Tag Archives: grace
In a recent podcast I heard the speaker reference “the gospel of acceptance” and explain that some people are simply seeking a gospel in which they feel accepted. With so much division in our culture it’s easy to see how people could long for acceptance and place acceptance so high on their priority list that it becomes, essentially, a gospel.
As I listened to this podcast I realized that not only does every person alive live under some sort of religious ideology, but everyone is a champion for their own brand of gospel.
I appreciate an article by Michael Horton in which he helps to clear up some of the more common myths surrounding Reformed Theology. Horton is a well-respected theology professor and theologian that regularly blogs and discusses theological topics at his podcast, The White Horse Inn. Horton carefully discusses each of these myths and others in great detail in his work For Calvinism.
The above referenced article addresses five of the more common myths surrounding Reformed Theology in a quick, overview type format. The five myths that Horton addresses are:
In these verses we come to understand that the will of man is bent on evil and rejection of God. There is no one that will, of his own free will, choose God (Rom. 3:10-19). In fact, the human will is so captive to sin that no man has any desire for God and prefers the darkness over the light (John 3:19). This means that the idea of free will is true. But it also means that if given a choice man will always choose sin, the darkness, and always choose to reject Christ.
When given the choice between sin and Christ, man will always choose sin.
Regarding salvation God’s sovereignty is a critical aspect that is misunderstood by many Christians. Some choose to reject the biblical doctrine of election because, in their words, “it’s not fair.” But, as we will see, the doctrine of election and God’s sovereignty cannot be divorced.
Concerning election and God’s sovereignty, we understand that God freely elects some to saving faith in Jesus while others are destined for eternal destruction. Paul writes in his letter to the Romans this way:
One of the biggest advantages of understanding the doctrine of election is that it makes sense of some of the most difficult passages in the Bible. Romans chapter 9 is no exception.
Romans chapter 9 is one of the most difficult passages in the Bible concerning election, salvation, and God’s purpose in it all. In this chapter we have a very difficult verse: “Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated” (v. 13). Making sense out of this verse is very difficult. How do we properly reconcile the God that loves all with a verse in the Bible that says God hated someone?
When taken as a stand-alone verse it doesn’t make much sense. That is proven by some of the terrible interpretations of the verse. Interpretations such as, “God loves the Jews but hates the Arabs.” Or, “God loved all the descendants of Jacob but hates all the descendants of Esau.” Or even, “God will bless the line of Jacob but will not bless the line of Esau.” All of these interpretations are wrong and do terrible violence to the text and its proper understanding.
When this verse is understood in proper context of the larger passage discussing God’s will, election, and salvation, it makes sense.
In the entire Bible there is a single scene that is at once the most loving and most terrifying in all of Scripture. In fact, it’s the most painful scene in all of history. If we’re not careful, we will pass over this scene without fully considering its implications and appreciating its magnitude.
When Jesus was in the Garden of Gethsemane, he demonstrated His obedience to the Father and His love for humanity in the most painful and terrifying way possible. Scripture records the scene for us:
Our entire culture is designed to attract us to something and sell something to us. Corporations spend billions of dollars to learn exactly the right words to make you buy their product. Marketing and advertising is a billion dollar industry centered around attracting and selling. From television, to the Internet, to billboards, you can’t go an hour without seeing an ad for something. When the church engages in these tactics, it cheapens grace in favor of enticements.
The church is the most expensive purchase in all of history. The bible tells us that Jesus bought the church “with His own blood” (Acts 20:28). The grace that has been poured out on the body of Christ is priceless. When we seek to entice people through the doors of our church with cheap attractions (like door prizes), we cheapen that priceless grace and the Gospel of Jesus.
The major identifier of any Christian should be our identity in Christ. It’s not about our “conversion story,” or where we are in our “walk of faith.” Creating an identity out of something with no inherent worth or value will always lead to frustration when others don’t place as high a value on that thing as we do.
Take for example the story of Michael Sam, the former NFL draft pick that was also the first openly gay player to be drafted by an NFL team.
Before the combine, before the draft, Michael Sam was a decent football player barely hitting the radar of NFL scouts. Most scouting reports had him listed as a little too small and a bit too slow for his defensive position. But he was nonetheless headed for the NFL combine and would try to make an NFL roster. Then, the relatively unknown player from the mid-west decided to have a press conference to announce that he was gay.
In the world of sports this was only news because there was no openly gay players and Sam would be the first if he could make a roster. For the most part though, NFL scouts, coaches, and owners sort of…yawned. They weren’t looking for a poster-child for social causes or to break new sporting ground. They were looking for talented football players that would help them win championships. Because, at the end of the day, wins is all that matters.
I never cared much for Thanksgiving. That’s a funny way to open a post about Thanksgiving but, the truth is this day never really had a lot of meaning to me. For whatever reason I never saw this day as more than a day off, a day to relax, eat, and play or watch football (or both). Then something happened.
The natural process of life: getting married, having kids, getting older began to change my attitude about Thanksgiving. I saw a desperate need to foster an attitude of thanks and gratitude in my own life. Instead of constantly pursuing more I wanted to be grateful for the many blessings God has given to me and my family. In fact, each night when our family prays we thank God for His “many blessings, like food, clothes, and a warm bed.” And why shouldn’t we?
Taking a quick glance around our world I see hungry people, men and women and kids with no homes, people being forced from their homeland for one reason or another, war, abuse, violence, and sin. The truth is, our world is not a very pleasant place. There is much to be discouraged and disheartened about. But, there is also much to be thankful for.
Last week was a little chaotic for me. During the whirlwind week, which involved a last minute flight to St. Louis, I had the chance to spend some time talking with a man that shares a very similar story as mine. By “similar story” I mean a man that spent many years in full-time vocational church ministry and is now doing something else.
But, the similarities in our stories did not end with our transition from vocational ministry to secular work. What became apparent is that we both found ourselves making similar observations about the church and our own theology. Let me share an example.
I was talking with a friend some weeks back and said “for all the talk the church does about grace and forgiveness, there seems to be very little offered.” My comment came after many people called for pastors and church leaders caught in the Ashley Madison hack to be removed from their positions (some even calling for them to be removed from church membership). This struck me as so odd. I recalled Peter denying he even knew Jesus and yet Jesus never once thought about stripping his Apostleship.
The overtone of responses by many Christians to this event left me wondering what our communities and religious skeptics thought of us when we decided it was a good idea to shoot our wounded. Fast forward to one of the first conversations I had with my new friend in St. Louis. I asked him why he was no longer in vocational ministry. He offered several reasons but included in his answer that he has been less than excited by the lack of grace and forgiveness in the local church.