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Thursday, 4 September 2014

FREE BANANAS

I've realized that the greatest threat to Christians living in the freedom that Christ intended us to live in, isn't what most of you think. Most would say its the law. It's not. The law is easy to spot. Most Christians can detect it and most reject it. However, what most don't detect, and its the greatest threat to your joyful walk, is the MIXTURE of Law and Grace. It's harder to discern, it takes some time to detect...but once you've made the transition into grace, which only comes by revelation, you can hear it a mile away.

I was reading a book that had aspects of the gospel in it. The author is a well respected Christian minister, a reformed Calvinist in his theological position, and he unpacked the story about The Prodigal Son in a way that I've never heard it before. It was so glorious that at times I re-read sentences just to make sure that I was grasping the full extent of the love, compassion and mercy that he was expounding out of the story. He captured the grace of God in ways that would make Hyper Grace preachers nervous. I cannot explain how he unbundled the truth of the magnificence of our Father's grace, love, mercy, kindness and patience. It was marvelous. Truly marvelous. He cracked open truths about how the God of Heaven has such mercy on sinners, welcomes the degenerate, cleanses the most evil of us and accepts the worst of the worst into His loving arms. I'd never heard The Prodigal Son story like this before. It's the sort of painting an evangelist would paint of God when sharing the good news with a sinner; on how he can lay himself bare before the God of Heaven and receive forgives and cleansing. It would have made the most hardened heart soften as the character of Jesus was shared. I will most certainly "steal" some of his truths when I share the Gospel in future. How could I not share such good news?!

But then I got to the next chapter. And it went down a corridor that I'd encountered years before and then I hit a few sentences that made my inner alarm bells ring "WARNING! WARNING!". I encountered the mixture. I encountered the rules. He went about describing, and let me paraphrase but still with words he used..."Now that you're a Christian, you are hemmed in on the straight and narrow, and you better watch how you live. If you wander off to the left - WHACK! - God will smack your spiritual knuckles. And the same if you wander to the right. This road is stern, strict and precise and if you wander off, the chastisement of God will bring you back in line." My jar dropped. My heart sank. How could you have seen the Father of love in such an amazing way in one story and then conclude that He would treat his sons this way once they came home? 

It reminded me of a story I heard that so summed up this subject of mixture. There was once a man walking through the amazon jungle shouting "Free bananas! Free bananas! Free bananas!" Monkeys came from everywhere to see these free bananas. The guy tossed them bananas, left and right, behind him and in front of him, and he carried on walking. The monkeys came from everywhere and grabbed the bananas and followed him as he carried on calling out "Free bananas! Free bananas! Free bananas!" He walked into a huge metal structure and tossed the whole bag of bananas down. The monkeys followed inside and went for the bag of bananas only to hear "SLAM!" The guy had shut the gate to a giant cage. From then on the monkeys had to now pay for the bananas. 

The message of salvation has been clear - "Come to Jesus! Believe in Jesus only and have your sins forgiven. Salvation is free. Jesus already paid the price. He has made the payment for your sins, nothing you can do will earn forgiveness. Jesus paid the price. Come and receive your salvation." However, after they accept Christ and receive their "free bananas", there is an invisible SLAM behind them as now they are 'taught' how to pay for their bananas from now on. Locked into a cage of bondage for the rest of their Christian life...unless revelation comes that infact, there was never meant to be a cage. It IS free. Jesus DID pay the price. It IS for freedom that Christ has set them free. No need to pay God back for anything He has done for them. Salvation IS actually what the Bible says it is: A GIFT. Have you ever had to work for a gift? Pay someone back for a gift? Made to feel guilty for a gift? 

People who are locked into the mixture of law and grace have missed a biblical truth: HOW MUCH MORE. If while we were sinners (hated God, evil to the core, didn't desire Christ, lost in sin and loved sin) God died for us - he reached out to us and loved us SO much; HOW MUCH MORE does he actually love and extend even MORE mercy and grace to those who are now actually His children. Think about that!? Paul described this in detail in Romans 5. But people caught in the bondage of mixture think that God extends more mercy to the sinner than He does the saint. They expound marvelous truths about the grace of God to the LOST PERSON and then distort the "truth" of God's ridgidness, harshness, severity and anger towards the SAVED PERSON. (And for those who think I'm speaking against discipline as Paul describes in Hebrews; please don't assume I'm saying something that I'm actually not saying.) 

Christian, please ask the Holy Spirit for discernment. Ask Him for revelation like never before. I was once a Christian who was swimming in the mixture of law and grace. And I didn't even know it. I was zealous. I was "on fire"! But I wasn't free. I was in fact still paying for my free bananas.


2 comments:

  1. Ross, I believe there is a fundamental misunderstanding of what grace does.

    I'm glad you found wisdom in the way this preacher unpacked the Prodigal Son. I pray you will see the wisdom that is also packed into that quote from the next chapter.

