Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Cheap grace vs. costly grace

Today I wanted to talk about something that I am very proud of accomplishing. 

Something only .5% of the American population has done.

Something that takes a lot of work and takes a lot of will power…

Naturally, I am talking about running a marathon.

So far I have run two full marathons and one half.   And I am very proud of that. 

When I think about my time that I spent training for these runs, a few things stick out to me.  One of the main things was that it wasn’t easy.  It took a lot of work, a lot of time, it was difficult, inconvenient, and a lot of times very painful.  Not everyone understood why I wanted to run a marathon so badly.  Not everyone could relate when I would say how my legs were worn out after getting back from a 10 mile interval run.  Not many people even understood what that was.  But I had made running a marathon a goal of mine.  Something that I wanted to do.  Something that was important to me.  So I did it.

I made it a priority in my life and made it happen.

Do you have a story like that?

A time that you made a goal for yourself and worked really hard to make it happen?

It doesn’t have to be about running.  Maybe you had a subject in school that you struggled with but you decided that you were going to work really hard and do well in that class.

Maybe it was that you wanted to make a sports team, or become a starter , so you trained really hard to get better or prepare for tryouts.

Or you were determined to get a certain score on your ACT or SAT…so you studied really hard and worked really hard to prepare.

If you think about it, I am pretty sure that you can create a decent size list of things that you decided were important to you.  Things that you wanted to accomplish and worked really hard to make it happen. 

Now, look back at your list…is being a better Christian one of them?

If you are like me, probably not.  I can’t even lie…when I thought about things that I worked really hard to accomplish, being a good Christian was not something I immediately thought about.

Why is that though? 

Our minds jump so quickly to school or sports or work…those are the things we focus on and really work hard for….but our own faith is not very high on the list most of the time.

Why is that?  Is it because it is less important?

No, I don’t think it’s that.

Is it because it is easier?

Eh, if it is…it’s only because we made it that way.

We are pressured in all aspects of our life.  Pressure to do well in school, do well at work, be successful in life…but when it comes to the church, it is a come as you, you are always accepted place. 

Which is wonderful!  And what it should be! 

But there is a lot more to it also.

If we think about it…we will force ourselves to work hard for something that is for ourselves…except our faith.

We have been given the gift of God’s Grace…

But what does that mean?

Do we just accept this gift and say, “Thanks G! Maybe I’ll see ya next week!  Unless I’m not tired from staying up late on Saturday night…or want to sleep in…or don’t feel like getting out of bed…or am feeling lazy…or whatever reason I decide to make up next Sunday morning.”

That is like hearing the Gospel being preached as “Of course you have sinned, but now everything is forgiven, so you can stay as you are and enjoy the consolations of forgiveness.”  It is about as meaningful as muttering “My bad.” As you walk away from someone after running into them in the hallway.

This is what famed German Theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer would refer to as cheap grace

In his words, "cheap grace is the preaching of forgiveness without requiring repentance, baptism without church discipline. Communion without confession. Cheap grace is grace without discipleship, grace without the cross, grace without Jesus Christ."  That does not sound like a great thing for someone who claims to be a Christian.  If grace was the gift given to us through the crucifixation of Jesus Christ, then how can we receive this gift without Jesus?

Is grace suppose to be easy?

Now read this quote: "costly grace confronts us as a gracious call to follow Jesus, it comes as a word of forgiveness to the broken spirit and the contrite heart. It is costly because it compels a man to submit to the yoke of Christ and follow him; it is grace because Jesus says: "My yoke is easy and my burden is light."

Which one sounds more accurate?  Which one do you agree with more?

That second one also comes from Bonhoeffer, referring to costly grace.

Why is it so acceptable and easy for us to make a goal for ourselves and then work really hard to make it happen?

What if you made the goal, I want to be the BEST Christian I can be.

What would that look like?

How difficult would it be?

What would we have to change about ourselves to stop living a life of cheap grace and start striving for costly grace.

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