Cheap Grace?

Greasy Legalism
Written by Peter Youngren on April 3, 2007

I have just about seen enough articles, teaching albums, etc. advertised under titles like “Greasy Grace”, “Crazy Grace”, or “Grace Gone Wild”. While I am sure that just about everything can be abused, even grace because the Bible says so. These three titles that warn against the grace message don’t have a clue and often have little or no knowledge of what the message is. Instead they build up a phantom and an attack that their imagination has created. It goes something like this: “Those who preach a radical message of God’s grace are people looking for a low commitment, a low level Christian life where anything goes because sin is tolerated (after all, Jesus paid for them).”

Often writers are connecting the message of grace with general moral decay in the church and in the world. I used to have this opinion of grace teaching myself only seven or eight years ago. I had never really heard the message but just assumed that people who would preach that all sin, past, present and future had been paid for by Jesus, couldn’t be doing anything good with their sermons, in fact they must be something negative (creating a license to sin).

The fact is that it is not grace that is greasy, it is legalism. Paul writes in Romans 6:14, “For sin shall not have dominion over you, for you are not under law but under grace.” By Paul’s definition what causes greasy living is legalism. Grace on the other hand brings freedom from the greasy debt of sin. When a person receives the free gift of Christ’s righteousness in the abundance of grace, their heart overflows with gratitude (Romans 5:17). In fact, it doesn’t inspire sin but holiness. Just like the apostle Paul wrote that the goodness of God brings us to repentance.

What is greasy about legalism? It seems that when the focus is on “self” the thinking goes something like this, “Look at how much I am doing for God; praying, teaching, sharing, and suffering for Christ. No wonder the devil is attacking me. This secret sin that I harbor is a sin that the devil is really attacking me with, and after all, it can’t be that bad because look at all the good I am doing.” Notice how many times the word “I” appeared in the last two sentences. This is how legalism opens the door for sin, when one assesses one’s own good deeds weighed against the not-so-good.

As long as we can put a lot of points in the positive column, whether it’s fasting, praying, Bible reading, church attendance, giving of money or whatever, surely all that must outweigh the bad. That kind of thinking is straight out of Legalism 101.

On the contrary, Gospel thinking goes likes this; “If I follow God’s commandments and do everything that God says in His Word 99.9 % of the time, what will be the result?” The answer is quite simple and found in both the books of Deuteronomy and Galatians: I will be 100% cursed. You see, the Gospel doesn’t teach a portion of the blessing, i.e. if you are 10% obedient you get 10% blessing while if you increase your obedience to 20% you get 20% blessing. No, if you are only disobedient in even .1% you get 100% of the curse. If you do everything right but in one area not, you just get everything involved in the curse. The only way is to trust in Jesus’ obedience, His righteousness, His finished work, and receive it as a free gift.

Condemnation, condescension and guilt inducing sermons never made anyone holy. Falling in love with Jesus is what will produce true holiness. Get out of greasy legalism and get into the free gift available from God for everyone who believes in His imparted righteousness, and then live out of the revelation of Christ in you.

Don’t worry about God’s grace perverting people, the more of it, the better. In fact, the cure for a defeated life is an abundance of grace (Romans 5:17). To call what God has done in Christ “greasy”, “crazy” and “gone wild” is at best ignorant and at worst I don’t even want to say. Your thoughts?