Wednesday, April 6, 2011

#230-Grace? (And this is what we can do when we are in love with ourselves aka as if we keep on doing this, I would rather join the Black Panthers).

Appealing to grace when all you do is pray and go to church is almost as bad as a Nazi defending the Holocaust by pointing out how much the German economy had blossomed in the first decade of it's reign of power, and how low the unemployment rates were during that same period.

Okay, I jumped ahead of myself.

The thing I LOL at more than gnostic Pentecostals these days is when people rail on Acts 2:38 plan of salvation as works-based and thus heretical .

(cue awkward music):

These people who argue that being Apostolic Pentecostal is the same as not understanding the love of God (because, they say God's love isn't earned)....

These people who argue that salvation is found in faith and faith alone.

These people who have hijacked the very definition of love and manipulated it to simply meaning tolerance of others who we were told to not like by our parents in the past.

These people who happily point you to Romans 3-4 and Paul's exposition of faith via Abraham and the book of Galatians...

These people who end up talking about grace and love, fluffy clouds and Care Bears when they talk about their Christianity...

These people....


Such corruption of grace and love is one of the most reviling theologies this side of the Enlightenment.

This very "grace" is talked about as "freeing" and tolerant is no grace at all.

Rather such grace treats the cross as an absolute debacle in which the message of Christianity is manipulated into a doctrine of "You may, but you don't have to because your saved because you once upon a time closed your eyes and apologized for what you did."

Now before I rant on, let me be clear...

Talking of God's grace as a thing to be sought is just as pathetic as someone seeking tongues to be saved. Grace, like tongues is not to be sought. It is to be received.

The point for the grace-monger who flaunts grace as the trump card to why a non-Apostolic Pentecostal Christianity is better than an Apostolic Pentecostal Christianity is inevitably a wicked system that allows for indifference and apathy in the name of Christ.

One who flaunts grace surely does not know grace.

The ones who know grace are the ones who are militantly acting in response to the Grace and love received at the cross.

This is why there are two kinds of liberal, ex-Apostolic Christianity...the ones whose sole selling point is the one that is purely reactionary who sell a Christianity based entirely in preaching that Christianity "is not that hard" and do so under the banner of grace in which the results is a pahetic indifference to the cross since it's all based on "belief."

And then there are the liberal ex-Apostolics who actually believe in grace and love and thus works faithfully to such an Event as God dying on the cross....these people know at their core that Christianity is no "selling point." They just work without disdain towards their past.

On Paul...

Paul's anger at circumcision is because it was authorizing a religion that based salvation in something other than that offered through death and resurrection of Christ. The thesis of Romans is not about how salvation is faith-based. No. He was simply saying initial salvation is not based on merit, but subsequently it's not based on a simple mental consent that at one point in time Jesus died and was raised again. (Note: I went off into a page and a half rant here in my notes about Paul and faith, with positive praise here for Paul Tillich, David K. Bernard and Pauline Pneumatology...except this has nothing to do about grace...but if you want to know what I was referencing, please find a copy of Bernard's paper on soteriology or read Paul Tillich's History of Christian Thought and it's discussion of reformation and Lutheran theology. Both say about the same thing, and both annihilate the deadlock of the faith/works debate with logical dedication to the work of the Spirit in the matter (without finding themselves in a Calvinist "predestination" argument))...

But my rant amounts to this: The entire thesis of Romans then leads us to Romans 8 where we are LED by the Spirit in Romans 8. Being "Led" means we are in the process of being saved and through the cross, the GAP is opened up in each one of us to FOLLOW what the Spirit wants us to do in each one of us.

This means, that as outlined in Acts 2:38, to come upon Salvation, there must be Action in response to the Event of the Crucifixion. The Situation is Urgent and we indeed are to Work in Response to His Love. Our salvation is dependent on our Action (poo-poo this point all you want, but I have never known a love that doesn't search endlessly to demonstrate a loving response to the One whom they Love from the One who loves them). We as christians are not the Kings of the World, but rather the Servants to the World, ministering to the poor and those who are alienated and lonely from the same world which they were birthed from.


