My life message: The Terror of Hell | “Many in the church will be shocked to find themselves in Hell one day.”
First: I'd encourage you read the most popular article I've ever written, Five Marks of the False-Grace Message HERE. It's a much shorter teaching that is perfect for relaying to those struggling with this dangerous doctrine. (It will open in a new window/tab)
Some may wonder why I am so passionate about this issue of grace, and why I continue to sound the same alarm again and again.
It’s simple—this is my life message. Silence on this issue will result in tragedy beyond comprehension.
My burning passion is to see the church shaken out of slumber into a deep, intimate encounter with Jesus. Out of complacency and any false assurance of salvation and into zealous devotion to follow our all consuming leader. This is all about eternity.
It’s shocking to me how sharply resistant Christians can be when the doctrine of salvation is discussed. Many have been lulled into a state of false-comfort through incredibly dangerous and fast spreading theologies—and anything that would threaten their confidence is reacted to fiercely. A pastor once told me that the most violent reaction from Christians against him comes when he deals with false-grace.
Titus 2:11-15 (ESV) 11 For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, 12 training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age, 13 waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, 14 who gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works. 15 Declare these things; exhort and rebuke with all authority. Let no one disregard you.
My life message is to awaken the comfortable, sleeping church and declare the true, empowering grace of God.
It’s not a message that I chose. In the natural that would be insanity as my fervent attention to it has brought trouble and grief not only to me but to my family. We’ve lost friends and awakened enemies we didn’t know we had.
Here’s an email from our great friend Julia Palermo:
Hi John! I wanted to let you know that the Lord has really put you, Detroit Revival Church and the city of Detroit on my heart the past few weeks. I've been following your posts and just carrying you all in my heart. I feel like you are very much in need of extra prayer coverage as you are stepping out very boldly in some areas of proclamation of the truth. Just wanted you to know that I am going to be praying for you and for the church. Would love to talk some time and hear what the Lord is doing. Though I think this bold stand may cost you in some sense, I truly feel that for the remnant who receives these messages and signs up to pursue Him in holiness, He is going to come with His fire and His presence. I believe you are going to experience some times of such a weight of his holiness and nearness in the room that people will only be able to weep on the floor and won't move for hours. You have not seen before what He is about to do in you and in the church. Be encouraged! He is with you! Julia
Thankfully, it’s a message that has resulted in continual messages from people sharing how their life has been powerfully impacted by it.
Shortly after hearing a teaching that (God forgives all sin, past, present and future) I was ignorantly relieved of the struggles I was having with particular sins and then went soo far away from truth, deep into more self justified sin, self deception, coldness, distance from God, family, etc. …. Now I've been hearing teaching from John Burton and others against sin and this false doctrine (false-grace teaching) and now for the first time since I became a Christian almost 10 years ago, I have been free from the power of habitual sin and no longer live a life of torment … All Glory to GOD!!! God needs more TRUTH Ministers.~Nick
It’s a message that, by design, urgently and aggressively provokes those who are personally comfortable yet eternally vulnerable.
The Terror of Hell
It’s a message that was hand delivered to me, by God, over 20 years ago, in a dream where I was dragged toward Hell by a demon that strangely had full authority to do so. In a split second, in my night time encounter, I went from beautiful comfort and complete confidence in my position in Christ to maddening terror as I was slowly, methodically dragged toward Hell. The confusion that gripped me was met by the truth that I was indeed going to spend the rest of eternity—multiplied trillions of years consisting of innumerable hours that feel like decades—being tormented in Hell.
I thought, “It’s impossible! I can’t be going to Hell!”
After all, I’m a Christian!
After I came out of this deeply disturbing experience, God spoke clearly to me: John, in your dream you represented the many in the church who will be shocked to find themselves in Hell one day.
I knew my life assignment was now to humbly yet boldly—and expediently—warn everybody I can. According to Mike Bickle, his opinion is that the number one most dangerous threat today is the distorted grace message… Even a greater threat than abortion. Greater than 54 million murdered babies! Why is it a greater threat? Because as sickening and horrifying as abortion is, there are 54 million babies in Heaven today. False grace results in millions of casual Christians ending up in Hell.
Christians in Hell?
I have to be perfectly clear at this point:
Yes, it is my conviction that many in the church, many in even the most fiery, vibrant and alive churches in the world, are convinced they are saved while living in an unsaved state. False theologies have been so widely embraced that the thought of them being false seem absolutely ridiculous.
Additionally, I am quite comfortable with differing Christian streams emphasizing different biblical principles, and even disagreeing over them—if they don’t threaten eternity. We can disagree over tongues, prophecy, gifts, the timing of the rapture and a myriad of other doctrines—but, the issue of false-grace is different. Eternity is at stake, and many worshiping, bible reading, tithing professing Christians have been deceived and Hell is being made ready for them.
I will share a lot of scripture in this lengthy article to support my position.
You can watch a video where I deal in detail with the false-grace teaching:
How do works fit into the salvation equation?
Ephesians 2:8-9 (ESV) 8 For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, 9 not a result of works, so that no one may boast.
False-grace teachers are vigilant in their attempts to invalidate any measure of works for the Christian—at least as they relate to salvation. In fact, the logical end to the false-grace theology is actually universalism. We do nothing, God did everything, everybody is saved.
Of course, it would be said that we have to believe to be saved. Well, first, that is a work. It takes participation on our behalf. Second, even the demons believe. Even the Rich Young Ruler believed. He was rejected because he was unwilling to do his part. The true motive of his heart was revealed, yet in today’s churches it would be offensive to turn such a man away at an altar call! The common reaction is to give someone assurance of their salvation, all while they may not actually be saved at all. That is a serious indictment on the church to say the least! How many people are going to Hell because a pastor told them they are eternally secure if they simply repeat a prayer after them? I believe the sinner’s prayer may actually be sending more people to Hell than to Heaven!
Leonard Ravenhill states that he doubts that 5% of professing American Christians are actually saved!
The above scripture in Ephesians 2 is actually quite easy to understand. It’s NOT saying that we don’t have to participate in the salvation process. The truth is that we have to be radically involved. The salvation equation includes us!
