The free gift of grace (seriously)

So today was my monthly turn to teach Sunday school to the 2nd-4th grade class. I was supposed to talk about the book of Romans.

Despite my skepticism of using the “Roman’s Road” for cold-call evangelism, I think its actually a good teaching tool and decided to take them through it. I ended up talking for a while on Romans 6:23 (which is step 2/5).

For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.

-Romans 6:23 (ESV)

The FREE gift of God. You got that? Did you do anything to deserve it? This is Sunday school of course, so they all nod their heads. Most of the kids are nine years old. They’ve heard this a hundred times already. Grace has really been buggin’ me lately though, so I decided to press the issue. I told them that from now until the day they grow old and die, at every turn, someone is going to come along and try to tack on extra requirements to receive God’s grace. On paper there may be no prerequisites, but you’ll find that practically, socially, there is always a stack. I used an example that seemed to get their attention:

What if a guy was an abortion doctor? It’s his job every day to kill babies. Seriously. Now, say he decides to follow Jesus and confesses that he is Lord. Great! Now what if then he goes back to work on Monday? What if he doesn’t quit his job? Is he still going to hell? Is God’s gift really FREE or not, eh? Are there still prereqs of our own good works to receive it?

(We stopped shortly after, had cookies and played hangman for the last 10 minutes)

Well yes, it would be a good thing if he quit his job. Yes, we think he probably will. He might not right away though. Does that make him any less a recipient of the grace of God? Did Jesus not die for him until he’s cleaned up his act to a “reasonable” level?

An abortion doctor is an easy target of course. What about a gossip? Do you have a bad habit of talking trash behind people’s backs? Say then you come to Jesus and declare him as Lord. Say you’re baptized. But then back at the office on Monday, there you are dishin’ the dirt on your rival down the hall. Are you not really a Christian? But of course you are. And so is the abortion doctor.

(And if the last part wasn’t uncomfortable, the next part probably will be.)

And so is the homosexual who comes to Jesus and STAYS GAY. Yes, it’s true. Yes, for whatever reason (the genetics of the fall, abuse, circumstances) he’s gay. Maybe following Jesus will “cure” him of his feelings. Great. Happens all the time. Maybe he is really hoping it would! Maybe it doesn’t. Maybe he gives up sexual promiscuity (assuming his life was characterized by it before) but never feels particularly “less gay” for the rest of his life. Anyone along this continuum, at what point are they receiving the grace of Jesus? THE WHOLE TIME.

Do some people really reject Jesus? Do some profess his name but continue to live in blatant disobedience, showing little or no tangible evidence of the work of the Holy Spirit? Yes. We all know them. We ARE them sometimes. I am not in a position to judge their eternal state. I admit, sometimes it looks grim. However, it is my place encourage their being conformed to the likeness of Jesus Christ. Some people in their life may be granted a place of exhortation too.

Side note: I believe the idea that “all sin is equal” in the eyes of God is a fallacy. On a practical, physical level, the abortion doctor is causing destruction and evil on a much greater capacity than the gossip. The consequences of actions vary widely. Murder is worse in a hundred ways that shoplifting a candy bar isn’t. They are the same though in that they both equally disqualify us from perfection.

Someone living in homosexual promiscuity (for example a man who makes the rounds at the gay bar) is no more a sinner than the guy playing house with his girlfriend. The former may be more exposed to disease. He may (or may not) experience greater consequences for his actions eventually, but I think the two are essentially just different varieties of common sexual sin. The rub is that the gay man doesn’t dare step foot in most churches, and if he does he has to hide out. The other guy – our churches are filled with them right now. I sincerely hope they both grow. I hope I grow too. So I have a pretty wife and a nice looking family. That’s wonderful! At the same time, big freakin’ deal.

I will not, in my declaration of the gospel, declare one of them justified and the other not, or myself justified and them not. Jesus gave his life for all three of us, and more.

I think this IS the good news. Everything else is pretty much crappy news. I’m not coming to this from a position of theological liberalism. Quite the opposite in fact.

“If you are not regularly accused of being antinomian, you probably haven’t preached the gospel.

-Martin Lloyd Jones

Michael Spencer’s classic essay Our Problem with Grace (reposted today) is much more worth your time.

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