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Difficult Verses 5: 1 John 5.16

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Someone emailed me this week asking about the meaning of 1 John 5.16, saying it had always been a puzzling verse to them.  And I agreed – it is a strange verse.  Read it for yourself in the KJV:

If any man see his brother sin a sin which is not unto death, he shall ask, and he shall give him life for them that sin not unto death. There is a sin unto death: I do not say that he shall pray for it.  

So it would appear there are a number of questions: what is the difference between a sin leading to death and a sin that doesn’t lead to death.  Any why would there ever be a divine instruction in Scripture not to pray for someone – especially someone in trouble!

Some people use these verses to justify an idea that there are different levels of sin: generally the sin that they do is acceptable, but other people’s sins are unacceptable.  Two things we need to consider so we can discard that idea: firstly, John had just finished saying that all unrighteousness is sin (1 John 5.12), so it seems very unlikely that John is then after putting all sin in the same box separating sin into good sins (or less bad sins) and bad (or worse) sins.  Secondly, it is clear that it is about seeing the sin: it’s not about gossip and finding out that way.  It’s that the brother sees the other Christian commit the sin that does not lead to death.

Well the answer is not that there are different scales of sin, but that the wages of sin is death (Romans 6.23).  Sin pays wages and the wages sin pays is death.  But not every day is pay day!  If you see your brother sinning, you should ask (pray) about it.  But this is where the grammar of this verse gets confused.  Most people translate the personal pronouns like this: 

If any man see his brother sin a sin which is not unto death, he [that man] shall ask, and he [God] shall give him [the sinning brother] life for them that sin not unto death

So the idea is that you see a brother sinning – you go round someone’s house and catch them watching a porno, you are with them when they explode in anger at someone and plan to hurt them, they tell you they are having an affair, you use their bathroom and the towels say “Hilton”.  So you pray, and because your pray is so awesome God will pour life into that person and wipe away that sin.

That’s not how things work, and you know it!  People sin – born-again, Spirit-filled, Christians sin.  And your prayers don’t change that because prayers don’t override free will.  You can pray for people in sin, don’t get me wrong, and if you rebuke the devil and pray for peace, they may suddenly regain a freedom and start living for God, but they could equally choose to keep sinning.

The point is that is not what this verse means.  The pronouns in Greek are all referring to the same indiviudal, so the best way to translate this verse is:

If any man see his brother sin a sin which is not unto death, he [the man that sees his brother sinning] shall ask, and he [the man who sees his brother sinning] shall give him [the brother sinning] life for them that sin not unto death

In other words when you catch someone in a sin, when you see it (not when you hear Sister Bucketmouth tell you all about it) then you don’t just pray.  You give life to your brother.  What does that mean?  You tell them that they are righteous, you point out that sin is evil and its wages are death.  You tell them that Christ has already paid the full price for their sin, and that they are dead to sin, and alive to Christ.  You give them the life of the gospel of redemption and you love them will all the love you have.  You are not the accuser of the brethen, you are the brethren of the brethren.  Did you know in law courts judges aren’t allowed to judge family?  That is because even this nation recognizes that family-ties overtake the role of being a judge.  Yet most of the church want to judge their family in Christ.  No!  Love your family in Christ, be family to your family in Christ.  Bring life to them.  Speak words of life and hope and freedom!  Whenever you see someone sin, let them know how much you love them and how free they are!

That’s why it’s not a sin unto death – you brought life before payday.  

The next thing John says is: There is a sin unto death: I do not say that he shall pray for it.  

That seems harsh until you realize there is a mis-translated word in there.  And it is the word “pray”.  The Greek word here is not aiteo, the normal Greek word for prayer, it is eratao – which means to ask questions about.  This verse is not saying “yeah, some sins are so bad that if someone does a sin from the bad list you should simply then not pray for them or help them because they are such bad Christians” – though I know a lot of people see it that way.  It’s not saying that, it’s saying something else, something far more profound and far more Christ-like:

There is a sin unto death.  I do not say [another Christian brother] shall ask questions about it.