What the passage is saying is that we cannot bypass Jesus. We can’t give a million dollars to a charity and volunteer at Habitat for Humanity every weekend in order to work our way into Heaven. We can’t decide that the call to serve Jesus is not appealing to us, so we opt instead for option two or three. We can’t create our own salvation plan and then boast about our own abilities. There is only one way, and Jesus is it. And, obedience is very much a part of the equation.
James 1:21-22 (ESV) 21 Therefore put away all filthiness and rampant wickedness and receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls. 22 But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves.
- Works minus Jesus equals no salvation.
- Jesus minus works equals false salvation.
- Jesus plus works equals evidence of true salvation.
The cross of Christ doesn't eliminate our responsibility, it redefines our responsibility. He did what only he could do and we must do what he will not do.
When he said, “It is finished,” he meant it. His job is done—and ours begins. He emphasized this again in Acts 1. The disciples wanted Jesus to do more work (establish his Kingdom), but Jesus made it clear that his job was indeed complete. However, he let them know that their work was just beginning. They must walk in obedience to Jesus.
Hebrews 5:9 (ESV) 9 And being made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation to all who obey him…
We can have ‘intimacy’ with Jesus without works, and death is the result. We can also have works without intimacy and the result is also death.
Being intimate with Jesus doesn’t not automatically mean we’ll do good works, and doing good works doesn’t automatically mean we’ll be close to God. Attention must be given to both endeavors. In Matthew being known by God intimately AND doing God’s will are required. We can’t call him Lord without doing his will, and we can’t do works without also knowing him:
Matthew 7:21-23 (ESV) 21 “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. 22 On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ 23 And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’
This is a quote from the most popular article I’ve ever written, Five Marks of the False Grace Message (www.johnburton.net/grace-message):
It’s striking to me how often I hear that a focus on holiness and obedience equates to legalism. How far from orthodox Christianity has the church fallen?
The only point at which it’s legalism is if we were to reject the cross and resurrection of Christ by attempting to work our way into Heaven. But, if we agree that Jesus is the only one who could have paid for our sins yet we also refuse to work, our salvation is a myth.
Legalism is our attempt to get to Heaven by bypassing the cross of Jesus. Holiness and works are our response to the cross of Jesus.
- Luke 6:46 (ESV) 46 “Why do you call me ‘Lord, Lord,’ and not do what I tell you?
- Luke 8:21 (ESV) 21 But he answered them, “My mother and my brothers are those who hear the word of God and do it.”
- Luke 11:28 (ESV) 28 But he said, “Blessed rather are those who hear the word of God and keep it!”
- John 8:51 (ESV) 51 Truly, truly, I say to you, if anyone keeps my word, he will never see death.”
- John 14:15 (ESV) 15 “If you love me, you will keep my commandments.
- John 15:10 (ESV) 10 If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love.
- John 15:14 (ESV) 14 You are my friends if you do what I command you.
- Philippians 2:12-13 (ESV) 12 Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, 13 for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.
Additionally, we see God dealing with the churches in the book of Revelation. Repeatedly he said, “I know your works.” And, their position in Christ absolutely did hinge on what they did or did not do.
Interestingly, when I talk about biblical works, the most common response goes something like this, “John, we don’t have to perform for God to love us.” Hmmm, why is the issue of God’s love introduced into a discussion about an entirely different topic? I didn’t mention God’s love. I didn’t say that we had to do stuff to convince God to love us, but that is the most immediate reaction I receive. Is it possible that we are living in a “me centered” generation where personal satisfaction and experience are the goal? The issue isn’t God’s love of us, it’s our love of God.
We see this play out all throughout the church. Prayer meetings, conferences and other events are full when the focus is on personal blessing, encounter, healing, prosperity and other bonuses. But, when the call is to die, to intercede for the nations, to carry our cross, to do the work of fervent prayer, to lay down our lives to impact the world, the crowds disperse.
Revelation 3:1-2 (ESV) 1 “And to the angel of the church in Sardis write: ‘The words of him who has the seven spirits of God and the seven stars. “‘I know your works. You have the reputation of being alive, but you are dead. 2 Wake up, and strengthen what remains and is about to die, for I have not found your works complete in the sight of my God.
Revelation 3:5-6 (ESV) 5 The one who conquers will be clothed thus in white garments, and I will never blot his name out of the book of life. I will confess his name before my Father and before his angels. 6 He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.’
Incomplete works can result in names being blotted out of the book of life.
The ESV Study Bible gives clarity to what is being said in Revelation 3:5-6:
Hope for revival is in the fact that a few names—alert and unstained disciples—can still be found in this church. Their unsoiled garments symbolize consistent obedience and courageous faith. Christ promises them the conqueror’s reward: communion with himself (walk with me) and the white raiment of victory.Their name is secure in his book of life, and he will confess their name before the Father, since they have confessed Jesus in hostile circumstances (Matt. 10:32).
Both obedience and faith make up the salvation equation.
From the AMG Bible Commentary on the same verses:
Believers must wake up, change their ways, and determine to follow the teaching of the gospel they first believed. If not, swift judgment will fall upon them.
Here Christ promises not to blot the name out of the book of life of any man who will obey the commands of Rev. 3:2-3. If some refused to obey these commands, would their names not be blotted out? If we say such is impossible we accuse God of using vain threats on His people. He definitely promised Moses, “Whosoever hath sinned against Me, him will I blot out of my book” (Ex. 32:32-33).
Again, we see obedience, works, directly involved in the salvation equation.
The call to wake up and strengthen is a call to works! If that work is not done, that person will in fact one day be cast into Hell.
James 2:14 (ESV) 14 What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him?
Life Application Commentary on James 2:14:
Faith not accompanied by deeds has no saving value.
Christianity demands of its followers good works to all men (Mt. 5:16; 16:27; Eph. 2:10; 1Tim. 6:18; 2Tim. 3:17; Tit. 1:16; 2:7,14; 3:8). One is not justified by works (Rom. 3:25-31; 4:1-6; 9:11; 11:6; Gal. 2:16; Eph. 2:8-9; Tit. 3:5), but justified ones must do them to prove their Christian consecration (vv. 14-18,20-26).
Faith without works is dead; works without faith is dead (vv. 17,20,26). Neither is complete in itself.
Antinomianism in Christianity is the belief that under the gospel dispensation of grace, moral law is of no use or obligation because faith alone is necessary to salvation.