Christianity demands action. Grace is not at the heart of Christianity. Grace is subsequent to the Cross.

For Grace-Mongers, conservatives are the excuse to do nothing since taking action outside of displaying the fruit of the Spirit is a "work." (This is similar to the fact that for some monstrous Apostolics, the existence of backsliders and liberals is an excuse to do nothing except "be holy.")

The difference between the grace-monger and the Gnostic Pentecostal I spoke of last week is that the gnostics think they are doing something in their prayer but excuse themselves from actually doing anything within our material world. The grace-mongers just simply admit they are doing nothing and say "yeah we should do more, but Love Wins and thus we don't have to do anything."

Grace-mongers aren't actually speaking of Christ's love when they flaunt grace and love. They are talking about tolerance. That's the dirty secret us liberals don't want to tell the conservatives. Love for us (or them) is too hard a concept, especially when it says we have to LOSE OUR LIFE AND CARRY OUR CROSS. Love then for them is just an excuse to escape it's absolute dedication past going to church. This "grace" love just tries making Christianity palatable and mushy. That is, "grace" love is is weightless. And thus, this "grace" love ceases to be Christianity at all. Rather Grace-mongers heist the divine command for faithfulness to the cross in revolutionary upheaval of the powers of the world and replace it with an easy, moralistic positive humanism to which "loss," "death," and "obedience" to fidelity to the cross is cast to the seas.

I'm not saying Apostolics are any better off, but at least they still revere Christian Love enough to admit they aren't doing a good enough job with it.

Give me the Apostolic who sees the Love for your neighbor as yourself as a nearly impossible command to be pursued and thus tries it anyways over the liberal who thinks love means "politeness" and tolerance of the person as they stand in their nature.

For the Grace-monger, Christianity simply means having faith that Christ died and resurrected and in response we "love" our neighbors by asking them how their day went and giving five dollars to a homeless man here and there and saying "Grace wins."

The grace-monger will freely quote the phrase "work out your own salvation" conveniently forgetting the words at the end of the verse "with fear and trembling."

Now the accusation is that i am now a legalist or something to the effect...very entire point of this post is that Grace should be the cause of our Action which is a response to that loving grace. To point to grace as an excuse to do nothing entirely obliterates what God's grace was intended for: To be reconciled so we can reconcile others.

Just as if proclaiming the Truth or Christ means nothing unless such declarations are actively lived out through dedication to redeeming and emancipating our Neighbor from the chains of bondage, death, and sin, so too, is proclaiming the grace of God useless unless it is lived out in a vigilant, never ceasing love in action.

Anything less than love accompanying our Truth, Grace, and our relationship with Jesus is pure delusion and self-flattery.


  1. The Grace-Monger doesn't understand the price. When Jesus prayed in Luke 22:42, "...take this cup from me..." the answer could have been, "Oh, yeah, we can rework this, let's use Grace instead of justice." Grace had a terrible and awesom price. The Grace-Monger's laziness and apathy and other sins that he thinks are trivial were part of that cup.

  2. Curious post Joel. While I disagree with what you have said written here, you are also not completely incorrect. The truth is there are many who do not understand the Gospel, grace, salvation and God's love or are immature in their walk with God. Thus, I understand that your view of the "other side" or the "grace-mongers (GM)" is still looking in, rather than being inside. With this said, there may be certain perspectives or impressions you have that are influenced by the gnostic pentecostals (GP).

    Here is a perspective from a GM no longer looking in.

    We understand salvation is a gift and no amount of good deeds or works will save us. Christ died to atone for our sins, meaning pay the debt that we ourselves could never pay and not just to save us from hell, which is often the focus of some, but to bring us closer to God and give is new life and hope. We are saved by out faith, this means there isn't a formula that will get it done if we do not believe in and love God.

    Grace is given because we are sinners, and while saved, we make mistakes, and without it we would be doomed to failure, however as Paul says, this isn't a license to sin. Living by grace is living with a repented heart, and striving to be closer to Him.

