A fellow named Roger Ball posted a comment on Tullian Tchividjian’s blog in response to one of Tullian’s wonderful posts on grace:
This is a gross oversimplification. Let’s take a holocaust victim for example. Let’s say that he has serious emotional problems, nightmares etc. Let’s say he also drinks very heavily and struggles everyday to keep himself together. I think it more than obvious that his “fight and battle” is not merely with unbelief. This is simply not the whole story. It’s like I said before, you provide people with little else than a babe-in-the-woods existential mantra right out of the Joel Osteen handbook (you’ve already got it… you’ve already got it… you’ve already got it…). Either start answering these questions, and put some meat on this ridiculous skeleton, or find something else to do with your time.
This is a very valid point, and it set me to thinking. The way of grace does seem to be a gross oversimplification – how do we respond to the holocaust survivor, the chronic alcoholic, etc.? There are people in the world with real problems. Is the message of grace simply an oversimplified existential mantra?
In fact this is the whole point of the gospel. People want to make the gospel all about behavioral change, or a magic wiper that cleanses away all ills. It can do this, but this is idolization. God can also give us great gobs of money or a supermodel wife or make us famous and good-looking, but He really doesn’t do that for everyone does He? These things are not the gospel, and setting them up as the gospel sets an impossible standard for of success and performance for those who are otherwise blessed. This is the response of faith, like Job, who really was blessed of God, even when he had lost everything.
We see this mindset when read some of the strange wording in Paul’s epistles:
“Or do you not know that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived; neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor homosexuals, nor thieves, nor the covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers, shall inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you; but you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, and in the Spirit of our God. All things are lawful for me, but not all things are profitable. All things are lawful for me, but I will not be mastered by anything.” 1 Corinthians 6:9-12, NASB.
“For you have died and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is our life, is revealed, then you also will be revealed with Him in glory. Therefore consider the members of your earthly body as dead to immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and greed, which amounts to idolatry. For it is on account of these things that the wrath of God will come, and in them you also once walked, when you were living in them.” Colossians 3:3-7, NASB.
It is possible to be a person who HAS DIED, yet to not consider yourself as dead to sin. Our mind must come into alignment with the grace we have already received. The more this happens the more we bear the peaceful fruit of the spirit.
The real man of God, the real persistence of faith, is to continue to insist that God’s grace is sufficient when we can’t see it manifest. In fact, anyone can believe God is gracious when all is happy and well. Perhaps the greatest opportunity we have to shine in our belief in God’s goodness is when we are in a wilderness and it is difficult to see the good, Ro 5:3-5, Ja 1:2-4.
“And not only this, but we also exult in our tribulations, knowing that tribulation brings about perseverance; and perseverance, proven character; and proven character, hope; and hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us.” Romans 5:3-5, NASB.
“Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its perfect result, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.” James 1:2-4, NASB.
When we fail, we go back to the throne of grace and get help. When we lack things, when we are discouraged, when go go through a dark valley, we still persist that God is working all things together for good.
“For momentary, light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison, while we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen; for the things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal.” 2 Corinthians 4:17, 18, NASB.
“And because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, for this reason, to keep me from exalting myself, there was given me a thorn in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to buffet me–to keep me from exalting myself! Concerning this I entreated the Lord three times that it might depart from me. And He has said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.” Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, that the power of Christ may dwell in me. Therefore I am well content with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, with difficulties, for Christ’s sake; for when I am weak, then I am strong.” 2 Corinthians 12:7-10, NASB.