Regarding Antinomianism, Steve Hill wrote:
Purveyors of this poisonous teaching fail to realize that Jesus calls us beyond the requirements of the law in His teaching, stating, for example, that adultery refers to adultery of the heart and not just the physical act (Matt. 5:27-28).
Are our sins forgiven past, present and future?
Steve Hill: Hyper-grace teachers ignore mountains of other scriptural truths and draw wrong theological conclusions. For example, they rightly teach that Jesus died for all our sins— past, present and future—but wrongly conclude that as believers we no longer have to deal with sin (meaning we never have to confess sin or repent of sin, and the Holy Spirit no longer convicts us of sin).
Again, Jesus told us that his job is finished. He died and rose and that was sufficient to cover every sin, past, present and future.
However, that does not mean our future sin is automatically resolved. We have a part to play.
I posted this to Facebook (www.facebook.com/johburton.net) yesterday:
Are our sins forgiven past, present and future? PAST: Yes. PRESENT: Why are you sinning right now? FUTURE: No.
No? Jesus did his part, but we must do ours. We can absolutely lose our salvation due to a decision to sin.
Hebrews 10:26-27 (ESV) 26 For if we go on sinning deliberately after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, 27 but a fearful expectation of judgment, and a fury of fire that will consume the adversaries.
The sacrifice that was fully sufficient for the Believer at the time of his conversion to Christ can be invalidated based on our behavior.
Additionally, this scripture clearly reveals that Jesus paid the price for our past sins:
Romans 3:23-25 (ESV) 23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, 25 whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God’s righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins.
Leonard Ravenhill said:
“I've heard people say “Jesus died for you sins past, present and future.” Imagine a judge tell a thief “you are forgiven of all the purses you stole in the past, the ones you stole today, and the all of the ones you'll …steal in the future.” If that's insane in real life is just as insane in so called doctrine.”
The historic church has always taught that Christ died potentially for all sins , in other words provision has been made for all sins. But that provision has to be applied.
In my message Five Marks of the False Grace Message, I deal with a theology of exemption. The presumption is that Christians are exempt from, and can ignore, certain biblical standards and warnings. For example, the following verse would be ignored:
Matthew 6:15 (ESV) 15 but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.
If we believe in a theology of exemption, we’ll rewrite this verse to say, “If we don’t forgive others, we are still forgiven.”
Jesus taught openly that sin can drag any person guilty of lust to hell:
But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart. If your right eye causes you to sin, gouge it out and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to be thrown into hell. (Mat 5:28,29)
The Lord also stated the stipulation for a Christian to get his sins forgiven, that is, he must forgive others who sin against him. Such a teaching would be impossible if his future sins were all automatically forgiven even before they were committed. If that was true then there would be no conditions to get forgiven, unlike what Jesus stated:
For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins. (Mat 6:14,15)
Then the master called the servant in. “You wicked servant,” he said, “I canceled all that debt of yours because you begged me to. Shouldn't you have had mercy on your fellow servant just as I had on you?” In anger his master turned him over to the jailers to be tortured, until he should pay back all he owed. This is how my heavenly Father will treat each of you unless you forgive your brother from your heart. (Mat 18:32-35)
From Five Marks of the False Grace Message:
A theology of exemption states that since we are saved, we are exempt from the penalties of sin. That there are parts of the Bible that no longer apply to us. Yes, it’s a heresy.
The number of people who subconsciously or unwittingly embrace a theology of exemption is far greater than those who explicitly pronounce their agreement with this doctrine.
Many have been lulled into a false sense of security while actually existing in an unsaved state. They are confident they’d enter Heaven if they died, yet the reality is that they would not. They have come to believe they are exempt from certain parts of the Word of God that requires response.
1 Peter 1:15-17 (ESV) 15 but as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, 16 since it is written, “You shall be holy, for I am holy.” 17 And if you call on him as Father who judges impartially according to each one’s deeds, conduct yourselves with fear throughout the time of your exile,
Be holy. God judges according to one’s deeds. Those who hold to a theology of exemption don’t believe they are subject to what this verse is communicating. The command to be holy is to them a great goal, but not a mandate. A principle not a command.
Our name can actually be removed from the book of life—and that is determined by our obedience, our holiness. Sin can still separate a follower of Christ from him. The Rich Young Ruler saw that this was the case. He wanted to follow Jesus, but could not. He was not exempt from judgment even though he wanted to follow Jesus.
From Hall Worthington:
To believe you are saved, while still immersed in sin is to ignore, disregard, and treat with indifference the Bible's many stated exclusions, requirements, and qualifying conditions of salvation plus the commands of Jesus, while relying on a select four verses out of thousands to support an imaginary salvation; never bothering to question how those four verses must be interpreted in conjunction with Jesus' wonderful commands and the rest of the Bible.
Jesus said: Except your righteousness shall exceed the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, you shall in no case enter into the kingdom of heaven. Mat 5:20
Jesus told five out of seven churches of believers in Revelation that they were lost, on the way to destruction. The Smyrna believers were about to enter tribulation, whom he encouraged. Notice again! Jesus said that five out seven Christian churches of believers were on their way to Hell. Only the church of Philadelphia was doing well because they had kept [obeyed] his word with patient endurance.
Hall also says:
Christendom's false apostles started teaching the lie of instant grace, excusing all past, present, and future sin by grace 2000 years ago, and the itching ears of the world embraced the lie with heaps of teachers and preachers, just like Paul predicted. By grace through faith in what we hear from within our heart, we are delivered from all sin, which is salvation; but only after we have listened to and obeyed the Lord over time. There is no one-time, instant, receipt of salvation by grace; we must grow in grace and hope until we see the end of Grace, Jesus bringing our salvation:
But grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. 2 Pet 3:18
Therefore be resolute of mind, be sober, and hope to the end for the grace that is to be brought to you at the revelation of (you seeing) Jesus Christ. 1 Peter 1:13.
Grace teaches us what to deny. Grace (Jesus) leads us to repentance. With our obedience to His leading and commands, grace then removes the sin, (even the desire to sin), from our hearts — thus to redeem us from all sin and purify us; deliverance from all sin is the true definition of salvation.