    The emphasis of the GM is the heart because this is what God see's, Jesus speaks about this in Matthew, and in Jeremiah we were told that the law would be written in our hearts, rather than in stone. When you focus on what is really going on in your heart, rather than blaming your issues on things (scapegoats), we are able to overcome our sins through the cross. From this comes a deeper understanding of what God wants from us, and learning to live by thinking differently, which then drives being different.

    As a GM I understand that what may lead me to sin, may not lead you to sin, and what is sin for me may be sin for you. Many often quote Philippians 2:12 and forget about the rest of the passage "for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure (ESV)". This means we are to live as lights in the world, to demonstrate our faith and obedience to God in our everyday lives.

    In James 2:14 "faith without works is dead" we find a similar call to be good, not to because we will be more saved, but to understand that we are not to fall back on grace to live as we please. We must understand that if God is truly present in our lives, if we truly have a daily walk with God, a life that worships God daily and not just on Sunday, then His goodness will come out of us. Grace is the means by which we are able to get closer to God inspite of ourselves so that we can live better and be better because we Love God and He Loves us. This means that it is more than simply believing in God, but living a life pleasing to God.

    Love? In the Cain and Able narrative God warns Cain of the sin in his heart and warns him not to let it consume him. It was the sin in his heart that made his offering unacceptable to God. So while God loves us, He does not accept our sin, thus the need for the cross to atone for our sins. Yes love others, 2nd greatest commandment, but we must not confuse the difference between loving people and excepting the sin. We are called to love others, as God love us. We are called to show love to others as God has shown us love.

    Anyway, here is my humble 2 cents of those of us on the other side. Many are in different places with their walk with God, it is up to the elders to disciple them, and be patient as they learn. If everybody had it right, we wouldn't need the Bible. We must be careful not to lump everyone into this or that category or presume to pass judgement on their walk with God. More so we must understand that it is difficult to understand another's point of view while we only have our own as reference.

  3. type correction "and what is sin for me may be sin for you." should be "and what is sin for me may NOT be sin for you."

    ...overall the reason for grace is so that we can strive to be closer to God and He to us, rather than the opposite.

  4. Aaron, I would argue more than not, you are not the "grace-monger" I was describing.

    My difference is that Christianity is not about salvation in the "after-life" sense (and thus the "faith/works" issue becomes that much more worthless of an argument....

  5. And the "looking from outside" dichotomy needs to stop....

    That is not what this is about.

  6. Joel, agreed. Would you say then your point is in the similarities of the GP and GM who fall back on either grace, standards or their religion, and focus only on salvation. I think your point of the ex/GP who don't get it because they have yet to understand what grace is and have never been taught relationship with God is a good point. I think many see that they can live for God without religion, but yet their walk with God is still shallow because it still lacks substance and no change is made within.

    Sorry about the "looking from the outside", but we are all heavily influenced by our culture, even as learned as we might be, we may always see what we think we see.

  7. hmmm. I have a lot to say but not much time to say it. I certainly hope I'm not considered a "grace monger", but whatever. I know I am a sinner saved by grace and am forever grateful. I know people such as the ones you are speaking but I think if you look very closely you will see that they may not be Christians at all. By their fruits you will know them. When you look at all this from the standpoint of having been out of the UPC for so many years, you would see that so much of the stuff we are talking about seems absolutely silly and petty in the larger body of Christ. And by speaking about grace we are talking about tolerance? Huh? It's a pretty awesome message that salvation is given to all who believe and place their trust in Him. If that is "tolerance" then so be it. I want everyone to be in on this message. Tolerance? Anyway, there is a line for this laptop...but geez.

  8. I suspect you've stumbled upon this site before, but since I haven't had a lot of computer access lately, it says so much that I'd like to say but don't have time. Take a read if you haven't already. I'm finding so much I disagree with in your post that I don't really know where to start.

  9. Joel,
    I have commented negatively on many of your other posts. I disagree with much of what is said on here most times. However, I wholeheartedly agree with this post. Having seen people completely backslide and turn towards Trinitarianism for whatever reason, claiming they are "saved by grace", I find this topic boils my blood.

    As much negative flak as you will get from this post, thank you for expressing something I have a difficult time doing myself, and count this as a positive!

