Have you felt it? Have you had someone, or even a whole church, never let you live past your lowest point? Have you had the load of condemnation strapped to you back and cinched too tight to ever be loosened? Have you, a child of God, a recipient of grace, had grace stripped out of your hands every time you would dare drink in its soul-quenching properties? Then you have faced them–Grace Killers!
Grace Killers lurk everywhere the children of God exist. Perhaps they repackage themselves for whichever group or denomination they are in, but they are the same. Being an Independent Baptist, I, of course, have seen them most in action there. So I encourage each of us to learn to spot grace killers and not let them do their dastardly work.
To some we are where we _____. Always. Our brothers and sisters in Christ now define us by what we once did rather than by what Christ has done. We all have low points in our Christian life. Maybe someone for a short time fell off the wagon into drunkedness. Perhaps someone had marriage difficulties or even a divorce. Maybe they got in trouble with the law. There are so many possibilities, sadly, in this corrupt world. The problem is that when we arrive on the positive side of repentance, when we experience the warmth of the grace of His forgiveness, and when we feel the joys of restored fellowship, we have some who act as if grace never came. Well, it did come, so we must label these accusers as Grace Killers!
The question is whether grace is as spectacular and far reaching as the Bible presents it to be. For the record, it is. To some, however, we will always be that person who messed up, or that divorced person, or that guy who got in trouble. They will recommend we have no opportunities. They will whisper as if we are still in the backslidden state. They would condemn us to stay in the dark place, encourage others to keep us there as well, but what is forgotten? Grace.
But grace is part of the fabric of the Christian life. No grace, no Christianity. To weigh others down and be a Grace Killer is to deny the very system whereby we were delivered.
Grace Killers do a gruesome work. Have you ever noticed the abysmal record we have of retaining people after a church discipline process? Particularly, those who respond with repentence? They almost never stay around. Why? They can never escape the dark shadow. The oppressive weight of condemnation never lifts. It was all fine with Christ. He gave us Galatians 6:1, remember? No, the problem is Grace Killers! They never let it go.
I do not deny that sin has consequences–that is the nature of sin. But we do not ever have to always live under the guilt–that is the nature of grace!
We can’t help what others say and do, but we can champion grace. Demand the rights and privileges of all God’s children as those rights and privileges were purchased by the Blood of Christ. No Grace Killers can actually even give a little wound. They can’t take it away–it is our eternal possession. Ignore them then. But remember too those around you in the clutches of these Grace Killers. Lift up those who are constantly weighted down by those who deal in condemnation.
Grace Killers live in a house of cards. When you realize they have no power, not even a spiritual BB gun or spitball, the cards come tumbling down. Treasure grace and never let anyone obscure it for you or someone around you.
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29 thoughts on “Grace Killers! (IBTR #28)”
I must confess, this one has me a bit confused. I think because first of all, I’ve never experienced this sort of behavior first hand, nor heard of it. But also, because in the IBF circles where I’ve seen the negative behavior you’ve mentioned in previous posts, they tend to be “overforgiving” of pastors–divorced and remarried–typically with their secretary or some other lady in the church. I don’t know that they are the same people… I can’t personally think of any situation that matches the grace killers scenario you describe… Maybe with time, I’ll remember something, but right now, I’m stumped… (I have met some people who I could imagine being like this, but so far, no particular examples…)
Well, they are out there. They typically are not going to be against pastors as much as the normal people. They are against those that have sinned and try to come back. I would have to say a favorite target of theirs is the unwed young lady that has a child.
Great example. That has happened many times!
OK, this one is one I’ve heard of, but mostly in the context that she was molested by someone important in the church, and she gets blamed and shamed, while the man gets off scott-free… And yeah, this is in more than just IBF circles–way beyond them…
It reminds me of the passage in John 8, with the woman caught in adultery. In the Law, both the woman and the man were to be stoned, but only she was brought to Christ….
Yes, broad in scope and a problem we all fight–loving grace for self and not for others.
I am so glad you have never felt this. This one goes far beyond Independent Baptists. Many can never shake their past because some will never let them. Maybe I should have called them Grace Hoarders as they take it gladly but want no one else to have it.
