What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it? – Romans 6:1-2 (ESV)
Where grace exists, there is always a chance that it will be taken advantage of or misunderstood. But if our response to grace is to abuse it, then maybe we haven’t truly understood or embraced it. And where grace has not been understood or embraced, the solution is to proclaim grace all the more. That’s counter-intuitive. Limits and caveats seem like the way to curb the misuse of grace. What we really need is to encounter grace in all of its fullness. We need to see the deep cost at which God extends his grace to us. Only then do we realize that the old self is gone, the new self has come, and with it our identity has been fundamentally transformed. How could we continue to live as we did before our encounter with this kind of radical grace?
Why does the trinity matter? What does it have to do with anything? Every Christian has asked questions like that at some point. And while “everything” would be an appropriate answer, here is a more specific one.
For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. Romans 8:3-4 (ESV)
Father, Son, and Spirit each play a distinct yet inseparable role in our salvation. The Father sent the Son to be a perfect sacrifice for our sins and raised him from the dead to give us he hope of eternal life. The Son, together with the Father, sent the Spirit to seal our salvation and to enable us to walk in newness of life. Only a God who eternally exists as three in one can save in this way.
The toxic climate surrounding this year’s presidential election is, even by political standards, unfathomable. I suppose that’s bound to happen when you have two candidates who are equally unfit for the office they seek (albeit for very different reasons). The angst felt by voters who are forced to choose between two candidates with no moral authority is real and understandable. It’s led some to wash their hands of the process altogether. Others have engaged in various mental and moral gymnastics to justify backing their candidate. Still others can, without violating their conscience, cast a ballot for one of the nominees. At the end of the day, Scripture has some painfully explicit directives for Christians regarding their attitude toward the next president.
They are to submit to the winner of the election recognizing that all authority comes from and is ordained by God (Rom 13:1, 1 Pet 2:13-14). They are to pray for (1 Tim 2:1-2), respect (Rom 13:7), and honor (Rom 13:7, 1 Pet 2:17) their new leader. And lest we think the current candidates are exceptions to this, remember that all these commands were originally given to Christians living under the Roman Empire. Our candidates look like angels compared to Nero. To recap: submit, pray for, respect, and honor – I don’t know about you, but I have a long ways to go.
It’s usually said that we can all identify with one of the two sons in the parable of the Prodigal Son. We are either bent toward reckless, immature living like the younger son or self-righteous rule-keeping like the older son. I typically see more of myself in the older son. I’m prone to think that my obedience somehow makes me more loved and accepted by God. I tend to be judgmental of those who aren’t as “good” at following the rules. The fact is I’m just as much like the younger son as the older son.
Asking for an early inheritance was akin to saying, “I no longer care if you’re alive. Just give me my due now.” The younger son was more interested in having his father’s stuff than he was in having the father. And this is where I see myself. It’s all those times when I choose and desire the things of this world more than the Father. Paul says in Romans 1 that the essence of sin is preferring the creation to the creator. I’m guilty of doing that. We all are because we’re all prodigals. Thankfully, we have a Father who loves prodigals.
The gospel is the power of God for salvation.
Not your mission.
Not your vision.
Not your values.
Not your strategy.
Not your systems.
Not your marketing.
Not your branding.
Not your building.
Not your pastor.
Not your band.
The gospel is the power of God for salvation. You can fill an auditorium week after week without the gospel. But no one can be saved without it.