You see sometimes a sin is hidden until it explodes in someone’s face.  It’s not one of those times you find out about it, show love and life to the person and help them.  You only find out when the person is suddenly dealing with the consequences.  It’s now payday, the wages of sin are now being paid out in full.  His wife turfs him out, his car is repossessed, his boss fires him, his friends abandon him.  In those cases, the Scriptures are not telling you “don’t pray for such a wicked person”.  It’s saying “don’t ask any questions” – mind your own business, don’t ask for all the juicy details.  Get involved by loving, showing life, helping, praying, being kind.  Don’t get involved by trying to find out all the juicy details, and give them your tuppence worth.  No-one when their sin harvest comes in wants your tuppence worth, they want your love and life and abundance.  We live in an age of gossips, and this verse is a timely encouragement to focus on what’s important.

So if you see someone sinning before their sin payday, pray and show them love and give them some life.  If you see someone sinning after sin payday, show them love and grace and don’t get hung up on the details.  Never ever forsake someone for messing up, but love them!

Difficult Verses 2: Hebrews 12.14

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Follow peace with all men, and holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord: (Hebrews 12.14)

This verse is one of the verses that is used to condemn people all the time.  If you are not holy, you will not see the Lord.  It’s often taken two ways: firstly, if you are not holy you will not see the Lord (come through for you).  In other words, you will stay poor and sick, stay broken, stay a mess because God isn’t happy with you and doesn’t want to bless you until you reach a certain standard of holiness.  That brings so much condemnation.  The second way people add to this verse is even worse, they think: if you are not holy, you will not see the Lord (when you die).  In other words, you lose your salvation because you are not good enough to be saved.

Let’s refute both of these.  Firstly, you are not going to fail to get blessed because you are not good enough.  You are already blessed with every spiritual blessing in Christ (Ephesians 1.3) so you are not going to fail to be blessed because you are blessed.  In Galatians 3.1-5 Paul is clear that miracles happen because you believed the Word not because of you obeying the Law.  Your goodness is not a currency that you can exchange for blessings.  The good news of the gospel is that you are blessed independent of your behaviour.

Secondly, you are not going to heaven if you are good enough.  You are not good enough – entry into heaven is through faith in Christ alone.  All you have to do is believe and receive.  You are saved from hell by confessing with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believing with your heart that He is risen from the dead.  Again, goodness has nothing to do with it.

So what does the verse mean?  The context is clear from the first part of the verse (and the surrounding verses) that Paul (or whoever you think the writer to Hebrews is) is talking about how we relate to other people.  It’s to do with peace with all people.  You see this verse is about following holiness because without that holiness no man (i.e. other people) will see the Lord.

You are holy already (Ephesians 1.5).  Your spirit has been made in true holiness and righteousness.  Deep down you are holy – your salvation and you being blessed is secure in Him and His work.  But unless you follow that holiness other people will not see the Lord in you.  You have all the love of God in your spirit, but if you steal from your boss, are mean to your co-workers and are known as the office flirt, no one will ever see that love and that holiness in you.  You have to follow holiness – not to get saved, you are; not to get blessed, you are – but so that the world will see our light and come to the light.

So go and live holy.  Not to impress God – He loves you to bits.  Not to get blessed – everything is yours in Christ already.  But so the world may know.  So you have credibility when you ask people to church.  So you can impact the world with the love of God.

5 Benefits of a Multi-Cultural, Multi-National, Multi-Ethnic Church!

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One of the greatest joys in my life is pastoring a church that has over 20 nationalities present in any given weekend.  That’s awesome. I think if you have a monocultural church in London you are doing something wrong.  I love the variety and the life that this exposes us to. Here are 5 of my favourite things about the Tree being multi-cultural:

5.  There are people clapping on every beat.  Maybe you have never noticed this but during the praise music, black people generally clap on the upbeat, and white people generally clap on the downbeat.  At the Tree we have every beat covered!  