Your issue of big shot pastor getting more grace than everyone else is sad. It only makes the regular ones hurt more in that they were denied grace.
I think this article is basically just a general overview of the subject. Applying it to your own personal surroundings probably just takes more work. I do think that one of the many specific examples with grace-killing is, from my experience, the over-abundance of labeling done in IFB churches. Everyone in the world is given a label, whether denomination-ally or otherwise. If you’re a Presbyterian, you will always be “the Presbyterian” to some people, and you therefore have zero authority on spiritual matters because, after all, Presbyterians are probably not saved in the first place (tongue in cheek). And many of the labels within our own churches may not be denominational, but sometimes in some churches, we are labeled according to our past, like PJ pointed out. People look at us and within themselves say “that’s the divorced guy” or “that’s the guy who listens to CCM” or “that’s the guy who never wears a tie to church.” Everyone is associated with a certain negative quality. And if you offend someone, a grudge is held for a VERY long time because you are now defined by your offense (legitimate or not). I will continue this with a Bible reference in a new post, just to keep things more readable and less confusing.
Thanks for that. Now this I recognize… and it makes me wonder how many people, while maybe not voicing their anti-grace attitudes, hold them in their hearts…
Yes, I was definitely taking the big-picture approach, but as you show here, this can be traced down through many levels.
To continue my reply from above, I think Colossians 2 :20-23 has a lot to say about this matter:
“If with Christ you died to the elemental spirits of the world, why, as if you were still alive in the world, do you submit to regulations— “Do not handle, Do not taste, Do not touch” (referring to things that all perish as they are used)—according to human precepts and teachings? These have indeed an appearance of wisdom in promoting self-made religion and asceticism and severity to the body, but they are of no value in stopping the indulgence of the flesh.”
While I do believe that Paul had some specific things in mind in response to the Gnostic influences that the Colossians were being seduced by, I think there are some modern applications to be made here. Let’s look at the principles here…
1. What are the elemental spirits of the world? let’s check some factors in the passage: First, they are things we have supposedly died to, in that, they are things that pertain to the flesh, whereas in Christ we live in the spirit according to the life of Christ in which we have been raised. Second, they are defined practically by “submit[ting] to regulations,” Third, they are according to human precepts and teachings. Fourth, they have an appearance of wisdom. Fifth, they promote self-made religion. Fifth, they have no real influence on the passions and lusts of our flesh.
2. From the above factors, I do think there are several modern applications to be made within the IFB churches. How many things in our lives are “good ideas” however they are not something God has commanded? Often I believe that, in pursuit of being “unstained from the world” and free from the “appearance of evil,” we set up boundaries that God did not set up. And some of these things may be good ideas, but they they are merely good ideas according to the wisdom of the flesh. Does “self-help” mean anything here? I think there are several forms of Baptist “self-help” that make way into fundamental doctrine that, while they may be helfpul to an extent, have no real place in expository preaching. Things such as overly-specific music standards, internet filters, incredibly detailed relationship boundaries, dress codes, etc. While these things are not heretical in and of themselves, I do think that IFB’s have a problem using them in making “self made religion” and still never really conquer the passions of our flesh. An internet filter is a good idea, but just because you don’t have opportunity to indulge in your flesh, does not mean your lustful-ness is not there. But we take a confident stand that we are sanctified based solely on the fact that we have tight standards. And anyone who does not share these standards must be worldly. They then have the label of “dirty” as it would accord with the standard(s) that they don’t share. Why is this a problem? Because it’s self-made religion. We are equating ourselves with the Gnostic by assuming we have some sort of special enlightenment in that we have a special revelation that God wants us to have certain fleshly standards, and those that don’t have them are obviously living a life of sinful indulgence. We have created ourselves a false religion by adding to what God has given us. Again, these things have the “appearance of wisdom” – they sound like a really good idea! And maybe they do work in starving certain beasts in our lives. But they are not the fix-all! It’s like talking to a drug addict. Do they need to stop taking the drug? YES! But the goal is not to stop taking the drug. The goal is for them to become a disciple of Jesus Christ. Stopping drug use does not = discipleship. It is merely behavior modification that anyone can do by reading the latest self-help book or watching Oprah re-runs. The goal is not to rest in man-made wisdom, submitting to regulations, but rather pressing on to the life defined by our death to the flesh and new life in the resurrection of Christ, worshiping in Spirit and in Truth. Which is another sermon all-together.
