Works, Cheap Grace and Navigating a Christianity that doesn’t Lead to Godliness
I realize that’s a really long title. I’m sure I’m breaking some blogging rule by not having a succinct, snazzy headline. But honestly…it sums up what I’m chewing on right now.
This past Sunday I preached a message entitled “Building on a Foundation of Christ” from 1 Corinthians 3:11-16. Four times in the passage, Paul employs the word “work.” My second sermon point keyed in on an essential Christian truth: as Christ-followers, we need to check our work! As our kids are joyfully (sarcasm) laboring through their math homework, this reminder rings forth from mom and dad: Check your work!
We tell our kids. We need to look in the mirror.
Earlier this week, I read in Hebrews 4:10: “for whoever has entered God's rest has also rested from his works as God did from his.” So what gives? If the work belongs to Christ, what are we working for? So aren’t works a thing of the past? We’re free in Christ, right?
Yes, we rest from works as a means of salvation, but we don’t rest from works in response to a salvation that has been given freely! In fact, Ephesians 2:10 reveals that God has preordained works for YOU to walk in! Let that sink in for a bit. But here’s the kicker: Those works must flow from a relationship with Jesus. Those works flow from gospel delight and gospel duty - BOTH are essential in the life of a Christ-follower.
Soap box time…(bear with me for a minute)
Grace is free, but it is and never was cheap. In our cheap grace-saturated culture, Scriptural commands, calls to holiness and all the “one anothers” are optional. How odd. A grace that leads to disobedience!?
Paul addresses this head on in Romans 6:1: “What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? 2 By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it?”
The problem is…many hiding under a banner of “grace” are not only failing to check their works, they’re not even concerned about them in the least! With their “freedom in Christ”, they don’t have to concern themselves with Christ-exalting, Holy Spirit-sensing, others-focused, rewards-chasing, persevering exertion. The result: a brand of Christianity that produces Christians who aren’t godly! Holiness isn’t even on the radar. And before long, the drift is on. As they drift further and further from the mission of God, their hearts grow increasingly hardened toward God’s people, the Church.
The pendulum has swung. In response to legitimately sinful legalism and a gospel tainted with the law (as a means of meriting God’s favor/ salvation), many find themselves immersed in a mission-less Christianity, convinced that all their “non-work” is somehow the key to reaching the nations for Christ.
To this I say: Let’s get to work! In response to the AMAZING GRACE OF GOD, freely given through Jesus, let’s obey all the other parts of Scripture calling us to pour our lives out, WORKING, laboring, persevering in his commission to make disciples of all nations.
Perhaps D.A. Carson says it best: “People do not drift toward holiness. Apart from grace-driven effort, people do not gravitate toward godliness, prayer, obedience to Scripture, faith, and delight in the Lord. We drift toward compromise and call it tolerance; we drift toward disobedience and call it freedom; we drift toward superstition and call it faith. We cherish the indiscipline of lost self-control and call it relaxation; we slouch toward prayerlessness and delude ourselves into thinking we have escaped legalism; we slide toward godlessness and convince ourselves we have been liberated.”
God help us. Let’s get to work!