4.  We find out about preachers that we would never have found about otherwise.  Ever heard of Stanley Ndovie?  Man, that guy can preach.  He is from Malawi, and I would never have known about him without people from our church from that awesome nation.  I would never have heard some of the amazing preachers from Uganda, Nigeria, Ghana or India without people from those nations introducing me to them.  In fact, a lot of European and American preachers who minister mainly to a particular ethnic group I would never have heard either.  That’s a great thing, because you are getting to help learn Scriptures that maybe you wouldn’t have looked at or who wouldn’t have looked at in a particular way.  These things are really important because…

3. The body of Christ is made up of different parts – just like your body.  If all you do is fellowship with people who look like you, who act like you, who grew up where you grew up and see things your way, then you never learn anything new.  You can’t get help when you meet help.  If you got a splinter in your foot, you would never be able to take it out with another foot – you need a hand to take that splinter out.  When you reach a problem you cannot solve, calling someone just like you will just add to the ignorance in the room.  I am so glad for the wisdom I have received on topics such as giving, prayer, integrity, passion, honour, discipleship, peace, healing from people who have come from a different culture and brought wisdom and life no Englishman could ever have taught me.

2. The food.  I love groundnut soup, fufu, jollof rice; I love daals and chili, I love food from all nations.  Our church pot-lucks are amazing!  Seriously… amazing!

1..  It’s a love tester.  It proves that our community and church are built on love.  If you only love those like you, you are just like a tax-collector said Jesus.  Really – if you cannot love someone who is different from you then you cannot really love anyone.  Racism comes from fear and pride – I’m better than you, and I think that your differences will detract from me.  The counter attitude to racism is gracism: I know we are equal in Christ, and I know your differences can benefit and bless me.  That’s the attitude we are cultivating in our church full of the nations.

10 Things You Have to Know About Growing Churches

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10.  Growth is like human growth – in spurts.  You can account for it, plan for it, prepare for it, but you can’t ever quite predict it.  You know a healthy human child will grow, but you don’t know EXACTLY when.

9.  Growth means change.  You don’t like change – no one does.  We like our security and safety.  BUt things must change – things you can do in a church with 15 people (interrupt the sermon, share a Scripture, celebrate your birthday, stop the service and pray for you, be informal about management of money or children, as examples) simply cannot be done with a church of 200.  

8.  Remember the change isn’t for you!  You might like your church and not want to share it with 200 other people but God wants to share the life in the church with as many people as possible.

7.  One of the hardest barriers for a church to cross is around 140-160 people.  It’s when you simply cannot know everyone in the church just by going on a Sunday.  On a subconscious level people find that difficult to deal with.  The best thing to do is to join a smaller group – a Living Church, the choir, the working party, the set up team, whatever.  By being in a smaller group within the group, you still get the benefits of being in a group where you know everyone and you also get the benefits of being in a larger group.  If you are a pastor to break this barrier you simply must provide the smaller groups for people – if you don’t they’ll form themselves and become cliques.

6. Growing churches will always become more formal.  It used to be that you knew the people looking after the children, you knew everyone so processes were informal.  That cannot stay the case if the church grows.  Sometimes we mistake formalization for depersonalization.  No – it’s just ensuring the processes are robust enough to see more people come.  Formalization is the only way to ensure the church becomes more personal and more welcoming.  By taking the pressure of structure off the people and onto the structures and processes, the people are now free to relate to one another and enjoy church.

5. In growing churches, paid staff often do what volunteers used to do.  Volunteers have to get used to having a line manager who is not the senior pastor and main preacher.  Volunteers have to get used to having certain responsibilities taken off them and let it happen graciously.  

4. In a small church the drawing factor is community.  People are part of the small community and that’s why they keep coming back again and again.  The problem is that this community is exactly what is unwelcoming to newcomers.  Every slot is filled – you can only have so many friends.  Occasionally someone leaves the church and someone joins and fits in their place, but it will not grow.  In a growing church the drawing factor is life impact.  It is how someone’s life is being changed.  Therefore the service has to not pander to the community but embrace everyone and provide powerful ways to improve life impact.

3. In a small church certain things are tolerated because of good relationships.  Someone can ramble on in a sermon for an hour and everyone knows “That’s just Bill…”, the worship leader can sing out of key and out of rhythm and everyone giggles because it’s how Jimmy plays.  The low quality is almost an in-joke that sustains the community.  As soon as a church breaks 100 this cannot happen anymore because there will be people who are not in on the joke and have a higher expectation.   Everything must be done professionally, from the first opening song through to the notices, the offering and so on.