David, I pray others will read down into the comments to read the perceptive things you have shared here. Great stuff!
This reminds me of Mark 7:7-13, where Christ describes their departure from Biblical teaching–teaching man’s commands as if they were God’s, (adding to God’s Word), then replacing God’s Word, then rejecting it, thus making if of none effect–(as one reading of that passage). This is exactly what you described.
Yes, I think that is the primary intent of that passage, and very applicable here as well – “And he said to them, “You have a fine way of rejecting the commandment of God in order to establish your tradition!”
What was the commandment? I suppose it was summed up when he said “‘This people honors me with their lips, but their heart is far from me; in vain do they worship me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.’”
We must do an inspection of our own selves and our own churches to see if our religiosity is man-centered or Christ-centered. Do we take God at His Word and form our teaching and lives around that, or do we re-format God’s Word to fit our own man-centered religiosity, giving more authority to the wisdom of men? We find it so easy to point at the worldly wisdom found in the philosophies of evolution and various ethical dilemmas and say “that’s faulty wisdom of the flesh!” but how many times should we say that in our very own churches? We are in great need of the gift of discernment in this regard.
O the value of discernment!
We have misunderstood Christianity completely in cases like you mention here!
Yes. Yes. Yes.
I think another form of grace-stealing comes from preachers and teachers who focus more on sin than on grace. They may not necessarily directly condemn anyone, but the way the message or lesson comes across, it can leave people feeling condemned rather than convicted and forgiven, and I have seen people leave either a class or a church altogether because of condemnation and guilt manipulation coming from those who are supposed to leave conviction to the Holy Spirit and just preach/teach the Word to equip the saints and demoralize them.
Oops… I mean equip the saints instead of demoralizing them.
I think you’re absolutely right, Rene. Some preachers/teachers focus way to much on “the wages of sin is death” and not nearly enough on “but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord. For example, we all have Romans 3:23 memorized. But how many of us have Romans 3:24 memorized? By the way, it says “and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus” I think this inbalance is due to an over-emphasis on condemnation and guilt – qualities of a life that no longer pertains to us who are in Christ – and very little emphasis on what DOES pertain to us – grace, mercy, and peace. We’re all twisted to focus on who we should separate from instead of who we should love and reach out to.
True. It boils down to whether we are sinners or saints. If we are saints in God’s eyes, then we are no longer sinners, but so many people (preachers preach it) go around saying they are sinners–but that’s not how God sees us!
Yes, we are saints, who still sin, but we have been redeemed by His amazing mercy and grace!
Very fair point!
Wow You have completely summoned up what I have gone through the last 12 years in Church. I just recently am at the point of questioning if I should even try to go back to church I love God But am sick of being treated like disposable garbage when I am not a benefit to a ministry .
Broken, unfortunately you are not alone in your frustrations. I do not know your situation, but be encouraged, because Romans 12 tells us that “Having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us use them,” therefore each of us is a benefit to ministry – we just have different gifts. And each of us is NECESSARY for healthy growth as a church – Ephesians 4 tells us that “we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.”
Do not give up the fight! God has chosen to make you a part of His church – now the practical aspects of how to serve and where to serve are the parts that can be far more confusing and discouraging. but all I can say from a limited perspective of your situation is – you have a purpose. Do all that is in your power to serve Christ in His Body. Some will reject you, but if you are God’s child, He has not rejected you. Many exhortations have been given in Scripture that we endure for the cause of Christ. Unfortunately, sometimes the persecution comes from Christ’s own people. But press on! Sometimes that means finding another assembly in which you can be allowed to serve. But whatever the case, Christ is worthy of your service, and He has empowered you to follow and serve Him. You can be confident in that, even when you can’t be confident in people.
Broken, in addition to what David said. Please don’t give up. There is a church somewhere for you where you can have real Christian fellowship. There are those who are humbled by grace. God bless you!
Sadly there are many who are their own grace killers. These are the ones I feel for most.
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