  10. this particular post has actually made me chuckle. It's like you decided that everything you said in your other post about grace is obsolete and you are going to stand by the UPC doctrine no matter what you are learning. To give up the UPC doctrine also means giving up a way of life. It is your friends, your social life, your music, your family bonds, your education, your everything. How well I know this. There is no other denomination who has such a cool way of singing and worshipping, etc... But that is not God. That is a part of the culture of the group. There is life outside this box and God is there. Continue with your questions and your hope for change. You have a sharp mind and I believe God has a special plan to use you to further His kingdom and will do so in ways that you can't even fathom at this time. But don't take a defensive stance just because you are unwilling to give up all you know. If you seek Him with all your heart, He will answer all your questions and will give you peace. God bless you and all the precious people of the UPC that they will see that the body of Christ goes beyond an interpretation/revelation of Acts 2:38. My mother will be so surprised and happy to see me in heaven!!! Wish she knew that now so she could be at peace also.

  11. Aaron, I...I really think we are in agreement here. I do tend to agree with most of your posts. YOu hit the nail on the head on drawing the similarities between the GP and the GM. (Also notice how I am not talking for a "balance" here because I think that is a terrible binary reduction)

    My frustration with "Sorry about the "looking from the outside", but we are all heavily influenced by our culture, even as learned as we might be, we may always see what we think we see" is not that you are wrong...

    But rather that I would say you are all too correct in what you say... But that problem goes for any stance and culture....That's why the in/out mentality can be overly-simplistic.

  12. Grace,

    So ummm... this is kinda awkward (*cough*)....

    Ummm, i'm just going to say the way you interpreted my post is about as problematic as some people interpreting the second half of I Corinthians 11 as implying that one better be "prayed up" before they take communion.

    First, what post on grace did I contradict? And if you can find it (because it probably was by someone else on this blog), I will humbly denounce that older post (but I think you will find you will be lacking the evidence).....

    Second, those man's tears from that link...If you read the post, he made no arguments against the UPC in a formalized way.... It was all based on his experience with the numerous number of legalists who reside within the UPC ranks. It seems many people tend to see the dilemma of Paul/the Judaizers and the non-UPC/UPC is that it's about faith as opposed to work. And if we are saved by grace, then works are pointless...

    This is just disheartening to me.

    As much as my theology tends to agree with Luther, he (as well as many since) failed to read Romans without setting up some institution as the "other side" (Luther was against the Catholics, you are against the UPC)...

    To make Christianity about faith/works is such a small, issue compared to Paul's bigger message. Keep in mind i didn't renounce anything of my dislikes that i have previously stated as usually wrong with the UPC.... I still hold those (you prove again why i was hesitant to post this post about grace since you took it out of context)....

    My point, harshly put is this "Salvation" is important. But once "it's done" then get to work. If one is saved, then the Holy Spirit should be working. Complacency is not in option in Christianity. Paul hates complacency. Jesus hates it. And fixing ourselves so much on "grace" and "works" and "faith" completely sidetracks the hard message of Christianity.
    I'm sick of prayer meetings if the church is not impacting their community in a physical, awkward sense. I'm sick of simply "waiting for heaven." This goes for "grace-mongers" and "gnostic Pentecostals" a like.

    I don't think Christians are going to get to heaven and God will say "sorry, you didn't do enough works to get to Heaven so you can't come in." NO! But if heaven keeps us from moving, I want us to stop alluding to Heaven. When we reference Grace, it should be a motivator to work and not the cause to rant all bitter about the UPC.

    Did I give "the UPC" a free pass in my post Grace? Well first off I am not the judge of the UPC. And secondly, I do believe in repentance which is a turning away. I do believe this repentance is made true through Baptism which, as Paul outlines in Romans 6 is dying with Christ. Without a death, there is no Christianity. And then of course we are told we shall receive the Holy Ghost. This has nothing to do with works. I would argue that this isn't as much about salvation as it is taking the initiative we need to (repentance) so God can lead us to get to work and reconcile the World....

