By Dr. Roger Fankhauser
“I must not be saved if I can’t beat this sin.” The person then walked away from their faith.
Someone else said, “I've lived way too many years of my life in bondage, conforming to religious rules instead of only looking to Christ... Some days I feel as if my heart will burst knowing how much God loves me. Some time ago, I started meeting with a group that, unfortunately, was a shame based group that doesn't practice or walk in grace. I feel like I've been saved all over again finding freedom in Christ as he is showing me truth in his word.”
The subtle – or not-so-subtle – problem with any kind of performance based “Christianity” is that it is counterproductive. Instead of producing joy or producing “abundant” life, it produces guilt or unreasonable introspection. Instead of producing power for living, it knocks us down. Instead of producing hope, it produces despair. It doesn’t produce freedom, it produces bondage.
I know not everyone under this type of teaching ends up in the dumps. But it is far too common.
The first person above could well be a believer, one who has eternal life, but one needs help in dealing with an overpowering sin. He needs to see God’s incredible love for him; he needs to see that our relationship with God is based on the objective reality of who Jesus is and what He has done, not on the subjective basis of how well we live. He needs to better understand God’s grace for living. (I say “could well be a believer” only because I have not spoken to this person about what they believe. Others who know him said he has trusted Jesus for eternal life. But he’s been under teaching that says “if you habitually sin, you’re not really saved”).
The second person tasted grace. She and her family are now out from under bondage and enjoying God’s grace.
Don’t misunderstand; grace does not take sin lightly. It realizes the consequences of sin might be severe, but that sin does not mean I have lost my salvation or that I never “really” had it. Grace doesn’t minimize sin, it maximizes God’s love. Grace realizes that God loves us, when we sin and when we don’t. It is not an “excuse” for sin, but it helps us deal with sin the right way.
When we live under the grace of God, we experience freedom and life unlike anything else. Live it, teach it, and help others understand it. I wish we had more of the second story – someone who basks in God’s grace – and fewer of the first.