s the grace?” He had done no wrong, and yet He paid the price for our sin. But the Father looked at His Son dying on the cross, and said to all sinners who will repent and believe, “Here’s My grace.”
Dads, may we reject the message of false teachers who promote their style of liberty. Our freedom is from sin so we can serve our risen Savior. For those who have professed faith in Jesus, we are His bond servants. At best, we are unprofitable servants called to follow Him. Grace, true grace, led to a cross, and if we follow Jesus, can we expect anything less? Let us be men, and raise sons and daughters who will be true disciples of Jesus with Scriptural expectations of what life in Christ is.
“So likewise ye, when ye shall have done all those things which are commanded you, say, We are unprofitable servants: we have done that which was our duty to do” (Luke 17:9-10). “These things have I spoken unto you, that my joy might remain in you, and that your joy might be full” (John 15:11).