Check out this lengthy but wildly troubling story of an encounter by John Mulinde, a leader with a world ministry on every continent except Antartica. God told him, “If I had come today to take My Bride, you wouldn’t be part of that. I wouldn’t take you.” :
Then suddenly a bright light hit my eyes. My eyes were closed. I was on my knees with my head on the ground, but a bright light hit me. I lifted up my eyes and said, “What is this?” I opened my eyes and I couldn’t look in the light. Even when I closed them, it pierced into my eyes. I bowed my head again, and I was trembling and thinking, “What on earth is going on?” Then I heard a voice, deep and calm. He called my name three times. I couldn’t answer. There was no strength in me to answer, but inwardly I was saying, “I’m here.” He called me—“John”—three times. Then He said to me, “I knew you before the creation of the world, and I chose you and set you apart to serve Me as a witness in these last days. I want to say to you, if I had come today to take My Bride, you wouldn’t be part of that. I wouldn’t take you.” I can’t describe the shock that came upon me. I think I was in shock. I didn’t even respond. It hit me. He repeated it. He said, “I wouldn’t take you. For it is written, ‘He will appear to those who wait upon Him’ (Isa. 49:23, paraphrased). You’re not living your life as a person waiting upon Me. You’re allowing all kinds of filth to come into your life. You’re living like one who cares not.” As I said, I couldn’t speak with my lips. At that moment I was thinking, “This can’t be happening to me. I gave up my job to serve the Lord; I gave up my house that my father had given me because I wanted to go to the mission field. I gave up this, I gave up that; this can’t be God saying to me that He wouldn’t take me.” None of my theology and teachings could accept that. He spoke to me these words written in the book of 1 Corinthians 6. He quoted them; I found them later. I couldn’t even remember that they were in the Scriptures, but later on I found them in the Scriptures. It says: “Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived. Neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor homosexuals, nor sodomites, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners will inherit the kingdom of God” (1 Cor. 6:10). “THE HEART IS DECEITFUL ABOVE ALL THINGS, AND DESPERATELY WICKED” He went on to say to me, “Your life is so full of filth. You walk with an outward appearance, and you cover many things in your heart. You forget that I am the Lord who examines the heart. You are not ready to meet Me.” He began to say to me, “If your life is full of this and this and this and this, then are you ready for My appearance?” As He measured the various things, I could say, “OK, Lord, have mercy.” But then He mentioned one thing that my heart rejected. In my own understanding, I had never turned into that. He said, “If your life is full of fornication . . . ” And everything in me said, “Oh, no. That cannot be.” I said it in my heart, and the voice stopped. For a moment there was silence. Then He said to me, “There is no crooked word that comes out of My mouth. Do you call Me a liar? But because you don’t even know your own heart, I will show it to you. Remember this day when you were in this place at this hour?” Brothers and sisters, I didn’t even remember. I practically saw myself back in that very moment—not as a memory, but as a reality. I was back in that moment. I saw myself sitting in the taxi waiting for the taxi car to be filled. Then I was looking out at some lady with all kinds of filthy imaginations. The moment it came back, I thought, “Oh, God, I have sinned against You.” He said, “No, you haven’t sinned. You live in sin. You live in that. You live from morning to evening in such imaginations. Even in your bed at night you indulge in the same. I know every moment of your private life. I know your thoughts. You don’t even fear, even sitting in church. Someone steps up on the platform to serve Me and you strip them naked in your imagination. You imagine all kinds of things. I am the Lord who examines the heart. Have you not read that he who even looks upon a woman to lust after her has already committed adultery with her (Mt. 5:28)?” Pictures began to pass before me of how my imagination works. This isn’t something of which I could say, “Lord, I fell in sin. Lord, I was weak.” It was my way of life. It was my constant way of life. I was comfortable in it. I was comfortable that no one else could see it, but God was saying, “I see it. I am the Lord who examines the heart.” I was so ashamed, but then He said, “That’s not the worst of all. You still live in this.” He began to mention things that appear humanly small: the envy, the manipulation and undercutting of one another so that you remain appearing the best, so that you appear to do the best, to preach the best, to work more miracles, to be more anointed; all the manipulation and self-promotions, all the grudges we hold in our hearts when we see someone else being promoted or recognized before us. The way the Lord brought it up, it was so filthy. I cried and cried, and at some point I was so intent on my grief. Then He raised His voice and said, “Keep quiet and listen.” “I NEVER KNEW YOU; DEPART FROM ME, YOU WHO PRACTICE LAWLESSNESS!” I kept quiet, and He went on and on and on, unveiling more and more things. Even the things which appear so small, at that moment appeared so rotten. I felt like I was standing before the judgment seat with everything being thrown out. I wanted to say, “Stop, stop, I accept it all,” but He wasn’t stopping. At some point I was just saying, “I’m sorry, I’m sorry, I’m sorry.” He said, “Keep quiet.” I wasn’t speaking loudly; I was speaking in my heart. He said, “Keep quiet and listen.” As He continued I thought, “I must have been deceived. All along I thought I was serving God and yet I’m so filthy inside. I must have been deceived. The Devil must have taken my life captive a long time ago.” At that moment I thought of the miracles we were witnessing. I thought of the healings. I thought of all those wonderful things, and suddenly my heart sunk. I thought, “The Devil has so deceived me that he could even use me to produce counterfeit miracles; to produce things I thought God was working—and yet it was the Devil all along . . . ” The voice kept quiet for a moment, and then He said to me, “Why are you imagining such thoughts? I don’t do miracles because you’re worthy. I do miracles because I love My people before whom you stand to preach. Have you never read of how they will come to Me on that day and say, ‘Lord, Lord, in Your name we worked miracles, cast out demons, and prophesied’? Then I will say to them, ‘Get out of My sight, you workers of iniquity. I never knew you’” (Mt. 7:21–23, paraphrased). He said, “Don’t depend on the miracles to assess your worthiness. Your worthiness isn’t in the signs and wonders you witness in ministry. I do miracles because I love the people, and My name shall never be left without witness on earth.” He said, “Have you not ever read that without holiness, no one will see God (Heb. 12:14)? It’s not the miracles; it’s the holiness that comes from God.” He spoke to me the scripture in the book of Hebrews.
