Thoughts on the Oughts

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I can, with ease, name about a dozen pastors who fell from grace and ran to grace in their recovery. They preached on the standards of faith, how to live both in faith and in life, and they failed to live up to the standards on which they preached.

“When one says all we need is grace … what that person is most likely really saying is that … they fell short and instead of getting back into the race … we should all just sit down together and let the finish line come to us”

One committed adultery. Another dabbled in porn. Another went into homosexuality. One developed a cult of personality around himself. The list goes on. Then there are the other people I know who also would have at one time struck many as “judgmental Christians” and, in falling from grace through a host of reasons they ran to grace and wrapped themselves around it as a shield.

They went from defining and trying to live the parameters of a Christian life to saying any mention of what the standards are or that someone fails to meet those standards is judging. It’s all about grace.

Then they sing these melodies of “just love them” and “just hug them” and “we are all sinners” and “God loves us no matter who we are.” That last one should be that God loves us despite who we are.

Some, to be sure, were never Christians to begin with, but do their best to pretend to be to pervert and corrupt the church from the inside, relying on the goodness and mercy of Christians to not call them out and relying on the modern church to not exercise discipline.

The common thread in all these falls from grace is that the pastor usually did not go through a real rehabilitation and restoration. In some cases, the pastor did not think he was in the wrong. One, in fact, was convinced that all the other pastors who ministered to him were wrong. Two thousand years of exegetical Biblical study as pastoral care were wrong and he was right in his mind. Another went through rehabilitation, but ministry was all he knew and he had to get back to it. So he threw himself into grace and all dogs go to Heaven and sinners too and we cannot judge, but must love.

They have all gone fully into grace because, in part, they were more comfortable with their sin than others were. They wanted to be rehabilitated or restored on their own terms, not the terms of the church. In order to make it happen, they were willing to convince themselves that all we need is grace and anyone who says otherwise is being legalistic.

Make no mistake about it, there is grace. But that grace is balanced with law. As a preacher on twitter recently said (sorry, can’t remember who), people who get called legalistic are typically just better at living out the Bible in their lives.

That gets to it pretty directly.

Yes, there is grace and God pours out his grace abundantly. But that grace comes with oughts. There are things we ought to do. Before we even get there we have two conditions that we must meet — faith and repentance. We need them both. In fact, the Bible often talks about them as one thing. We do not have true saving faith without repentance.

Calls of grace and grace alone are often a shield the unrepentant Christian raises to deflect from discipline.

Those who do not yet believe get to belief by the Holy Spirit working in them, but also by the teaching and preaching of the Word. Yes, we must love, but that love is not a worldly love. It is a Christian love — a Christian love wants no one to go to hell. Therefore a Christian love must lovingly nudge toward repentance. A Christian pastor must teach on faithful living. That includes the standards of faith and exposition on what sin is.

Preachers, teachers, and Christians in general who just want to share God’s grace do no favors to the lost and, too often, help the lost find a Christ of their own creation instead of the Christ of Creation. Christ can and will work, but he works through preaching and teaching and discipleship and the church.

When one says all we need is grace and love and kumbaya, what that person is most likely really saying is that somewhere, at some time, they fell short and instead of getting back into the race and striving toward the finish line, we should all just sit down together and let the finish line come to us and the race win itself.

Faith does not work that way. God does not work that way. The covenants within the Bible are all between two parties — God and someone else. Each of those covenants has obligations on the part of the person with whom God enters into a covenantal relationship.

Adam had to labor, marry, keep the Sabbath, and avoid the fruit of a particular tree. Noah had to build the ark. Abraham had to leave his country, his family, and his father’s home. Moses and the Israelites had a lot of laws to keep. We must accept Christ as Lord by faith and repent of our sins.

Lastly, we should pay special note of 1 Corinthians 5.

But now I am writing to you not to associate with anyone who bears the name of brother if he is guilty of sexual immorality or greed, or is an idolater, reviler, drunkard, or swindler—not even to eat with such a one. For what have I to do with judging outsiders? Is it not those inside the church whom you are to judge? God judges those outside. “Purge the evil person from among you.”

God judges those outside the church. But inside the church, we are to hold each other accountable and cast out those who are not doing as they should. The key here, to go full circle, is that the others in the church make that decision, not the one in rebellion.

But by God you can be assured that guy is out there right now proclaiming God’s grace and telling everybody how judgmental those Christians in his church were when they were following God’s word better than that grace proclaiming, never judging, hug-em-all guy.

Grace comes with oughts. To think otherwise isn’t thinking Biblically.

About the author

Erick Erickson
By Erick Erickson

Erick Erickson

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