Fellows Articles

Preaching Grace

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Posted in Highlands Fellows under Law & Grace, Theology & Biblical Studies

Hear the words of this preacher. In all thy preaching, preach grace. Preach God’s glorious unmerited favor. Forget her not: neither decline from the words of God’s mouth. Forsake her not and she shall preserve thee (from another gospel); love her and she shall keep thee (from offering another Christ). Grace is the principal thing, therefore preach His undeserving love. And with all thy preaching, preach grace.

Do you wish to glorify God? You can only do this by showing God as He is, not as sinful man wishes him to be. Don’t hide His glory behind a veil with the new definition of grace that seems to soothe men’s hearts when it is preached. It does nothing of the sort. This kind of “cheap grace” as Bonhoeffer called it, is no grace at all. When we preach grace our hearers should hear about the great God of the universe in such a way our own sinfulness seems small. Hearing about “His love,” “His faithfulness” and “His holiness” blackens the bright light of individualistic introspection as it is eclipsed by a vision of the Lord of Hosts in all His splendor. Only grace rightly taught teaches the “heart to fear,” and only grace, truly told, “our fears relieve.”

People need to know they are being saved by God and from God instead of some obscene notion that God is in some kind of contest with the devil to see who can offer the best package deal. When we fail to make this clear we allow them to see God as weak and grasping.

As teachers of God’s Word we will receive the greater condemnation for these sins. As Paul prayed curses upon the heads of those men and angels who preach another Gospel we find ourselves being those men. May God have mercy on us unless his judgment of us brings Him greater glory.

Like fools we have let our children decide what makes it on the menu themselves and we are all suffering now. I say this as a man who has not always understood this rightly and was nearly crushed under the weight of this truth before God opened my eyes.

I used to be a gracious preacher, but not necessarily a preacher of grace. I would always preach God’s Word but only so much as I thought they could handle. My misguided hope was that if they heard enough of the things they liked about God they would eventually like everything about Him. I believed faith came by hearing the Word of God, but without knowing it I censored its greater messages under the banner of love. This was not love, but it can feel like when you’re doing it. I found out eventually those needing this kind of preaching needed more and more of it and eventually found offense in the gentlest truths of the gospel. I wasted a great deal of time and didn’t help them or our church.

When I stopped preaching like this and held nothing back, those who did not love Christ but had loved me or the just the ideas about Him I judged they could handle, left our church. Those who had been changed by God began to grow. Yes, we should be “seeker friendly.” But the only honest way to be that is to know and to preach that there are none that seek after God. He is the only seeker.

People in general hate this message but, remember, we aren’t trying to reach them for God. He doesn’t need our help. God reaches; we go and preach to find out where He’s already been. He sends us out and we say the words He has said and we look for those who find these words irresistible. Whether you know it or not, you’re not interested in the kind of people you attract in your life or into your pews by your personality or talent.

If you haven’t approached evangelism this way in the past, what you’ll find is that you haven’t been evangelizing. All you’ve really been doing is making friends and mostly with the wrong people. Meanwhile, the true believers in your church are desperately in need of some nutritious food. Tell them that God has saved them and for this reason they should live like it. Then teach them how to live.

If you do these things, you’ll find your work easier and your burden lighter and your people growing in the faith. You’ll find that strangers from the street are transformed into the brothers you’ve always prayed God to send your church. From that point on, you’ll be hooked. I know, because that’s what happened here. Not longer after this began, I lost most of my church, which was working me to death and dragging me into despair. Things are quite different now.

Grace preaching works. God’s sheep hear His voice and they come running. Any other way of preaching attracts wolves and weeds and starves the saints. If you’ve preached another gospel you’ve unwittingly been at work for the enemy sowing tares.

Grace preaching leads the sheep beside the still waters and into green pastures. Let us never fail to preach the truth that nothing can separate us from the love of God and that He alone is the author and finisher of our faith. This great truth is the comfort food every soul needs as we walk here in the valley of the shadow of death.

With death and sin all around, grace reminds us gently of our sin and then points us back to Him who has not dealt with us according to our sin, nor rewarded us according to our iniquities. Those who know this can say amidst the worst this world has to offer: “Even so it is well with my soul.” Grace is the principal message, so with all thy preaching, preach grace.

 

by Rev. Mark Robinette, one of the Highlands Fellows, for Every Thought Captive magazine, January 2011.