AUTHOR: Clark, John J.
PUBLISHED ON: May 6, 2003
PUBLISHED IN: Christian Living

                    THE HIGH COST OF CHEAP GRACE

    “Grace”, such a lovely word that brings a sense of security and
comfort to the heart.  It is a term that few really know or understand
in a Biblical framework.  Literally Grace means a kindness or
blessings bestowed upon us that we have not deserved.  This is one of
the most central and profound concepts in the entire Bible.  Yet a
point must be made concerning grace that is often missed.  The
concepts of grace, love and forgiveness have become to the carnal
minds of the church a type of justification for a laxness in attitudes
towards sin and failure to enter into true discipleship.  Just as many
have taken justification of the sinner and  redirected it to mean
justification of sin and the world, so the “costly grace” of God has
been turned into a form of “cheap grace” without discipleship.

    There is a difficult principle to understand here but please pay
close attention to what I am about to say – there is a difference
between data used for calculation and the sum arrived at.  The German
Goethe once wrote about a fictional character named Faust who spent
his entire life in pursuit of knowledge and struggling with Satan for
his soul.  In the end Faust confessed: “I now do see that we can
nothing know.”  His statement was the sum of efforts A+B+C+… for
life.  It was the outcome of a long experience and it was the data of
experience that gave the sum in true meaning.  Kierkegaard observed,
however, that it is quite a different thing when a freshman arrives at
that conclusion from the beginning and uses it to justify his laziness
in study.  The answer as a sum is perfectly true.  To use it, however,
as initial data to be added to our laziness in study to justify our
own sum that therefore I need not even try to study it, is a piece of
self-deception.  Acquired knowledge cannot be divorced from the
existence in which it is acquired.

    Friend, discern this very clearly: the concept of grace must be
understood as a sum.  The only man who has a right to say he is
justified by grace alone is the man who has left all to follow Christ.
Such a one knows the cost of the call to discipleship and that it is
only by grace that he can sustain it.  Only when the call and the
response are the data can grace be the sum.  THUS THE CALL IS

    Instead, the majority of men and women try to use this concept of
grace as data to arrive at the sum which reads: “excused from
sacrificial effort given the impossibility of the task.”  Where
scripture sees true grace as the provision of God that makes up for
our failure after we have done all we could to follow Him — the
carnal minded have used it to excuse them from expending much effort
at all – this is what I call “CHEAP GRACE”.

    Under Cheap Grace the Christian life comes to mean nothing more
than living in the world and as the world, in being no different from
the world.  The upshot is that my only duty as a Christian is to leave
the world for an hour or so on Sunday morning and go to church to be
assured that my sins are forgiven.  I no longer need to try to follow
Christ, for cheap grace, the most effective foe of true discipleship,
has freed me from that.  Has cheap grace become the data you use to
arrive at the deceptive conclusion that self sacrifice, surrender of
personal desires and laying down your life for the brethren and the
church are vestiges of a bygone era?  Is it a grace that has set you
free to seek your own purposes at the expense of the Kingdom call to
true discipleship?

    The church today has gathered around the carcass of cheap grace
like turkey vultures to drink the poison which has killed the life of
following Christ.  We have come to hunger more for His forgiveness
than His Lordship and Leadership because we see the first as making
less demands upon our personal lives.  Cheap grace is preaching
forgiveness without demanding repentance, baptism without discipline,
communion without confession.  Cheap grace is grace without
discipleship, the cross, Jesus Christ living and incarnate.

    Costly Grace, on the other hand, is the treasure hidden in a
field.  For the sake of it a man will gladly go and sell all that he
has.  It is a pearl of great price to buy which will cost us
everything.  It’s the kingly rule of Christ, for whose sake a man will
pluck out the eye which causes him to stumble.  It is the call of
Jesus at which a disciple leaves his nets and follows.  It is grace
which must be sought again and again, the gift which must be asked
for, the door at which a man must knock.