2. A growing church needs multiplicity and redundancy of communication.  I knew this intellectually but didn’t really believe it until recently when Tree of Life Dagenham started hitting 110-120 per Sunday.  People would call me and say “why didn’t you tell me about THIS EVENT?”, “why didn’t you let me know THIS SPEAKER was coming?”, “how come I didn’t know about the BAPTISMS?” when these things were clearly in the church newsletter and announced from the front for several weeks.  Because the church is no longer one community – things need repeated.  We now try and say a notice in six different ways: we email everyone personally, we text everyone, we put it on Facebook, we put it on the church website, we put it on Google calendar and we put it in the church newsletter.  No one listens to the notice, so we stopped doing them on a Sunday.   If you are reading this and thinking I am into overkill, you are where I was this time last year.  Let me know what happens when your church reaches 120+.

1. A Growing Church is the most exciting place on earth.  In the age where church attendance is seen as an optional extra for supersaints (or worse – and even more absurdly, institutional legalism for people who don’t get the grace message), being in a healthy, growing church is so much fun.  Marriages are getting restored, Muslims are becoming Christians, children are getting saved, people are getting healed, people are learning how to dream, how to walk in their dreams,community is being built.  Lives are being changed.  I wouldn’t change what I do for the world.  It’s not always easy, but it is always an adventure.

Imagination

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Pastor Benjamin Conway, lead pastor of Tree of Life Church and founder of the Tree of Life Network, shows here how to use your imagination to enter fully into God’s dream and your dream for your life. This message is inspiring and challenging and will let you be all you can be!

Faith Works By Love

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  • For years the faith movement has been telling people that “faith works by love”. It’s true, that’s how faith works, but they misunderstood “by love”, telling us that faith only works when we love.

    If we don’t love people, forgive people, help people, serve people, show compassion on people, help people, live for people then our faith won’t work, we will stay sick, stay poor, stay in defeat and that’s that.

    So we responded. We made our love confessions, we strained to feel good feelings for people who annoyed us, we made ourselves human doormats, we became our pastor’s armour bearers serving them to the detriment of our own families. In the name of love, we strained to the point we became unbearable to live with. Then we stayed poor, stayed sick, stayed in defeat and rather than receiving God’s grace and healing and prosperity and victory we wailed our lack of love, we condemned our unforgiveness, we beat ourselves up for not loving enough, not feeling enough love and not doing enough – no matter how much we did do and how much we sacrificed.

    The truth (which will set you free as you read this): the love that empowers our faith is not our feeble, human, limited, pathetic, self-obsessed, impure, roller coaster feeling of love; not that which we squeeze out of our hearts and then kick the dog the next moment because our heart now hurts so bad. It’s not even our love at all: it’s HIS LOVE.

    Faith doesn’t work because you have earned enough brownie points loving people. It works when you realize that no matter what you have done, no matter what you have felt, no matter what you have felt, no matter how half-hearted you have been, no matter how much you hurt inside: GOD STILL LOVES YOU.

    His love is unending, unconditional, undeserved. It is not a still, logical, passive love: GOD IS LOVE. He is alive with love for you, He is buzzing, sparking, zapping with love for you. He made you because He needed a vessel to love with all the love inside Him. He redeemed you through Christ and His death and resurrection just so He could pour that love inside you and love you from the inside out.

    God is eternal, and every moment of that eternity is crammed with His love for you. God is infinite – and every iota of that space is exploding with the heat of a million suns with love for you. It’s not love based on your goodness, your strength, your joy, your ability to do. It’s love that comes straight from His nature, His heart, His being. The core of God is love for you.

    God is all-powerful and every ounce of His infinite strength is for you not against you. God can think a million thoughts at once, and all of them are thoughts on how to prosper you, how to get you through, how to make your life heaven on earth. His whole nature is love.

    When you realize the depths of His love for you, and when you grasp that He will never let you go, never let you down, never do or think anything that is not for your highest. When you realize that Christianity is not your utmost for His highest, but His utmost for your Highest; when you find out that you are not a sinner in the hand of an angry God, but a child of a loving Father. When you find out that the faith-life isn’t about your love for Him, but His love for you: then FAITH WORKS.

