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Picture of Greg Stier
Greg Stier

I think many Christians are suffering from what I have come to call “Gracephobia.” Those who have this disorder are terrified of the grace of God. They must think that if you unleash the clear and pure river of God’s unfiltered grace people will drink of it and go wild. So, these often well-intentioned people, end up polluting the river of God’s grace with human effort. They dump toxins into God’s living water and the pristine water becomes poisoned.

These legalistc Mad Hatters may require you to get baptized, go to church, keep the 10 Commandments (which we couldn’t keep even if we really tried according to Jesus in Matthew 5), turn, try, surrender, stop doing something or start doing something to be truly saved.

These fearmongers preach a cheap grace, watered down by a poisonous “pull-yourself-up-by-your-own-bootstraps” gospel. But this gospel is no good news at all. That’s what the Chief Living Water Environmentalist of his day, the Apostle Paul, reminds us of in Galatians 1:6-9,

“I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting the one who called you by the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel— which is really no gospel at all. Evidently some people are throwing you into confusion and are trying to pervert the gospel of Christ. 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! As we have already said, so now I say again: If anybody is preaching to you a gospel other than what you accepted, let him be eternally condemned!”

What was true in Paul’s day is true now. Gracephobia is alive and well and it demonstrates itself in the adding of human effort as a pre-requisite to genuine conversion. What did the false teachers of Paul’s time want to add to God’s free gift of salvation? One wee little act…circumcision. They promised that, with a cringe-inducing slice of a knife, the Gentiles could be saved. How did Paul respond to this tiny addition to God’s grace? A big subtraction!

“As for those agitators, I wish they would go the whole way and emasculate themselves!” Galatians 5:12


The point Paul is making in the book of Galatians is that when you add one little work to God’s grace you ruin it the whole thing. “A little leaven leavens the whole lump.” One tiny drop of arsenic in one big bottle of water ruins the whole thing. That’s exactly what one little dose of human effort does to the living water of God’s grace…it ruins it!

The problem is that those who preach a gospel poisoned by God’s grace are often considered fine teachers in today’s Christian world. They write books that sell in our Christian bookstores. They have radio programs that creep through our car radios. But Paul doesn’t care if it was him, any of the disciples or an angel that descended from heaven. If someone perverts the grace of God then they are a pervert of the worst kind, not sexually, but doctrinally.

I hear defensive statements like “But their sermons are doctrinally solid in so many other areas” go up on these false teachers from time to time. But when I was in construction we had a saying about the importance of a good foundation, “If your foundation is cracked, then your house is jacked.”

The gospel is the foundation of the Christian faith and if it is cracked, then the theological house someone is building is doomed. I don’t care how many subscribers, listeners or donors a preacher has. There is One in the crowd not applauding and His clap of affirmation is the only one that matters.

So don’t be afraid of God’s free gift. Dive into the river of God’s grace and enjoy. Remember that it’s not cheap grace, for it was purchased by the blood of the Lamb. But it is free. It is freely given by Christ and freely received through faith. As Revelation 22:17 reminds us, “The Spirit and the bride say, ‘Come!’ And let him who hears say, ‘Come!’ Whoever is thirsty, let him come; and whoever wishes, let him take the free gift of the water of life.”

Once we receive this free gift of God’s grace we don’t have a license to sin but a reason to serve. Why? Because we have tasted of this wonderful gift and we are now free to surrender to God in everything! But we serve Him out of utter gratefulness and not a drop of fear.

As for those who want to ruin God’s grace by adding your puny human efforts to it just imagine God sharpening his scissors.


Now that’s something to be afraid of.

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