    I don't want to be in heaven right now Grace. I would be so upset if God let me in because of his love for me. Because I didn't respond to his love back. I didn't reach out to the souls He wants me to reach out to...I didn't help the people I could have been helping. I have been the worst of all men as a Christian. THis has nothing to do with salvation at this point. Can I repent? Absolutely. But I am not going to sit here and preach about legalism when I have done nothing.

  13. And lastly Grace,

    Your post about my "reasons" for supposedly being UPCI....

    That's awful that you would think in such a way and say it's out of comfortability. SEriously, that's pathetic. You do not know me. You never have. If you did, you would know I left my UPC church last year. You don't know that I have lost most of my friends in the UPC. You don't know how much I hate how much of a schism my beliefs have had in regards to my UPC friends.

    I am dedicated to Truth. And my recent seemingly "pro-UPC" stance is simply a theological turn based primarily in my investigations into philosophy and reading Kierkegaard, Zizek, Lenin Badiou, Tillich, Schelling, and Hegel. In short much of this amounts to "beliefs" not being some mental confession (e.g. "I believe Jesus loves me") but rather one's beliefs should be defined by their actions (and i'm not talking about "love, peace, joy, kindness, etc....)..
    But of course, you are still getting fraught about my contextual situation and saying this is just to be complacent (because I have all of maybe 2 friends who hold a hardline UPC position).

    Bernard though, while I disagree with some, there is a great much about theology that is absolutely logical and not intended whatsoever to justify the "Tradition."

    I owe you nothing Grace. And I hope to God that you are happy enough in your own skin that you could stop living your life in anticipation of that moment when you get to tell your mom "i told you so." That's not fair to you.

    And I think we would agree if we talked face to face about most things, and would suggest that when I said you misinterpreted my post, it is quite possible. That when I defended Acts 2:38, you thought i was defending the Whole Boat which is certainly not the case. I don't plan on ever being a licensed UPC minister because i have too much I disagree with within the minister's manual. That said, I plan on getting on with my future and not letting my past dictate the stances and actions I perform in the future.

  14. Joel, I realize I spoke harshly and I don't know you. Sorry. Really. I think I was reacting to how much I'd enjoyed your previous post on grace and then all of a sudden it seemed like I was being called a "grace-monger". I'd say I took it more personally than it was meant. If I get a chance, I'll look back and give you specifics of what I said are inconsistencies but don't worry about it. I'm simply writing my thoughts as I think them without research, etc...

    I'm not into debating about the UPC. I've been there and done that. I stumbled upon your site about a month ago when I was doing some research for a book I'd like to write. I needed to refresh myself on the UPC. But instead I got caught up in your awesome reflections and spot-on descriptions. I've found myself rooting for you while you take on one-taboo issues. You're a cool dude.

    But without further debate, here's where I am an here's why I don't want to spend time debating these non-essentials. We are both believers, right? That's the essential part. I'm so dense and such a slow learning sinner, I have no idea why God has saved me. I foolishly sat in wonder and amazement for what He did for me on the cross for years. I soaked it up and was in awe and thankfulness of this revelation but still did nothing. But God has bigger plans for me and has recently given me a push this past year or so and I have lots to do. He has similar plans for all Christians, I believe.

    I love theology and philosophy. I often get stuck reading and mulling over and not "doing". But it is time for me to put it aside and focus on why we've been put on this earth. Here is the guts of what I think we are meant to do with this life.

    I believe we are here for one reason. To further His kingdom. We, as Christians, are His hands and feet. Our time on earth is only a snippet of time in what is eternity. We must tell EVERYONE that Christ died on the cross and rose again on the 3rd day. Our sinds put Him there and He took those sins upon Himself and became our righteousness. There is no longer any need for sacrifice as in the old covenant. He gives us the ultimate gift of eternal life and there is nothing we can do to earn it. This Message is nothing short of the most amazing thing EVER and if we believe in Jesus and what He did for us and put our trust in Him, He freely gives us the Gift and He tells us that we won't perish and will live for with Him forever in paradise. He telss us to love Him and to love others as ourselves. At this point, His spirit works within us and gives us this urgency to shar the message with others. Aftern all, it is only what is done for Him on this earth that will last. The message is simple, but our calling is not easy. We will be rejected and despised. I've certainly found that out. But with an eternal mindset, we will continue. How can we keep quiet about what we've seen and heard?