    Why wouldn’t He heal me when He adores me? Why wouldn’t I get the promotion at work? HE ADORES ME. HE LOVES ME. He wants me to have good things to enjoy. He wants to supply my needs according to His riches in glory. He is awesome to me. He can’t stop thinking about me.

    Of course I am going to walk in victory because He loves me. Passionately. Always. Not based on what I do, but based on what He has done.

    That’s why faith works by love: it’s easy to believe good things are going to happen to me the more I realize and grasp and meditate on His love for me.

The Deception of Hypo-Grace

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Hi there,

As the pastor of Tree of Life Church, we are unashamed of the fact that we are a grace church.  Our heart beats with the sound of God’s unconditional, unmerited, undeserved, unending, unfathomable, unbeatable grace.  Paul said that it is by grace we are saved (Ephesians 2.5) and that it was the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ (2 Cor. 9.8) that led to Him making the monumental decision to become poor and accursed so we could become rich and blessed.

Now, when I read articles like the one doing the rounds at the moment called “The Deception of Hyper-grace” I am interested.  I am interested in what the Bible says about grace, and although the article was clearly arguing against what I teach and what the teachers who have been my spiritual fathers and leaders have taught, I still tried to read with an open mind.

Unfortunately, the article does not seem to start off with an open mind itself, but starts with the strongest of hyperbolic language.  Now I am one for using colourful, polemic language myself – I believe part of being a preacher and a teacher is to create mental images in people’s minds to help them grasp the truth – but tell me: is it open minded to start off by referring to grace teaching as the vomit of satan and a flood of the enemy?  Instantly, any opportunity for helpful and constructive dialogue is lost.

And the reason being is that it is clear as the article is read further along that the intention of the author is not to engage in a dialogue, but to put grace people in their place – as heretics.

Firstly, the author claims that the grace people are arguing that it is a religious spirit that would tell someone to do good deeds.  I am not sure who the author is arguing against or listening to, but I have been listening to those that teach the complete work and would be considered the leaders of the grace movement since 1998.  As the pastor of one of the fastest growing and most international grace churches in England, I have many of these speakers come and minister in our church, and we have for the last three years shut down our church and all gone to the Grace and Faith Family Conference in Telford.

I have never ever heard anything that even comes close to anyone saying that Christians should not do good works or that God’s Word should be hated.  That’s a false argument.  It’s what is called in debating terms a straw man: the author has invented an argument just to knock it down.  It isn’t what grace people teach.  If they did teach that the Word was evil and that Christians shouldn’t live right then I wouldn’t be interested in that message, and nor would my wife and family, and church leadership.

I have no doubt that the author could find an individual who goes to a grace church who believes that Christians should sin and that anyone who says “live right” has a demon, but it’s not what the leaders of the movement teach or preach.  And let’s face it – the grace teachers are not teaching in a bubble.  Joseph Prince and Andrew Wommack are on TV, Arthur Meintjes has hours of free teaching on his website, Duane Sheriff gives away millions of CDs.  The messages are there for this author to engage with – but sadly he hasn’t, and has resorted to what is essentially fear mongering to scare people away from the grace message without ever considering the message of Scripture, the heart of Christ and the love of God!

It is hilarious how the author then reminds us that Paul had to rein in the Roman church and say “What shall we continue in sin then?  God forbid” and now is frustrated that the church today needs the same reminder.  The fact is that the gospel Paul preached in Romans 5 is so outrageously good and shows that God’s love for us and favour on us has zero to do with works and everything to do with His grace, that Paul needs to remind the Romans that grace is not a chance to go and do all those sins because sin is destructive!

The problem in most churches is that the reminder to “sin not” is unnecessary because the gospel that is taught in most churches is so diluted, polluted with legalism and divorced from the truth that we are made righteous freely by God’s grace and have peace with God because of what Jesus did, not because of anything we did (Romans 5.1) that people don’t need the reminder not to sin because they are still being told law not grace.

The fact that a church may need the same reminder to “sin not” as Paul needed to give the Romans isn’t a bad thing, it is proof that that church is finally teaching the same good news Paul taught!  The author shouldn’t be decrying that this is happening but celebrating it.