Do we need to confess our sins as Believers? Should we be sin conscious?
Yes and yes.
False-grace teachers would say that it’s not necessary to confess sins because there is no sin in us. God’s grace has eradicated it.
Folks, let me be very, very clear: that is a heretical teaching that absolutely puts people at risk of Hell.
1 John 1:8-9 (ESV) 8 If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. 9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
Life Application Bible notes:
Being God’s people does not mean denying sin (1:8), but confessing it. Because all people are sinners, Jesus had to die. Because sin is not completely eradicated from the lives of those who believe in Jesus, God graciously gave his followers provision for the problem of sin.
It’s not only critical, but it’s wonderful to live in a state of continual repentance! God’s love for us is so amazing, that running away from sin and to him is awe inspiring!
As we daily allow God to search our hearts and reveal issues that are barriers to his love fully impacting us, the freedom and resulting life is amazing!
I often hear people say that Christians shouldn’t be sin conscious. Not only is that not biblical, it does us a disservice. Ignoring sin doesn’t disarm it, it empowers it! Allow God to reveal the darkness and set us free!
2 Corinthians 7:1 (ESV) 1 Since we have these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from every defilement of body and spirit, bringing holiness to completion in the fear of God.
We must remain diligent regarding sin. As we grow in grace and knowledge we will have the strength to remain stable.
2 Peter 3:14 (ESV) 14 Therefore, beloved, since you are waiting for these, be diligent to be found by him without spot or blemish, and at peace.
2 Peter 3:17-18 (ESV) 17 You therefore, beloved, knowing this beforehand, take care that you are not carried away with the error of lawless people and lose your own stability. 18 But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be the glory both now and to the day of eternity. Amen.
Being found spotless, blameless and at peace with God is not automatic. Christians under grace are to put forth every effort to remain in this condition:
Make every effort to enter through the narrow door, because many, I tell you, will try to enter and will not be able to. (Luke 13:24)
The idea that we don’t have to confess sins because we will never again have to deal with the penalties of sin, is so unbiblical that even the most remedial student would pick up on the heresy.
2 John 1:8-9 (ESV) 8 Watch yourselves, so that you may not lose what we have worked for, but may win a full reward. 9 Everyone who goes on ahead and does not abide in the teaching of Christ, does not have God. Whoever abides in the teaching has both the Father and the Son.
2 Peter 2:20-21 (ESV) 20 For if, after they have escaped the defilements of the world through the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, they are again entangled in them and overcome, the last state has become worse for them than the first. 21 For it would have been better for them never to have known the way of righteousness than after knowing it to turn back from the holy commandment delivered to them.
If we don’t live in a state of glorious repentance, the sins can overcome us, and the result would be worse than if we had never been saved! Many have had revelations of Hell where they see special attention given to those who walked in the truth and then fell away. This is special attention that nobody would ever want. Additionally, pastors and leaders who don’t reveal this truth are in danger as well!
Baptized by Blazing Fire by Pastor Yong-Doo Kim: Even later that night, as I continued to pray in tongues, I was taken down to hell. I was in a place where there was some devil jabbing a long, sharp spear into rectangular shaped boxes. With foul language, it shouted, “You think you are a pastor? What kind of life did you live? I am ecstatic that you are here with me.” The evil spirit continued to jab the boxes as it cursed. Loud, painful screams came from the boxes, as blood flowed out. I noticed the tops of the boxes were covered with canvass, with a large cross portrayed on it. The boxes were lined up in an orderly fashion, and they stretched endlessly. I could not see where they ended. I realized that they were coffins. Evil spirits were jabbing their long, sharp spears into the holes unmercifully. I asked the Lord, “Jesus, why are the caskets of former pastors here?” Jesus replied, “These pastors did not preach My gospel. They preached another gospel, and those who followed became depraved. This is their end result, a place in hell.” Jesus said, “Depraved pastors will be judged greater.” (Read more here.)
Don Corner says it well:
It takes a present tense saving faith, which submits to and follows Jesus in obedience to remain righteous after getting born again. Moreover, true saving faith can cease to exist and become destroyed (Luke 8:13; 2 Tim. 2:18; 1 Tim. 1:19; Rom. 11:19-23). After salvation, sin can nullify a Christian's righteous and holy standing before God and make him unholy, impure, unrighteous and spiritually dead!
But, isn’t it true that God can’t see the sin of a Christian since he’s washed in the blood of Jesus? No, it isn’t true.
Read through the New Testament. Check out the warnings to the seven churches. God saw their sins. Sins that are not repented of are not covered by the blood of Jesus. Willful sinning results in us being removed from right standing in God.
Hebrews 3:12-13 (ESV) 12 Take care, brothers, lest there be in any of you an evil, unbelieving heart, leading you to fall away from the living God. 13 But exhort one another every day, as long as it is called “today,” that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin.
Again, if our future sins are forgiven, and there’s no need to repent or confess, why does this verse in Hebrews, written to Believers (brothers), reveal that sin can cause them to fall away from God?
False-Grace teachers will say that the Holy Spirit doesn’t convict Christians of sin. Whoa. This is an extremely dangerous and UNWANTED concept! We want conviction! We are actively involved in the salvation process. Salvation is NOT a one time occurrence, but it’s a life-long life-changing process. We need conviction. We need God to search our hearts!
Additionally, we have a lot to do to ensure we remain saved!
2 Peter 1:3-11 (ESV) 3 His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence, 4 by which he has granted to us his precious and very great promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped from the corruption that is in the world because of sinful desire. 5 For this very reason, make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, and virtue with knowledge, 6 and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness, 7 and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love. 8 For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they keep you from being ineffective or unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. 9 For whoever lacks these qualities is so nearsighted that he is blind, having forgotten that he was cleansed from his former sins. 10 Therefore, brothers, be all the more diligent to confirm your calling and election, for if you practice these qualities you will never fall. 11 For in this way there will be richly provided for you an entrance into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
We must know our heart! Let God search it out!
Jeremiah 17:9-10 (ESV) 9 The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it? 10 “I the LORD search the heart and test the mind, to give every man according to his ways, according to the fruit of his deeds.”
If you don’t believe this is true, spend hours in prayer and ask God to reveal every thought, every motive, every sin, every issue in your heart—and he will do it! In love! What’s our reaction? Life! Rejoicing! Repentance! Confession! An encounter in the love and forgiveness of Jesus! There is nothing like it!
