By Randy Thomas
What I want to share today is a topic I have been meditating on for quite a while. I have been wondering,”What is the contrast between the sin management approach to life and ministry and a purely gracious approach to the same?”
One friend of mine loves to blog about mercy. Sounds great right? Mercy is a wonderful topic … right? Post after post, mercy mercy mercy … mercy mercy and more merciful mercy… a river of posts about mercy. After a few posts I started feeling uneasy with what I was reading and I think the Lord showed me that this friend’s view of mercy was contextualized in fear-based faith and in fear (not the reverent kind but the afraid kind) of “holiness.” There wasn’t any grace.
According to this friend (and yes I think of them as a friend) there is a need for daily forgiveness because you screw up all the time and you really need to be forgiven all the time or your personally unclean and disqualified from ministry. If you sin enough you should, in their view, not be surprised by your estrangement from God.
As if that could actually happen in light of the finished work of Christ … but I digress …
They insert into their blog posts constant reminders of the crucifixion and how we should be daily
humiliated humbled for what we did, that very day, to crucify Jesus.
When grace was mentioned it was mentioned mostly as the catalyst through which God reminded us of how not right we are and how we need to continually beg for His mercy over our inability to lead a righteous life.
Having dealt/dealing with relational and other serious temptations in my life, I understand the need to pray for the Lord to reveal my fleshly “triggers” and help me to receive the fruits of the spirit which include love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. I completely agree with the need to understand the depth of the price that was paid for me, personally, on the Cross. Some of the most mystical and earth shattering prayer times I have had were along the lines of the Lord revealing, very deeply, how the finished work of Christ absolutely involved the horror of the cross.
But He doesn’t do that to shame me … He endured the cross to rescue me. He doesn’t call me to live under wrath toward freedom. It is for freedom that He has set us free.
That is not an open license to sin, but when I do actually sin as a Christian, it’s a sin against relationship (with God and others) … not a sin against a legalistic standard of performance based righteousness. For the believer there is no estrangement from God, He is *always* right there to Commune with and seek His answers for current trials and dilemmas. Even for the unbeliever the Lord’s invitation to receive salvation, Him, is WIDE open.
Grace isn’t sin management (constant focus on what needs to be fixed next) and begging for forgiveness through spiritual self-flagellation every day. Grace is resting in who God made me to be at the point of salvation, talking with Him and others about any potential/real weakness but far more rejoicing and resting in His presence.
I’m not sitting in an empty tomb… I am living in His Spirit.
In a nutshell: A ministry approach that sees Mercy only as a catalyst for conviction of sin in light of Old Testament standards of holiness is sin management … period. Through a primarily sin management approach, you will get behavioral modification, maybe.
The Great Commission didn’t mandate a never-ending Tuesday night support group for the rest of our lives.
However, abiding in God’s grace afforded through the finished work of Christ (as a state of being) leads to true freedom in every way. To know His grace is to experience the purest form of love to ever exist and from which all things were created. It’s His love that is the greatest deterrent to sin and true catalyst to open the eyes of the believer to who they truly are. And The New Creation is SO much more than the flesh’s temptations and sin management.