In churches every week, you will hear one of two messages. You will either hear a mixed-grace gospel or you will hear the hyper-grace gospel.
Do you know how to tell the difference?
A mixed-grace gospel combines the unmerited favor of God with the merited wage of human-effort. “You are saved by grace but you maintain your position through right-living,” is an example of a mixed-grace message. “God gives you grace so that you can keep His commands,” is another. These sorts of messages contain an element of grace but ultimately push you to trust in yourself and your own efforts.
Any mixed-grace message can be recognized by the presence of carrots and sticks. Carrots are the blessings you get for obedience; sticks are the penalties you pay for disobedience.
The modern mixed-grace message offers the following carrots: If you confess, you’ll be forgiven; if you do right, you’ll be accepted; if you act holy, you’ll be holy.
And what happens if you don’t do these things? What are the sticks of the mixed-grace message? Fail to perform according to prevailing codes of conduct and you’ll lose your forgiveness, you’ll lose your fellowship, and, if worse comes to worse, you may lose your salvation.
None of this sounds like good news to me.
Yet tragically this is the sort of message that millions of people hear every week. They don’t hear about Jesus; they hear about carrots and sticks.
Bite into any mixed-grace message and you will taste a bitter fruit. You will feel the pressure to perform and smell the fear that comes with failure. You’ll make promises to God and then you’ll break them. You’ll resolve to try harder only to fail again and again. You’ll become burned out and bummed out.
Since a mixed-grace message puts the emphasis on you and what you have done, your identity will become defined by your productivity. You will start to think of yourself as God’s servant instead of His beloved son or daughter. Worst of all, you will end up distracted from Jesus and fallen from grace.
Don’t swallow any poison that comes with a spoonful of grace. And don’t subscribe to any message that leads you to trust in yourself and your works instead of Jesus and His. To paraphrase Watchman Nee, “You can try or you can trust and the difference is heaven and hell.”
And if by grace, then it cannot be based on works; if it were, grace would no longer be grace. (Romans 11:6)
You may have heard that God gives us grace in order to do good works, but this is misleading. God does not give you grace so that you can work. He gives you grace because He loves you. Period. Those who receive from the abundance of His grace do indeed work and often they work harder than anyone else, but that’s neither here nor there.
The issue is not what you’ll do for God but what you’ll let Him do for you. Will you trust Him a little bit or will you trust Him the whole way? Does His grace merely get you in the front door or does it keep you safe to the very end?
As Jesus said, the only work that counts is the “work” of believing in the One He has sent (John 6:29). This is the chief takeaway of the hyper-grace gospel.
Adapted from The Hyper-Grace Gospel, pp.15-18.