But, if we do not repent, what God finds in our hearts will be used against us! This is serious!
So many in the false-grace movement say that God is always in a good mood. This is ridiculous. In fact, it would make God quite deranged if this were true! What would you think of a God who was happy and laughing and in a good mood when he cast people he loves into Hell? No, though judgment will certainly come from God, his love precludes him from being happy about the devastation that it will bring.
Revelation 2:19-23 (ESV) 19 “‘I know your works, your love and faith and service and patient endurance, and that your latter works exceed the first. 20 But I have this against you, that you tolerate that woman Jezebel, who calls herself a prophetess and is teaching and seducing my servants to practice sexual immorality and to eat food sacrificed to idols. 21 I gave her time to repent, but she refuses to repent of her sexual immorality. 22 Behold, I will throw her onto a sickbed, and those who commit adultery with her I will throw into great tribulation, unless they repent of her works, 23 and I will strike her children dead. And all the churches will know that I am he who searches mind and heart, and I will give to each of you according to your works.
Being a willing participant as God searches our hearts is a very good idea! Repenting is critical! Confession is mandatory! To teach a gospel that relieves people of the need to repent and confess can lead them right into fearful judgment at the hands of God!
We even see the results of a non-repentant Christian in the passage about holy communion:
1 Corinthians 11:27-32 (ESV) 27 Whoever, therefore, eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty concerning the body and blood of the Lord. 28 Let a person examine himself, then, and so eat of the bread and drink of the cup. 29 For anyone who eats and drinks without discerning the body eats and drinks judgment on himself. 30 That is why many of you are weak and ill, and some have died. 31 But if we judged ourselves truly, we would not be judged. 32 But when we are judged by the Lord, we are disciplined so that we may not be condemned along with the world.
What about the law?
I’ve often heard Christians say that the OT does not apply to us anymore. That to call Christian to obedience is to put them into bondage under the law. What? It’s an evidence of biblical ignorance.
Some Christians mistakenly think we no longer have to obey any of the basic laws and commandments set out by God the Father in the Old Testament since we are now operating under a new covenant with Jesus. But this view is wrong. Jesus Himself says that He did not come to do away with the law, but to fulfill it.
“Do not think that I came to destroy the Law or the Prophets. I did not come to destroy but to fulfill. For assuredly, I say to you, till heaven and earth pass away, one jot or one tittle will by no means pass from the law till all is fulfilled.” (Matthew 5:17-18)
“Therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death.” (Rom. 8:1-2, KJV)
Romans 7:7 (ESV) 7 What then shall we say? That the law is sin? By no means! Yet if it had not been for the law, I would not have known sin. For I would not have known what it is to covet if the law had not said, “You shall not covet.”
There are three kinds of laws in the OT:
These are related to the priesthood, sacrifices, the temple, and cleanness. These are now fulfilled in Jesus (for example, nearly the entire book of Hebrews addresses this issue for Jews who struggled with the Old Testament laws once they were saved). These laws are no longer binding on us because Jesus is our Priest, Sacrifice, Temple, and Cleanser.
These refer to the governing of Israel as a nation ruled by God. Since we are no longer a theocracy, these laws, while insightful, are not directly binding on us. As Romans 13 says, we must now obey our pagan government because God will work through it, too.
Moral laws prohibit such things as stealing, murdering, and lying. These laws are still binding on us even though Jesus fulfilled their requirements through His sinless life. Jesus Himself repeats and reinforces the Ten Commandments.
First we need to understand that the law and works are not the same thing! We are still called to good works… while the law refers to a specific set of commands found in the OT.
Adherence to the law is not a part of salvation. Works, however, is. Faith alone can’t save us.
James 2:14 (ESV) 14 What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him?
Check this out… there is a certain type of works that does no good:
Romans 3:28 (ESV) 28 For we hold that one is justified by faith apart from works of the law.
…of the law. In the OT it was the Mosaic law that was their only hope. In the NT, faith in Jesus that’s evidenced through New Covenant obedience and works is what saves us.
Joseph Tkach: The New Testament does give us rules and behavioral expectations, but these should be seen as the result of a faith relationship, not as the basis for it.
Romans 3:29-30 (ESV) 29 Or is God the God of Jews only? Is he not the God of Gentiles also? Yes, of Gentiles also, 30 since God is one—who will justify the circumcised by faith and the uncircumcised through faith.
We don’t have to be circumcised, but we do still have to obey, to respond to God’s NT commands.
Matthew 22:36-40 (ESV) 36 “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” 37 And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. 38 This is the great and first commandment. 39 And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. 40 On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.”
The power of that scripture is that God’s attributes are affirmed. Loving God and others covers a lot of ground!
In the OT obedience was required and in the NT obedience is required. The difference? Jesus often told people to obey God, but Moses is not the standard by which obedience is now measured.
Jesus told his disciples to preach the gospel throughout the world. This gospel focuses on the message of repentance and forgiveness of sins through faith in Jesus Christ.
We don’t take the cross lightly, but we realize how profoundly it obligates us to obey the One who gave himself for us.
Matthew 28:20 tells us that Christians should be taught to obey their Lord and Savior in addition to believing in him.
Matthew 28:19-20 (ESV) 19 Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”
Wake up church!
The ‘happy Christianity’ movement that is experience-focused and self-serving is not scriptural! When we become Christians we sign up to die, we embrace martyrdom! It’s not all about experiencing happiness and blessing!
Of course, there is significant blessing, joy and life in Jesus, but the focus is not on feeling good about life, it’s about taking up our cross and following Jesus in fear and trembling!
Taking up our cross doesn’t mean to wear it around our necks! It’s the same thing as saying today, “put your head on the guillotine,” or “sit in the electric chair.”
Following Jesus isn’t easy. It’s not about our happiness. It’s about him! It’s falling in love with the lover of our souls and responding to his leadership!
I’d strongly recommend reading my book The Terror of Hell. In it I discuss the connection between intimacy with Jesus and salvation. We want to be known by God in a place of deep intimate encounter and full devotion. We want to avoid God ever saying, “Depart from me I never knew you.”