Then we have the crux of the matter.  Two issues that grace teachers are teaching that the author has a problem with.  Firstly:

Those proponents of the hyper-grace message will tell you that since your sins past, present and future have all been forgiven, there is no longer any need of repentance for the believer.

Wow.  So the author of the article does not believe that all sins are forgiven because of Jesus.  When you plow through the rhetoric and name calling, and depiction of grace people as libertines on the hunt for religious spirits – the spew of satan – and get through the article this is really the big theological point.  The author does not believe that all sins are forgiven.

Now this is a big deal if the author is correct.  If the cross does not provide forgiveness of ALL sins, which ones are missed out?  Which ones are not forgiven?  If the source and basis of ALL forgiveness of sins is not the cross, what assurance could we ever have that sins are forgiven at all?

You cannot add to the cross.  You cannot take away from the cross.  It is perfect.  The Greek word for perfect means a masterpiece that adding anything to, or taking anything from, destroys it’s uniqueness and beauty.  I remember watching an interview with the creators of the Office (the UK version which was 12 episodes, not the American one) and they said they felt to write one more episode, even a brilliant one, would destroy the integrity of the series that they had created.  Even a good thing added to it would be a bad thing because of how good the thing was as a whole!  You may or may not like the Office, but I hope you can see the point.  You cannot add to the cross – even with good things.  Our salvation, our forgiveness, our righteousness has to come 100% from Christ alone – not Christ and our work.

If I sin tomorrow (those who know me would probably rather I said “when I sin tomorrow”), the confidence that this sin has already been dealt with on the cross once and for all, is the only basis I have to believe that I am forgiven!  My confidence is not in Jesus AND my flesh, not in Jesus AND my ability to live right, not in Jesus AND my ability to bring the sin to the cross, not in Jesus AND anything: it is in Jesus ALONE.   Only His grace has forgiven my sin, and if you think that is too much grace you have not yet understood the gospel.

It always concerns me when people say “the cross hasn’t dealt with future sins” because every sin I ever committed as a believer and unbeliever was AFTER the cross.  The truth is that every sin was dealt with on the cross because 1 Peter 3.18 tells us that Christ died for sins ONCE AND FOR ALL.  If Christ only died for sins once, then it is safe to say that they were all dealt with.

To call this hyper-grace is to fail to appreciate the beauty of the cross.  On the cross, Jesus became sin with our sin, so we could be made the righteousness of God (2 Cor. 5.21).  He took all your sin, all my sin, all the sin of the millions and billions of people on the earth into His own body and died in agony.  Then after rising on the third day, He arose a life giving spirit and now can freely pour His righteousness, life and peace into anyone who believes.  It’s that simple.  It’s a done deal.

Sin is not and will never be a barrier to our relationship with God again.  Any sin you have committed, that you are right now committing or will commit in the future – that was laid on Christ on the cross.  The cross reaches across all of time and space and drew all judgment for sin onto Jesus so there is now no more judgment for sin – no matter if you did it yesterday or today or tomorrow.  It is dealt with.  Jesus was the propitiation not just for our sins, but for the sins of the entire world (1 John 2.2)!

If it is hyper-grace to believe that all sin has been dealt with on the cross, then guess what: I am hyper grace.  Hebrews 9.28 says that Christ cannot come and deal with sin again.  Why?  Because the original work was so perfect, so wonderful, so complete.  It once and for all dealt with all sin in all people at all times in all places.  It’s a done deal!  It’s complete!  It’s done!  This needs to be shouted from the rooftops and should not be muffled because someone misrepresents grace and says (without any Scriptural warrant) that Christ only died for SOME sins!  Ignore those who seek to minimize the cross, and preach what Paul preached: our hope, our life, our forgiveness, our healing, our power comes from Christ and Him crucified – and not our works!  Now you will have to make the same course correction that Paul made and remind people sin kills, but if you never have to clarify that, you have not preached the New Covenant gospel ever!

But only does the author fail to grasp the full magnitude and greatness of the work of the cross, they also fail to grasp what is necessary to benefit from the cross, saying:

Repentance, they claim, is the acknowledgment of a sin that has already been forgiven. Why put back in the ledger what has already been erased? So the reasoning goes.