    Joel, I'd be quite surprised if we aren't on the same page here. Truly, I think you are amazingly great and I'm so impressed with your writing. Let's go reel 'em in. For me, it's totally time.

  15. I didn't mean to say you are amazingly great. Ha. I meant that your amazingly talented or something. I'm just in too big a hurry these days. I'm on vacation and the family fights for the laptop when we have downtime. I'm saying a lot of stuff without a lot of thought. I'll probably be embarrassed when I read back what I've typed so quickly.

    And again real quickly, about my mother. I'm certainly not living to say "I told you so" to my mother. But I am often sad when I try to tell her about a great book I've read or something exciting from church. It a look of dismissal and pity or sadness that I'm not in the truth. I won't deny that it hurts and that I wish she could have peace about my not believing in the truth as she sees it.

  16. this is how i feel

  17. Joel: I don't know if you even read past posts... but I did want to say that my beef with the UPC is not that they push for baptism and the infilling of the holy ghost, but that they seem to think no one is saved until they've done those two things after repentance. The church I attend now starts with repentance, and then TEACHES you about baptism before they dunk you under. It is understood that it is an act of obedience, but not pushed so much that people feel as though they're still on the path to hell until they get all wet. What is your take on that approach?

  18. Deuteronomy says that to achieve righteousness, we must obey ALL of the law. All of it. Because we are born sinners, we can never accomplish this. Knowing this, God sent His Son in our human likeness, He remained blameless, He accepted our hate by receiving lashes and spit and being nailed to a cross for NOTHING, and still He whispered forgiveness on us as He took His last breath. That is grace.

    Nobody likes accepting handouts. We are much to prideful for that. But because nothing can be done to receive grace, accepting the handout is our only choice. In Matthew 18, Jesus tells is to "HUMBLE" ourselves as little children if we want to enter the kingdom of God. This is not because children are innocent- they aren't. This is because they are incompetent. Children cannot merit anything on their own, therefore anything they have, they accept as a handout. This is what Jesus meant when He said to humble ourselves as children. Accepting grace while knowing we did nothing to deserve it is the only way to accept it. We can't ever do anything worthy of it.

    That being said, grace is not an excuse to be complacent or content with mediocrity and sin. Paul said it. "should we keep on sinning because grace abounds? By no means!" Accepting grace means I accept that I will
    ALWAYS be a sinner because I was born that way, but knowing fully that God loves me ABSOLUTELY anyway. All God asks is that we seek to be close to Him. Seeking anything other than Him causes us to lose the peace that can only be found in Him. People who use grace as an excuse to keep doing what they're doing, don't understand grace at all. Understanding grace makes you want to seek after God alone. However, just because they don't understand and don't seek God doesn't mean they aren't covered by grace-- they are. In John 6:35-40, Jesus says that anyone who comes to him will not be cast away. If someone accepts Jesus and that He died for our sins, receives salvation and accepts grace, they won't be cast away simply because they continue to sin. We ALL continue to sin. Grace abounds anyway. But someone who understands how great a price was paid so that we can still go to heaven, as filthy and sin-riddled as we are, will turn from their old ways and seek His face with reckless abandonment. But not all who receive grace understand it. That's why it's grace- it covers anyway.

    I'm not sure if that's your definition of a grace monger, but if it is, I am one. :) thank you for posting this. It is challenging and doesn't allow anyone who reads to feel comfortable with their beliefs without examining them again, and that is a very healthy thing to do-- often.

  19. I would recommend reading "The Ragamuffin Gospel" by Brennan Manning. Wonderful insights that, when paired with prayerfully studying God's Word, can fill in the places of us where legalism was engrained. My grandfather was a UPC district superintendent and the pastor of my old church for 25 years. My parents were both raised in that church. Needless to say, it was engrained in my until I thought I was going to hell if Jesus came back before I got the chance to repent for that bad thought I just had. But I realize now, after years of confusion and crying out to God for answers, that God is so much more loving than that and knows we can never be perfect. That's why He sent Jesus.