Grace Pharisee

To be honest I am not sure how long ago this started to happen to me.  Maybe a year or so?  I have grown up in the church and honestly can’t remember a time in my life when I did not know who Jesus was.  Knowing how unfaithful I have been to Him throughout the years would cause any Pharisee to look at me with side eyes and grumble “lukewarm” or “unclean heathern.”

I gave my heart to Christ in 1989 just a few months before my 8th birthday.  Yet part of what has happened to me in the last year would change my confession to not that I gave my heart to Christ, but that Christ gave His heart to me.  This change has been inspired by God through people like John Piper, Steve Brown, Tullian Tchividjian and more recently Andrew Farley.  I have been shown over and over again that it really is not about me but all about Christ when it comes to my reconciliation with God.  Something happens to a person when they realize that all of their spiritual needs have already been met by Jesus.  Now that you know that you don’t “have” to do anything for God in order for Him to like you, love you and cling to you shakes and crumbles any idea of what bartering system you think existed between the both of you before.

This has changed me.

This has set me free.

I believe that most people in theological circles would refer to this as the message of grace, or the teachings of grace which is a little confusing because if you have ever read the New Testament, I am not sure how you can walk away from it without thinking about anything else or any other message.  To read about the glory of God’s grace through Jesus and somehow walk away thinking “ok now where can I go in the New Testament that will tell me how to work on improving my walk with God by living the radical, obedient, right living, disciple-making life?  Tell me my part now.”  How can there be another dominant message absorbed from the New Testament other than what the grace of God has done for sinners?  It leads me to think, “did you even read Galatians? Hebrews?  Do you even Romans bruh? What gospel did you smoke?  Not that there is another gospel…(shout out to Paul).”

I used to preach this message of what you now need to do oh Christian and I now bristle, feel embarrassed and Raiders of the Lost Ark Playdoh-face melt when I hear or read about any Christian who is presenting the challenge to live righter, be more radical, do better, sin lesser, claim more of what you want from God, in order to be doing the Christian life the right way…to be clean and acceptable to God, here are the 5 easy steps you need to be sure you are doing.  “If your life sucks, it is probably because you don’t fast.”

What the what…

I now get why Paul was all like FOOLISH GALATIANS…EEDEEYOTS!  WHY ARE YOU LEAVING GRACE TO GO BACK TO THE LAW? STOP DIPPIN IN THE STOOPID SAUCE!

It really is stupid when you think about it.  Grace has set you free.  Jesus has set the captives free.  You are no longer a slave to the law you have died to sin and you are now a slave to righteousness who is Christ.  If you were in shark infested water, drowning, and someone came and got you out and you asked if you could go back into the water you’d be committed to a padded room.

Well..ok…another post might be to describe our condition before Christ…to be more accurate you’d be dead in the water and Jesus swam up to you and said “wake up, let’s go” which you obey…not out of your ability to obey but out of the reality that Jesus just raised you from death to life…ask Lazarus…one minute he is deader than dead stinkin up a cave and then his eyes open of all a sudden…did Lazarus do that?  Nope…Jesus did.

I digress…another blog another time I’ll try to explain.

(For those who would love swimming in shark infested waters…that illustration will fail you…the Movie “Jaws” touched me as a kid).

Sorry, chasin rabbits for a second there…where were we…

How silly is it when Pharisees present the argument against grace as conjuring up some make believe person who would still want to sin after accepting the offer of unconditional grace?  As if someone like that even exists…”Oh yeah well what about unicorns and how they will handle grace, hmmmm?”

“But I can still sin can’t I?” – Unicorn

Face Palm…

Then the Pharisee will usually ask something like…

“I still need the law right?” “Tell me what my part is, tell me what I am supposed to do, what I need to do!”

Um….yeah….say “wow” and “thank you (Shout out to Andrew Farley).”

YOU DIED TO THE LAW…D.E.D. DED!  Or in my Georgia accent “Day Ed.”

Do you still sin?  Yes of course but any sin committed by an individual who is in Christ, already has the covering of the righteousness of Christ. Jesus did not only just die for you but you died with Jesus…let that sink in…

So wait…calm down…no, I am not saying lets go sin more since grace has already covered it…Paul had to calm folks down from this kind of freak out in Romans 6.

Show me someone who says that they get and have received the message of grace and will say something like “Now it’s time to sin all the sin I ever wanted to sin!! YARRR!!” And I will show you someone who hasn’t really gotten grace.  I think I can confidently say that because I do not know of anyone who has been broken and liberated by grace to ever feel that way or want to go sin some more….new creation….Jesus in them….there will be inner conflict now with sin…Yet, the person who has been saved by grace does not stay long conflicting with sin because worship jumps in over the knowledge that Jesus has covered their sin already.  But for those who are Christians that may have been led by a Pharisee to freak out over present and future sins….