So, the second problem the author has is that grace people fail to recognize repentance.  For the author repentance is feeling sorry for your sin and also – as stated clearly in the article – that repentance is necessary for forgiveness. In other words if you don’t say sorry for your sin – and say sorry and mean it – then you will not be forgiven.  The author leaves it to our imagination as to whether that means that the Christian who does not say sorry for their sin ends up in hell, or just a dark place in heaven, but the point is made: the author thinks it is wrong to say that sin is automatically forgiven.

To be honest, that point of view is so far from the New Covenant, it is hard to work out where to start.  Our salvation does not depend on our ability to say sorry.  That is a lie.  The complete forgiveness of our sins is based on His propitiation not our sorrow, not our repentance, not our ability to craft a well-intended, well-meaning sorry.  The prodigal son never went home because he felt bad for treating his father so terribly, he went home because he was hungry and fed up.  When his father sees him, he does have a well-rehearsed apology, but the father doesn’t care.  He is just so happy to see His son, He rejoices and killed the fatted calf.

That is the nature of our Father.  The moment we believe the good news that Christ paid the whole price for our salvation and our peace with God, He turns on the jukebox, puts on a happy songs and starts dancing over us and rejoicing over us.  He paid the price so we could be free and at peace, not so we could grovel on the floor before him thinking of the right words and hoping we were sad enough and strained enough for Him to find pity on us enough to let us into the kingdom.  That is a total under-estimation of how good grace is!  That’s why I called this article the deception of hypo-grace.

Hypo- and hyper- are both Greek words, and they are actually exact opposites.  They are both prepositions which mean that they go before words to alter their meaning.  Hypo- means to go under (a hypo-dermic needle goes under your skin), and hyper- means to go above (a hyper-active child has above average activity!).  The author thinks we have made the mistake and are hyper-grace, when the truth is that he is hypo-grace because he erroneously believes that grace is not enough: it needs our pitiful, half-hearted attempts at an apology and our fiery insistence that we will live right to activate it and make it work.

Did you know that Peter’s sins were forgiven before he even sinned them?  Jesus prophesied Peter would sin and betray him, but in the same prophecy (in Luke 22.32) Jesus also tells Peter that when he is converted (i.e. after the sin) that he must strengthen his brothers.  From Jesus point of view the sin was totally forgiven before Peter even committed it!

Hypo-grace people can’t grasp that.  Their picture of grace isn’t big enough.  The idea that Peter would deny Christ and seven weeks later preach at the biggest Christian conference that had even happened at that time is anathema to them.  Their picture of grace isn’t big enough.  They are hypo-grace people, and because their picture of grace is too small, they keep polluting grace by adding our works, our effort, our holiness.

Paul wrote to the Galatians who were trying to add circumcision to the grace because the Galatians were hypo-grace Christians.  They thought you started in the spirit and continued in the flesh – Paul said that was witchcraft!  Paul is saying here that if you believe that Jesus forgave your past, but that His grace hasn’t forgiven your future and you have to do that in your own work then you are preaching and teaching witchcraft.  That’s strong stuff, but it is exactly what Paul says.  That’s why I am raising the bar here and making this point.  For those of you who think that language is too strong, remember the article I am responding to started off calling grace people the vomit of satan!  I am just using the language Paul used for the Galatian church!

And as for Paul, the question we have to ask is this: was Paul a hyper-grace person – an abundant, more than enough grace person, or was Paul a teacher of hypo-grace, that grace was not enough.

Well, we find his answer in 1 Tim. 1.14 which says “And the grace of our Lord was exceeding abundant”.  If you dig into the Greek, when Paul says that the grace of our Lord was exceeding abundant, the Greek word is hyperpleonazō, which translated means above-abounding, or overflowing, or overabundant.

Paul saw that grace was hyper.  It is more than enough.  It is above and beyond anything you could ever dream of.  It has forgiven you already, even for the sins you haven’t even committed. It doesn’t need your works, your sorrow, your effort, your strain and your passion added to it to make up for it’s shortfalls – it has no shortfalls.  Grace needs nothing added to it; it simply needs to be believed and received.

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