Grace, grace, grace...tends to be the fashionable outcry of popular Christianity. Walk into any church and the message will more than likely be on God's grace. There will be grace peppered into every song, grace will be the title of the sermon, and "Grace" will probably be in the name of the church somewhere. It is not unfashionable or offensive to speak of grace. Turn the radio to the Christian station and you will hear Matthew West singing, "There's only grace. There's only love. There's only mercy and believe me it's enough". Or you will hear Pocket Full of Rocks' opening lyrics, "He's not mad at you. He's not disappointed. His grace is greater still". Afterwards, the radio hosts will make no qualms about proclaiming the grace of God and the grace Christians should have to each other. Grace is well spoken of and touted as wonderful, beautiful, and often leaving those who experience it in awe. These are all good and true things. The problem arises when this virtue is emphasized to the point of crowding out all other Biblical virtues, thus leaving the the Church ill-equipped to guard against the vices to which it is prone.
In C.S. Lewis' Screwtape Letters, the veteran demon, Screwtape, discusses how the spiritual forces of darkness attempt to direct the popular thoughts of humans:
"The use of Fashions in thought is to distract the attention
of men from their real dangers. We direct the fashionable outcry of
each generation against those vices of which it is least in danger and
fix its approval on the virtue nearest to that vice which we are
trying to make endemic. The game is to have them all running about
with fire extinguishers whenever there is a flood, and all crowding to
that side of the boat which is already nearly gunwale under."
The vice which is endemic in the Church today is lawlessness and licentiousness. The fashionable outcry is grace. The virtue of grace has been approved to the point of proclaiming obedience and repentance an arduous endeavor for those who dare. It may be difficult to find a sermon overtly co-opting grace as a means to continue in sin because the perversion is usually more subtle, but the message is still conveyed through the incessant focus on grace, elementarily understood. This, coupled with the lack of exhortations to repentance and obedience, nearly puts the ship's gunwale under. The hearers ingest the grace message as milk rather than solid foods because grace is not just the realization that you have been given something you do not deserve, but it brings you into repentance and obedience as well. Do you not know that "God's kindness leads you toward repentance?" (Romans 2:4).
God sent His son to die for the sins of mankind, an act of grace. Yet, the very first words out of Christ's mouth initiating His ministry were, "The kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel" (Mark 1:15). And His appeals to obedience were not unusual, “If you love Me, you will keep My commandments" (John 14:5), "Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of My Father who is in heaven" (Matthew 7:21) or "I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness" (Matthew 7:23). God is not as one-dimensional as the fashions in thought propagate. Obedience pleases God. "For I delight in loyalty rather than sacrifice." (Hosea 6:6 NAS) And Paul sums this up well in Romans 6:1-2, "What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin so that grace may increase? May it never be! How shall we who died to sin still live in it?". Beloved Christians, stop the foolishness, and might I say cowardice, of running to floods with fire extinguishers. Run to the fires.