Why a distorted message of grace is the church’s greatest crisis today—and how we must respond
The original article can be found here: http://www.charismamag.com/spirit/spiritual-growth/17080-what-s-wrong-with-grace
The most powerful, significant and liberating message ever given to the human race is the gospel of grace. The Christian life is established on the foundation of this wonderful truth, which emphasizes what Christ did for us on the cross and what the Holy Spirit does in us in our daily life. Paul’s dramatic declaration that we have become new creations in Christ has vast implications for our lives: “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away … all things have become new … that we [our spirit] might become the righteousness of God in Him” (2 Cor. 5:17-21).
The “he” that is a new creation is our spirit man. We possess the very righteousness of God in our spirit (v. 21). This describes our new legal position in Christ—how God sees and relates to us. In Christ, all things have become new pertaining to our spirit. This includes being fully accepted by God, receiving the authority to use the name of Jesus and possessing the indwelling Holy Spirit—all of which enable us to resist sin, sickness and Satan; to walk in victory; and to release the works of God through prayer. The old things that passed away under this legal shift include no longer being under the penalty of sin nor being dominated by the power of sin.
So what’s the problem if we’ve been given such freedom as new creations? Unfortunately, man’s natural tendency to distort truth gets in the way. And when it comes to a truth as fundamental and crucial as grace, that distortion has far-reaching implications. In short, it can become the central crisis of an entire generation.
The Crisis of Our Time
The apostle Jude confronted the great spiritual crisis of his day when he exhorted believers to contend earnestly for the “faith” or for the message of grace originally delivered to them through the first apostles. In Jude 3-4, he writes: “I found it necessary to write to you exhorting you to contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints. For certain men have crept in unnoticed … ungodly men, who turn the grace of our God into lewdness.”
Think about this: Within one generation after Jesus’ resurrection, it was already necessary to contend for the true grace message. That’s how key this battle over the true grace message is and always has been since Jesus’ definitive work on the cross.
Jude warned of certain men who crept into the fellowship of the church unnoticed—that is, their error went unnoticed by most of the leaders and the people. These men turned the message of grace into a message of lewdness or one that affirmed various compromises, even sexual immorality. These men with persuasive teaching abilities twisted what the Bible said about grace, thus empowering many to confidently continue in sinful activities without feeling any urgency to repent.
Undoubtedly, these teachers of error appeared outwardly to live godly, but in their private lives they refused to repent of various lusts. Instead, they justified their ungodly habits by distorting the message of grace to accommodate their lifestyles.
The result was devastating, as many in the church concluded that it was acceptable for them also to live with similar compromises because these popular teachers were justifying this sort of lifestyle with various Bible verses. In reality, they took these verses out of context of the broader New Testament message, which called believers to live in wholehearted love for Jesus as evidenced by seeking to live in obedience to Him (John 14:15, 21).
The same is true with hyper-grace teachers today. They choose to emphasize only God’s love and forgiveness while practically ignoring Jesus’ call for His people to walk in wholehearted commitment to the Lord. They preach mostly on forgiveness without repentance and on receiving God’s blessing on their circumstances without any conditions. The truth is, it’s glorious that we are freely forgiven by Jesus and that He blesses our circumstances; but these truths are in context to seeking to live in a real relationship with Him and in agreement with His leadership and Word.
Jude’s exhortation is a significant warning for the body of Christ today. When the grace message is distorted, everything else in one’s spiritual life becomes blurred. In fact, there is no spiritual battle more significant in the church today than contending to keep the grace message faithful to Scripture.
Sadly, some believers aren’t even aware of this spiritual crisis regarding a diluted grace message. They must wake up to the emergency at hand—because today, as we contend for the spirit of truth, we are fighting for the very soul of a generation.
It’s easier in today’s world for teachers to creep in unnoticed, as Jude said, because of television and the Internet. Some contemporary teachers distorting the message of grace come from high-profile ministries whose very popularity gives them a false sense of credibility. We must not receive a ministry because it’s attractive and popular; we should only receive it if it’s faithful to the truth.
Paul prophesied of a time when many who profess loyalty to Jesus would fall to unsound doctrine: “For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, because they have itching ears, they will heap up for themselves teachers; and they will turn their ears away from the truth, and be turned aside to fables” (2 Tim. 4:3-4).
These people aren’t willing to embrace the challenges of a lifestyle of obedience to Jesus as emphasized by the sound teaching in the New Testament. Instead, they have “itching ears” to hear messages that affirm their sinful desires. They want to feel comfortable in their relationship with God, even as they continue to boldly walk out their sinful lusts.
By isolating Bible verses about God’s blessing and forgiveness from the larger context of the New Testament’s call to love Jesus with obedience, they affirm the lustful desires of their hearers. One famous TV preacher went so far to say that there is no longer a need for a believer to repent because Jesus’ work on the cross did that for them. He obviously overlooked the fact that Jesus repeatedly called born-again believers to repent for yielding to various compromises (see Rev. 2:5, 16, 21-22; 3:3, 19).
Grace: The Power to Love and Obey Jesus
If countless sincere believers have already succumbed to the rising tide of this distorted grace message, how can we stand strong through the crisis? It starts by remaining grounded in biblical truth. We must approach the biblical grace message through the lens of God calling us to love Him with all our heart, soul, mind and strength (Mark 12:30).
The Lord wants us to love Him in a wholehearted way because that’s how He loves us—with all of His heart, mind and strength. This mutual relationship of wholehearted love between a believer and the Lord is foundational to the kingdom. In fact, this is the very way that the Father loves the Son—with all of His heart. The Son loves the Father and the Spirit loves the Father and Son in this way too. Oh, the glorious mystery of one God in three persons who delight in Their relationship of wholehearted love for each other (see John 3:35; 5:20; 14:31; 15:9; 17:23, 26)! God’s plan from the foundation of the earth was to redeem people so that they could participate in this loving fellowship that the three persons of the Trinity enjoy.
The core reality of the grace message is to empower us to walk with God in a relationship of wholehearted love. Jesus called this “the first commandment” (Mark 12:30). Thus, the Holy Spirit’s first agenda is to establish the first commandment in first place in the church. This must also be our first agenda. Wholehearted love is to be “first” in our response to God because it is how the Father relates to the Son and how the Godhead relates to us. We must see grace through the lens of this quality of love. To think of grace without it being anchored in the first commandment is to be aiming at the wrong target. Thus, we distort the grace message when we do not interpret it through the lens of the first commandment. We must love Jesus on His terms, and He defined loving God in terms of a spirit of obedience to His commandments (see John 14:15, 21, 23).
