Agonizomai: Deserving Grace

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Deserving Grace

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I was once sitting with a group of Christian men when one of our number – a man filled with love and zeal for Jesus – said, “Everybody deserves to hear the gospel.” It sounded so right and so loving, so innocuous and so generous that even an old curmudgeon like me was almost captivated by it. Almost. But what this godly person had actually said was the absolute opposite of what our Lord says in His Word!

The Bible at all times and in all places goes to great pains to show us that absolutely no one deserves anything from God but judgement, hell and death. “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” “The wages of sin is death.” Modern evangelism uses these parts of the “Roman Road” unashamedly, every day, to bring people home to Christ. Has that same modern view also produced Christians who simply don’t know the whole of the gospel they are preaching?

We preach a gospel of GRACE. Grace is unmerited favour shown by God towards undeserving man. Not one of us deserves to hear the gospel. What can any man do to earn the right to even hear of salvation, much less to receive it, from God? This is what undeserving means. It means that no man has the right to ever hear the gospel, especially not due to some merit within himself.

Thinking that men deserve to hear the gospel makes us think God unjust to those people who never hear it. It says that God owes them the right to hear. Everybody deserves a kick at the cat and to deny them that right is to be cruel and unjust. From this aberration comes the idea that those who die without hearing the gospel will be given a chance to hear it after their death. Never mind the Word of God that says, “It is appointed unto men once to die, and then the judgement.”

This kind of thinking adds one more humanism to the invasion of the church; one more twist of the truth from the father of lies; one more deception designed to weaken the foundation upon which we all stand. It detracts from the simplicity that is Christ by adding to the gospel what was never there in the first place in order to accommodate men’s fallen concepts of what the truth is.

It takes a pure and holy God, Who graciously provides the way of salvation for an undeserving race, and says that He is unholy and unjust if He does not ensure that every person that ever lived is given the opportunity to clearly understand and receive it. It turns grace into unholiness! It points the finger of judgement at God Himself! I know who it is that does such things. I recognize the fingerprints and I can smell that trace of fetid breath.

Yet I cannot hold a candle to the man who repeated this falsehood. He is a far better saint than I could ever be. He loves His Lord with a zeal I could only pray for. Like George Whitefield said of John Wesley when asked if he thought he would see Wesley in heaven I can only reply of this brother, “No I don’t think I shall see him. He will be too close to the throne and the light and I will be so far out on the fringes that I will not be able to see him.” He lives the Christianity of which I merely speak.

This man loves so much, is so grateful, so moved, so changed by the Word of God and by the Holy Spirit that he is overcome by the desire to share it and to see all people in his life receive the same thing as he. He is an enthusiastic evangelist.

Yet I am compelled to challenge him, and all the others who did not stand to object when this falsehood came out of his mouth. His motive is pure, but his gospel is flawed.

Both zeal and truth are essential parts of the our obedience to Christ’s commission, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every person.” We must not preach another gospel; we must preach THE gospel. We must not withhold it but preach it to all, in season and out, without respect of persons.

Zeal without truth is not enough. Truth without zeal is hindered. Christ is the Truth and He was filled with zeal for His Father’s house. So let us pray to be made like Him in all respects, and to find ourselves filled with His love for God and man, which is able to encompass and reconcile both these things in our very own being.


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