I love the gospel of grace. Actually to say “gospel of grace” is kind of redundant. The gospel is grace and grace is the gospel. But there are so many adulterated versions of the “gospel” out there that you kind of have to qualify which gospel you are talking about. I’ll never forget having an awkward conversation with a national ministry leader after I had spoken at an event he was speaking at years ago. The conversation went something like this:
Him: “I think we are making it too easy for teenagers to become Christians.”
Me: “Hmmm, that’s weird because I think we are making it too hard.”
Him: “Well we have to be sure that we are not preaching easy believism.”
Me: “And we have to make sure that we are not preaching a gospel of works for salvation because that would be heresy.”
Awkward silence and direct eye contact for about 30 seconds.
Me: “Talk to you later.”
I have to admit that I’m a fighter when it comes to defending the gospel of grace. I loathe gospel presentations that focus on what we must do for Jesus (try harder, surrender all, get baptized, be revolutionized, yearn more, seek more, give more, turn or burn, try or fry, forsake or bake, etc) than on what Jesus did for us (died in our place so that we wouldn’t have to!) You add one work to grace then it is no longer grace. The verse I continuously refer to is Galatians 1:8,
“But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you, let him be eternally condemned!”
Here Paul makes a bold statement: if you preach a false gospel you can go to hell…quite literally. I tend to resonate with this attitude when it comes to the abundant amount of false teachers we have floating out there, both inside and outside the church. This attitude led to another awkward conversation with our leadership team just a few weeks ago while we were in Granby, Colorado for a two day leadership retreat.
As I was making a case for putting the gospel of grace as a non-negotiable in our one page strategic plan one of our leadership team (you know who you are) gently confronted me. In so many words he/she said that I was such a watchdog for the gospel that sometimes I came off abrasive (heard that before), hard headed (heard that today) and cult-like (never heard this one) in my defense of the gospel. This led to “climate change” in the room…talk about global warming….I was hot enough to melt the polar ice caps.
For a few minutes as the rest of the leadership team chimed in I felt like I was being cornered and lets just say that I’m more of a panther than a pacifist when I feel cornered. In my perception the leadership team was wussing out when it came to this crucial truth and I was mad.
But we worked our way through the awkward conversation and I began to see what they were saying. Our leadership team is super passionate about the gospel of grace but they were also super passionate about communicating this message with an attitude of grace. Finally it clicked and I agreed.
What we came up with is the idea of “preaching the gospel of grace (Galatians 1:8) with an attitude of grace (2 Timothy 2:24-26)”. Listen to the words of the apostle Paul in the Timothy passage on how to communicate to those who are false teachers,
“And the Lord’s servant must not quarrel; instead, he must be kind to everyone, able to teach, not resentful. Those who oppose him he must gently instruct, in the hope that God will grant them repentance leading them to a knowledge of the truth, and that they will come to their senses and escape from the trap of the devil, who has taken them captive to do his will.”
Now that’s a balance…to preach the uncompromised truth of the gospel with an attitude of undeniable love for others, even the others that oppose the message.
George Whitefield used to pray, “God give me the mixture of the lion and the lamb.” I am praying the same thing for myself. Please pray with me. I long to find this balance in my life. I have a long way to go. But I have a great leadership team, a loving wife and the powerful indwelling Holy Spirit to help me.