There’s no such thing as loving Jesus without seeking to obey His Word. Some seek to love God on the terms of a humanistic culture that has no reference to obeying the Word. But loving and seeking to obey Jesus are synonymous. All of His commands are based in His love. Thus, the biblical message of grace teaches us to live righteously and to deny ungodliness as the way of expressing our love to God. Titus 2:11-12 says, “The grace of God … has appeared to all men, teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly.”
If you hear a teaching on grace that doesn’t call you to deny ungodliness, it’s not a biblical grace message—it’s a distorted one.
Legal Position vs. Living Condition
As we correctly view the grace message through the lens of the first commandment, we can also begin to understand the difference between our legal position before God and our ongoing living condition as a response to what Jesus has done. Not only is there a key difference between these two, it’s often the element that hyper-grace adherents conveniently overlook.
Our legal position is what Jesus accomplished for us on the cross, while our living condition is what Jesus requires of us in our response to Him. In our legal position, we stand before God by possessing His righteousness (2 Cor. 5:21). Our legal standing before God is so glorious that it will never be improved upon—not even with the perfection of a resurrected body—because we received Christ’s very own righteousness. Our legal position relates to receiving His righteousness instantly on the day that we are born again.
Our living condition, on the other hand, relates to growing in righteousness progressively as our mind is renewed, causing our behavior and emotions to be transformed by the Holy Spirit in us.
The gospel is the good news about receiving God’s righteousness and can be seen in three tenses:
- Justification: our legal position—past tense, focused on our spirit
- Sanctification: our living condition—present tense, focused on our soul
- Glorification: our eternal exaltation—future tense, focused on our body
One-third of our salvation is complete (the salvation of our spirit), but the other two parts are not yet complete in our experience (the salvation of our soul and body). All believers have received the fullness of grace in their spirit (legal position), and yet they can still live far below it in their daily experience (living condition).
Much misunderstanding about grace can be traced to misunderstanding the distinctions of these truths. Many confuse what Jesus did for us in our legal position with what He requires of us in our response to Him in our living condition.
Jesus’ finished work on the cross makes His grace fully available to us as a gift. However, our regular interaction with the Spirit causes us to experience the transforming power of this grace in our daily life. James wrote about this when he urged believers to walk in a greater measure of grace because God “gives grace to the humble” (James 4:6).
James wrote this to born-again believers, calling them to receive more grace. A believer already has the gift of righteousness and therefore can’t receive “more grace” in his or her legal position. However, each of us can receive “more grace” in our living condition—and this is what James was referring to. We can always experience more of God’s grace to transform and renew our mind and emotions (see Rom. 12:2).
Grace in the Eight Beatitudes
If we hope to experience more of this transforming grace on a daily basis, then we must follow the words of the greatest teacher on grace who ever walked the earth: Jesus. The Sermon on the Mount (Matt. 5-7) is His most comprehensive statement about a believer’s role in cooperating with God’s grace. In this teaching, Jesus defined loving God in context to the eight beatitudes (5:3-10), offering us a rich understanding of how to walk out biblical grace in our daily lives.
One aspect of this is Jesus’ exhortation to us to hunger for more of God’s righteousness (v. 6). Here, Jesus affirmed the need to press into God for a greater release of righteousness in our daily lives—our living condition. Keep in mind that He wasn’t calling us to receive more of the gift of righteousness, since we already fully possess this in our legal position. Our hunger for righteousness doesn’t cause us to deserve grace—nothing can do that—but hunger positions us to receive more of the outworking of righteousness in our character.
Some believers don’t hunger to grow in righteousness in their daily life. Rather, they seek to know how far they can go in sin and how little they need to talk with Jesus to keep their salvation intact.
Imagine a couple in their wedding ceremony who have just completed their vows. While walking down the aisle for the first time as “one,” the man whispers to his new bride, “How far can I go with other women before we get divorced? And how much do I have to talk to you each week?” Adding insult to injury, he then says, “By the way, we just signed a marriage license that legalized our marriage—so now I have legal rights to all that you possess.”
Of course, the new bride would be heartbroken to hear that her husband didn’t love her with all of his heart but was instead establishing their marriage on a faulty foundation—and focusing almost entirely on the bare-minimum “requirements” and legal ramifications involved.
Some teach about grace in a way that parallels the lack of wholeheartedness portrayed in this analogy. It’s a version of grace more concerned with what it takes to “meet the requirements” on paper than to engage in the authentic, loving relationship for which it was originally intended. Sadly, this error is bound to occur whenever people separate the grace message from the first commandment.
How to Receive God’s Grace
Grace was never intended to be abused, but as our current church crisis proves, it can be. God gives us the freedom to choose relationship and obedience to His Word—and thus benefit from the true liberty found in grace. Yet this is also why Paul urged the believers in Corinth “not to receive the grace of God in vain” (2 Cor. 6:1).
The gospel of grace is distorted in two main ways: first, by presenting God’s love as something we can earn; second, by refusing to call people to respond in wholeheartedness to God. The fruit of the biblical grace message is confidence in the gift of God’s love combined with a spirit of obedience. If either of these two elements is missing, then it isn’t the true message. Thus, receiving God’s grace in vain is to receive it in such a way that it doesn’t produce confidence in God’s love nor the resolve to respond wholeheartedly to Jesus’ leadership. Either distortion is disastrous for our spiritual life.
Like Jude in the first century, we must earnestly contend for the truth about grace. The very soul of the youth in our nation hangs in the balance.
The good news, however, is this: The Holy Spirit is highlighting this spiritual crisis and is committed to the recovery of the biblical grace message. We can be confident that He will release His power to establish the first commandment in first place in the church before Jesus returns for His fully prepared Bride (see Rev. 19:7). Let’s come alongside Him, rather than opposing Him, when it comes to receiving, understanding and walking in grace.
Watch as Mike Bickle explains how the American culture has colored the understanding of grace at grace.charismamag.com