NEWSFLASH…no sin is greater than or more powerful than Christ…your hope is not in hoping that you can hang on to Christ but in knowing that Christ is hanging on to you (Romans 8:31-39; John 10:27-29; and Hebrews….yes all of it slacker…are you not saved or something?) Just want to make sure that’s out there. Grace covers more than you realize…

All of this has heightened in me an intense disliking of so many task masters who have lived their life behind a pulpit or behind Christian celebrity status; reigning down condemnation on Christians for their mistakes and their sin…Romans 8:1, Pal…Romans 8:1.

I fight myself from responding to tweets and blogs from these Christian Pharisees that rail against the need to improve spiritually, to grow more holy, to do everything on our end to make sure we are holding up our commitment to God.  As if anyone could hold up their end of the bargain…wait, what bargain?!  I’ts a gift, amirite?!

Those who peddle cheap law are the only ones who will try to convince you that you ever had a chance of living up to the law, serving up the lie that you could some how pay it off with your works and right thinking.

And then it hits me…

I am a Grace Pharisee…

I am mad at them and have chosen in my own self-righteousness to condemn them for their self-righteousness…

Zoinks…

It is one thing to call a pal of yours a goober smooch and another thing all together to call a total stranger a goober smooch.  The Galatians were no stranger to Paul so in that case I have a feeling that his words were meant and received as a concern from a loving friend…well maybe not…but as far as I know he didn’t go to Mars Hill (the real one in the New Testament) calling people knuckleheads, just sayin.

The good news is that even when I am a Grace Pharisee…there is enough grace to cover me in those moments as well.

Jesus will never regret saving me and he will never regret saving you.  His desire to save you does not hinge on who you are but on who He is.

The true gospel is what needs to be trumpeted and defended not the gospel of works.  GATFAICA=Grace Alone Through Faith Alone in Christ Alone is how salvation…reconciliation with God comes to sinners.  Not LATWAIYA=Law Alone Through Works Alone In You Alone…

It is grace that causes me to calm down and respond in love or keep quiet…sometimes.  As if a response from me is truly needed or warranted by a stranger who is peddling LATWAIYA.  Come to think of it…anyone who is a Pharisee might find him or herself in the Matthew 7:21 crowd that are headed for the same destination that anyone from any other religion is headed.  Both will tell you that it all comes down to what you do with salvation, what you do with their god and their teachings.  Their gospel is that your hope is if your good deeds outweigh your bad.  That’s not good news at all.  That is performancism…a term coming I believe from Tullian Tchividjian.  It a system based on what you do and not on what Jesus has done.

Our only hope is in the person and work of Jesus Christ.

This frees me even from being a Grace Pharisee.  In those moments when I want to Hulk Smash verbally peddlers of LATWAIYA I remember that there is enough grace for them too if they were to ever realize it and have faith in the One Who offers it.  Just as much as I harp on their need to serve grace to their audience, I need to be sure that I am serving grace to them.

Correction…I don’t “need” to…Jesus took care of my “need to’s.”  But I “want” to be sure…that is the difference…my wants have changed…New Covenant, New Creation stuff….all because of God not because of me…I can’t boast in something I did not do.

Grace changes everything because God used it to change the system.  The Law is not cheap; you can never hope to buy it with your works.  You aint gonna do it, you won’t and you cant.  Grace is not cheap; it cost the blood of the Son of God.  The value of grace is seen when you realize the value of the Law.  It is perfect and Holy and is fatal for sinners.  Thanks be and glory be to God that He loves sinners and sent Jesus to die for sinners so that they could die with Christ. If you have died with Christ you have been raised with Him as well.

“For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his. We know that our old selfwas crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin. For one who has died has been set free from sin. Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him.  We know that Christ, being raised from the dead, will never die again; death no longer has dominion over him. For the death he died he died to sin, once for all, but the life he lives he lives to God. So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus.”  Romans 6:5-10

I have been crucified with Christ.  It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me.  And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.  Galatians 2:20

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Zachary James Cole

Born in Atlanta, Georgia. Living in Atlanta, GA. Well kinda, in a city NE of Atlanta in Metro Atlanta called Sugar Hill, but everyone close to ITP just says they are from Atlanta. Marine Veteran. Simul Iustus et Peccator. The verse that could best sum my life...Galatians 2:20...I am blown away by the Grace of God. What Jesus did for me just leaves me in awe and in thanksgiving...It was all Him...and the peace that comes with that is liberating...now I am free to lose everything because I have everything in Christ.

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