Apologetics: ə-pŏl'ə-jĕt'ĭks from the Greek απоλоγία Def: The branch of theology that is concerned with defending or proving the truth of Christian doctrines.

The Grace Game

Written By Esthermay Bentley-Goossen on 14 March 2012

"Any concept of grace that makes us feel
more comfortable sinning
is not Biblical grace.
God’s grace never encourages us to live in sin,
on the contrary, it empowers us to say no to sin 
and yes to truth."
~ Randy Alcorn

And the misconceptions of grace are exposed...

                         Can I fall from grace?
                                   How much can I get away with?
                                              Is it possible to not sin at all?
                                                       What does it mean to frustrate the grace of God?
I was a mischievous, headstrong child with a sensible, fun-loving mother -- a godly mother with a good sense of  humor.  I don't blame her, but I get my sarcasm from her.  And perhaps a tendency towards legalism.

It all comes back to me now...   growing up a preacher's kid. The sacred things. The silly things. The things I thought were funny -- which really weren't.  It was easy to poke fun of people whose theology of grace was not our own.  I had fun with it. I think most preacher's kids do.

We try so hard to be unlike the world that we become polished pharisees.

We had the most fun with Catholics.
They lived lives so very much unlike our own -- engaging in all the things legalists find offensive.
                                                  Other stuff...

But they went to "confession."
               And this -- of course -- made it all okay.
I think the Catholics got it wrong
Although... my legalism got it wrong too.
Two opposite ends of  a spectrum.

And so goes the grace game. 
                              A constantly swinging pendulum, 
                                                            swinging back and forth between the two.

New Idea: Being dead to sin.  It's a phrase familiar to all of us. Oh! Remember how we heard this growing up in church.  But what does it mean?

When we think of the death of someone, we immediately think of their separation from this present world. We think of their spirit being separated from their physical body and entering into eternal life.

But how does that square with the whole concept of sin? Is a Christian really completely and totally separated and forever free from the power of sin?  Isn't sin a constant battle?  After all, we do live in a fallen world surrounded by sin and sinners.  And our bodies are "flesh."  So if it is a battle, how do we deal with it?

Unfortunately, there are Christians who believe that God -- in all His glorious grace -- will forgive us.  So why not indulge in sin? It is one way to deal with the struggle and it's actually very common. But it is altogether not biblical.  Romans 6:15-22 tells us that if we do live like this, sin will enslave us,
     it will shame us,
          it will limit us,
               it will defile us,
                    it will bring corruption and death.

15What then? Are we to sin because we are not under law but under grace? By no means!
 16 Do you not know that if you present yourselves to anyone as obedient slaves, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin, which leads to death, or of obedience, which leads to righteousness?
 17But thanks be to God, that you who were once slaves of sin have become obedient from the heart to the standard of teaching to which you were committed,
 18and, having been set free from sin, have become slaves of righteousness.
 19 I am speaking in human terms, because of your natural limitations. For just as you once presented your members as slaves to impurity and to lawlessness leading to more lawlessness, so now present your members as slaves to righteousness leading to sanctification.
 20For when you were slaves of sin, you were free in regard to righteousness.
 21But what fruit were you getting at that time from the things of which you are now ashamed? For the end of those things is death.
 22But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God, the fruit you get leads to sanctification and its end, eternal life.
(English Standard Version)

So even though we are a Christians trusting that God's grace will forgive us, we're unhappy, miserable, lacking joy because we cannot give way to sin without being enslaved by it.

Here's another approach... And let's just call it what it is:  LEGALISM.  Just as crazy-far from Biblical grace as the GRACE-ABUSERS that I poked fun of 40 years ago.  We attempt to handle sin by trying our dead-on best to do what we think God wants.  We throw up caution tape at every turn -- wondering if this or that counts as sin and finding that almost everything does count as sin.

We use discipline, dedication, and determined willpower to live according to "The Law." It seems like a far more suitable battle plan.  But, again, it's not biblical.

The beginning verses of Romans Chapter 7 describe what happens when we become legalists:
                    We become defensive,
                    self-righteous perfectionists,
                                                                         critical of others,
                                                                         proud of our own record.
                                                                         We become bored, 
                                                                         and even despairing.

So what’s the answer? Paul’s own words reflect the dilemma:

“In my inner being, I delight in God’s law; but I see another law at work in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within my members. What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death?” 
~ Romans 7:22-24

Paul’s dilemma is the human dilemma. It’s every believer’s battle.

Good News:  In verse 25 we find this:

“I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord. So then with the mind I myself serve the law of God; but with the flesh the law of sin.” 

Perhaps this sounds too simple.
News: the Gospel is simple.

What verse 25 is telling us is that the sin battle is nothing more than Grace vs. Will-Power.

It is the same faith that brought us to Christ in the first place that we must rely on to separate us from sin. Every believer’s battle is won by relying on Christ and Christ alone by the indwelling of His Spirit. This is the yielding process and the beginning of sanctification....

Neither yield ye your members as instruments of 
unrighteousness unto sin: but yield yourselves unto God, 
as those that are alive from the dead, and your members 
as instruments of righteousness unto God.
~ Romans 6:13

What does that mean? Too often we read a passage of Scripture and we believe it simply because it’s God’s Word, but we haven’t a clue what it really means. Right?

Well, when we come to the realization that within our human bodies lives an unrestrained flesh that seeks to influence us to sin, we make a choice to NOT allow the flesh control.  That’s called salvation.

The Apostle Paul is telling us that the STEP TWO is to consider the members of our bodies: hands, feet, eyes, whatever you want to refer to as a "member" of your fleshly body.  Paul calls it a body of sin. And we’re told not to yield it anymore as an instrument of unrighteousness.

Sometimes we forget what the word “yield” means. It’s not just traffic terminology. It comes from two Greek words. One word means “alongside,” and the other word means “to place yourself.”

The picture Paul is drawing here is amazing! Paul is saying, “Don’t keep putting yourself in a position where you can be overpowered by the flesh. It’s just waiting for you to do that. Don’t keep yielding yourself. Don’t keep putting yourself “alongside” that kind of thing.

 (*That thing could be gossip, unwholesome entertainment,
non-Christian friends who negatively influence us,
alcohol, television, pornography, 
you fill-in-the-blank _______.) 

Instead of yielding ourselves to *that, instead of accommodating the flesh, Paul says accommodate God: Yield yourselves to God. That’s how He replaces our unrighteousness with His Righteousness.

Here's the neat part:  That word “yield” is aorist active imperative. That means that --  grammatically speaking -- it's a command!  The aorist tense means DO IT!   Just do it!

If you’re saved – you need to train your senses to line up under Christ. Accommodate yourself to Christ. Put yourself where you can be influenced by the Spirit of God and not by the flesh. 

What does that mean for you?

For this recovering legalist...

God's grace is not a game.
It is my teacher.

For the grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all...  
Teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, 
we should live soberly, righteously, 
and godly, in this present world.
~ Titus 2:11-12

~ Esthermay V. Bentley-Goossen
© 2012 The Heart of a Pastor’s Wife
This installment of InOtherWords is hosted by Urailak
on her blog, Living for God


LivingforGod said...

Great words. I really enjoyed reading your post. I love your explanation of the word "yield". I've also seen the two extremes among "Christians": legalists and grace abusers.

Thanks for sharing your thoughts and linking up with IOW this week. Nice to "meet" you, too :)!

kalopoieo said...

Excellent writing. I like how you've characterized the grace confusion as "every believer's battle." Very good.

I have missed you here on your blog. You dive into topics others can't touch You offer them up to both the new Christian with clarity and the saints with joy in the understanding.

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