    Such grace is costly because it calls us to follow, and it is
grace because it calls us to follow Jesus Christ.  Costly because it
costs a man his life, it is grace because it gives a man the only true
life.  Costly because it condemns sin, and grace because it justifies
the sinner.  Above all, costly because it cost God the life of His
Son:  “You have been bought with a price” and what has cost God so
much can’t be cheap for us.  It is grace because God did not reckon
his Son too dear a price to pay for our life, but delivered him up
for us.  It is costly because it compels a man to submit to the yoke
of Christ, but it is grace because “My yoke is easy and my burden

    Low cost, discount grace closes the way to Christ and hardens
men’s hearts in their disobedience.  I often see new believers take
the first few steps down the path of discipleship, and inevitably some
disciple of the humanistic church introduces them to a cheaper way of
grace and their growth just stops.  Sunday School becomes a burden,
evening service is to much to ask of my time, I need more leisure.  Is
not such a grace merciless and hard?  It bars our way to progress and
seduces us to the mediocre level of the world, quenching the joy of
discipleship by telling us that there is no need to press on so hard.
Having laid hold on cheap grace they are barred for ever from the
knowledge of costly grace.  Deceived and weakened, men feel they are
now strong because of the new possession when in fact they had lost
the power to live the life of discipleship and obedience.

    The church is littered with the disciples of cheap grace and they
are very evangelistic.  They teach it well to their children and put
such a drag on the rest of the church that many of the disciples get
worn out trying to drag the cheapo’s into lifting a finger to help
relieve the financial and spiritual needs of the church.  Their
spiritual warfare consists of the arduous task of deciding whether or
not to get up early enough for Sunday School.  Hardened disciples
barely bother to even go to church regularly and excuse themselves by
casting stones at the very church God has called them to be a part of.
They have discovered a grace that relieves them of all response to
committed discipleship and the body.  We must rediscover the mutual
relationship between grace and discipleship.

    Our most urgent need today is learning how to live the Christian
life in the modern world?  Happy are those who have discovered the
true grace of God.  Knowing it they can live in the world without
being of it, who, by following Jesus Christ, are so assured of
heavenly citizenship that they are truly free to live their lives in
this world.  Happy are those who realize that discipleship simply
means a life that springs from grace and that grace simply means
discipleship.  Happy are those who have come to see grace as the sum
of our life in Christ, and not the data used to excuse ourselves.
Those who have truly left all, like Peter and John leaving their nets,
or Levi his job, realize at once that they are still incapable of
answering the call of God upon their lives by their own strength.
They do not see their success as a personal achievement accomplished
by their great sacrifice.  Instead, they see and know that only by the
costly grace of God have their efforts brought forth any fruit of
lasting value.

    Which kind of grace have you embraced?  What does your answer to
the call of discipleship reveal?  Does Sunday morning find you and
your family gathering around the Tele-evangelists, unwilling to lay
down your life for a body of believers who need you?  Maybe you should
trade in that sorry excuse of a christian life for the New Life
offered in the true grace of God.  Yes, God loves you.  But if you are
using that love and grace to make up for a lack of discipline and
effort instead of realizing it was meant to make up for our inability,
then you have been deceived.  Jesus told the rich man to: 1. Sell all
he had, 2. Give to the poor and then 3. Follow Him.  This wasn’t just
and idle request.  Jesus intentionally put the man in a position were
if he were to answer the call of God, it would be impossible to go
back to the old life.  He was asking him to sever all ties with the
past and irrevocably step out and follow Christ.  He realized that the
rich man, like most men, are willing to try the call and see if the
conditions are pleasing, deciding later whether or not to stay.  The
cutting away of our old way is something few are willing to do.  That
is why only a narrow path is needed for those headed for life.  Many
only really want a “present help in trouble” without a “Lord of Life”.
How have you answered the call?

John J. Clark (J.Jefferson)

Computers for Christ – Chicago

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