    It's not mixture of grace and law at all.

    God DOES hem the Christian in on the straight and narrow. Consider Psalm 139: "You hem me in, behind and before, and lay your hand upon me."

    This is why we cannot lose our salvation. When we are regenerated and saved, God holds us in His hand and "hems us in". We cannot escape. Even if we tried. In Matthew 7 Jesus talks about there being a narrow gate, and everyone agrees "yeah! there's a narrow gate! Only one way - through Jesus!" but Jesus also said there is a narrow WAY. Once you have entered the narrow gate, you will find that the road is also narrow. Its not like the wide road that leads to destruction, where anything goes. Its a narrow road where you are hemmed in by God, kept on the straight and narrow, kept walking in obedience.

    I don't know where you are personally, but these hyper grace guys keep thinking that this walking in obedience is hard work, like a schlep and a burden that is done against our will and out of mere duty because we feel are trying to earn something or that we are being forced to so that we can stay in grace (which is ridiculous). Every time they hear stuff like what you quoted there, they get all aggro and shout "that's law!"

    To me, this is alarming. When someone is anti obedience, or against the idea that God disciplines His children and keeps them walking in obedience, that's alarming. They need to question the condition of their heart.

    The regenerate believer doesn't feel obliged to obey, he WANTS to obey. He doesn't feel restricted on the narrow way or in God's hands, He feels PROTECTED. If you don't DESIRE to be hemmed in, disciplined by God, grow in obedience to God or grow in holiness and, yes, I'm going to shock you, STRIVE to grow in holiness, my question is "why not?" God said He would cause His people to desire these things (Ezekiel 36). If you don't desire these things, you're not His.

    God's grace isn't a get out of jail free card, like it's treated these days. God's grace is equally active in saving sinners AND keeping the regenerate saved. He saves us by grace, and then gives us abundantly MORE grace in that when we are saved and still sin, He is quick to forgive, discipline and correct - hemming us in.

    Consider Paul who said "For I delight in the law of God, in my inner being" (Romans 7:22), and the Psalmist who wrote "Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked... but his delight is in the law of the LORD, and on his law he meditates day and night." (Psalm 1:1-2) and also "If your law had not been my delight, I would have perished in my affliction." (Psalm 119:92).

    Jesus said "Those whom I love, I reprove and discipline, so be zealous and repent."

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  2. Sorry, that was Revelation 3:19

    In your illustration with the monkeys and bananas, the steel cage comes down and they have to pay to get bananas. Those monkeys never went into the cage because they loved the giver of the bananas - they just wanted the bananas, and they wanted them for free. When they found out the bananas were no longer free but there was a cost, they were angry at the man and didn't want to get stuck in the cage. They wanted to be free to look for bananas elsewhere.

    Let me retell the story: The man throwing the bananas is God, and the monkeys are the people. The bananas are the gracious gifts of God. When the monkeys realise the cage is going to come down and there is going to be a cost to continue following the man, most leave feeling disgusted because they only wanted free bananas. Some, enter the cage anyway, because they REALLY love the bananas and think they will try their best to pay the cost, but when they realise what the cost is, they run away before the cage comes down because they didn't value the bananas higher than the cost. Others enter the cage, because they have realised and understood that the true worth is not in the bananas, but in the giver of the bananas, who has displayed such love to give bananas in the first place. Any cost, no matter how great, is of no consequence to them - they desire the giver of the bananas infinitely more.

    Your illustration assumes the bananas must be paid for once inside the cage. This is typical hyper grace thinking. Biblically speaking, once inside the cage, the bananas remain free. The cost is not the bananas, nor is it the cage. The monkeys WANT the cage to be there. Why? Because (A) the cage keeps them close to the giver so that they can not get lost, and (B) the monkeys on the outside now hate the monkeys on the inside, so the cage keeps them safe.

    The cost is a life surrendered to God, "not my will but Yours be done". The cost is that we will be hated and persecuted, because Jesus was hated and persecuted. Grace is never a cost. Only hyper grace people teach that.

    If anybody hates the idea of being hemmed in or disciplined by God, its because he doesn't want God, he wants the gifts only. In the case of hyper grace, grace has become the gift more desired than God Himself, because the way grace is portrayed by hyper grace, it is portrayed as a license to not strive for holiness. And that liberates their conscience. So of course they feel liberated.

    Meanwhile, the true believers are glorifying God because they have been liberated from sin and death by God. They realise that by grace (A) they have been saved once and for all from the guilt, punishment and condemnation of their sin, (B) they are being presently saved from the power of sin and temptation by God's gracious discipline and sanctification, and (C) they will one day be finally saved from all the power of sin as they meet the Lord in the air. This is all grace upon grace upon grace.

    Grace brought them out of condemnation and into the Father's arms, and grace keeps them walking in the Father's ways. And they LOVE it that way, they would have it no other way.

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