8 Signs that a Church Doesn’t Get Grace

Danger graceless church_MEDA while ago I listed eight signs of hyper-grace churches. A hyper-grace church is one that is so focused on Jesus that it begins to look like Jesus, talk like Jesus, and smell like Jesus.

To highlight a positive it helps to accentuate the negative. So how do we get it wrong? What are the signs that a church is missing the grace of God?

Here are eight of them:

1. They are self-conscious

The message you hear is, “You must nail yourself to the cross every day.” So Christ’s sacrifice wasn’t good enough? “You have to cleanse yourself and make yourself holy.” You cannot succeed.

A focus on self and the things you must do to stay saved, get holy, and be blessed, is the number one sign you have missed the grace of God. Self says I will, but the gospel says He will.

Self cannot supply what God freely provides. We don’t need seven keys to success or fourteen steps to sanctification. We need a revelation of Jesus Christ and what he has done for us. Christ is our righteousness and holiness from God.

2. They’re not sure if God likes them

“Sure, he’s a God of love, but he’s also a God of justice. He sends earthquakes to punish cities. He takes away your children. He trains you with sickness and scourging, so don’t make him angry.” What awful lies! What fear and insecurity this graceless teaching has brought to those whom God loves.

See the cross! If God did not spare his own Son, what won’t he do to reveal his love to us? God is not mad at you, he’s mad about you!

3. They speak (and sing) the faithless language of longing

A sure sign that some have missed grace is they ask Jesus to do what he’s already done. “Oh Lord, come down.” He already did. “Have mercy on us.” Ditto. “Make us holy.” “Come and cleanse us.” “Bind the strong man.” Tick, tick, tick.

Or they beg God to do what he never would do. “Lord, don’t leave us.” He said he wouldn’t. “You give and take away.” No, he doesn’t.

The language of longing is the language of the old covenant. Good news: The wait is over. Christ has come! In him you are home. Everything you need for life and godliness has been provided. So change your tune and learn the new song of the new creation. It’s a song of praise and thanksgiving (Ps 34:1, Heb 13:15).

Blackboard old v new

4. They are sin-conscious

“I’m just a sinner saved by grace.” “Let’s examine ourselves for sin before worshipping.” “Confess your sins to remain in fellowship with the Lord.” What an insult to the Spirit of grace. If the Holy Spirit chooses to remember your sins no more (Heb 10:17), what business is it of yours to remind him?

An obsession with sin is a hallmark of the old covenant, but it has no place in the new. Behold the Lamb of God who has taken away the sin of the world.

When you sin, a graceless church will shovel the shame. “Look at what you did.” They will reach for the stones instead of reaching for the only thing that can empower you to go and sin no more. Hint: it’s grace (Tit 2:11-12).

5. They are law-minded

“The law shows us how to please God.” No it doesn’t. “The law helps you overcome sin.” Actually, the law helps sin overcome you (Rom 7:9). “God gives us grace so that we might keep his commands.” No, God gives us grace because he loves us.

As Paul explains in Romans 7, running after the law is committing spiritual adultery. It’s cheating on Jesus. A church that mixes law with grace is lukewarm and nauseating to the Lord.

6. They think grace just is for sinners

“We are saved by grace, but kept by discipline.” Nope. It’s grace from start to finish (Heb 12:2). Grace is not one aspect of God that must be balanced against his other, less gracious aspects. Grace is everything. You are saved by grace and kept by grace. Grace is for everyone. Period. The end. Amen.

7. They treat people as resources

In a graceless church your value is determined by your behavior. Are you a hard worker? You’ll go far! Are you divorced? Forget about it.

In a graceless church visitors are valued as potential members, while members are valued as potential leaders. And because there are never enough people to fulfill the vision, everyone is busy, busy, busy. When activity replaces fellowship and friendships become task-based, when children are kept out of the way because they get in the way, real life has left the building.

8. They are insecure and anxious

A graceless church is an uncertain church. “Are you saved? Are you sure? Are you doing enough?” Instead of preaching the promises of Jesus, a graceless church promotes the promises of man. And since we can’t keep the promises we make, the result is failure and despair.

A graceless church is attractive to the self-righteous but unappealing to sinners. It is a place the zealots call home but the prodigals avoid. It is a place where the sheep are fleeced and the poor are exploited. It stinks of self and it is a terrible advertisement for Jesus.

But here’s the good news: God loves graceless churches! He loves the mixed-up people inside them and the misguided leaders who run them. I know this because I was a misguided pastor and this list was my testimony. But God has given me a new and better testimony, a testimony of his grace.

May the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all, my friends. (Gal 6:18)


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9 Comments on 8 Signs that a Church Doesn’t Get Grace

  1. This is absolutely BEAUTIFUL !!!
    “Couldn’t agree more !!!!!

    • Marjorie Keenan // December 4, 2018 at 8:59 am // Reply

      About 5 years ago Holy Spirit started showing me the true Covenant of Grace that we should be living under. I realized how so many in the body were living with one foot in law and one foot in Grace. We cannot live in death and life at the same time. The Bible talks all about this in Corinthians and even refers to the Ten Commandments as a ministry of death. I now have both feet in Grace and what a difference. The double minded person is unstable in all their ways. Thank you Jesus that you are Grace personified. Thank you for your finished work at the cross. Man is truly redeemed! There is NO CONDEMNATION IN CHRIST JESUS!!

  2. Wow a nrw version of once saved always saved.

    Continue in your sin who cares??? Come on then why did Hod make the laws I believe in grace but not exactly this way. Where is repentance? Is this just another way to tickle ears? If we are going to do away with all the rules then why not tithing too?

    Interesting thought bet that rule didn’t get thrown out.

    God Bless

    • Don in Tucson // December 5, 2018 at 5:02 pm // Reply

      Actually , tithing is thrown out too : ) We were never invited to the law as gentiles. Christ IS the end of the law ,and that includes tithing.

    • Squawks 5000 // December 6, 2018 at 3:32 am // Reply

      The main reason why we repent/avoid sin is not to demonstrate faith (to God) or to get to heaven — it’s to live an abundant life (John 10:10) and to avoid getting our lives wrecked. Sin ruins lives and induces avoidable guilt.

      • Marjorie Keenan // December 6, 2018 at 7:38 am //

        I think what so many don’t realize is that the law came about because the Israelites chose not to live according to God’s goodness and grace, but they wanted to be judged on their own goodness. The law proved that man could not live a sinless life on his own–he needs God. The law leads to idolatry and increased sin. The Bible refers to the law and 10 commandments as a ministry of death. (2 Cor. 4: 2-18) Jesus redeemed man from sin. He paid the price for all the sin of the world, past, present and future. The sin issue is finished. God sees only the blood of Jesus. He said He would remember our sin no more. Jesus was the final sacrifice for sin. The Covenant of Grace is not based on what we do or don’t do, it is based on what Jesus did–His finished work on the cross. Grace is a ministry of life. Knowing the true ministry of grace causes us to know the love of God in a very intimate way, thus causing us to move away from sin and to live in the holiness and righteousness that Jesus established for us. Our spirits are perfect and as we walk in His love and renew our minds to His word, our flesh lines up. Grace is a gift and we cannot earn it by any good works. The law was based on works, grace is based on believing the finished work of Jesus. We are forgiven, healed and prosperous. Unconditional love cannot be earned–it has no conditions on it!

      • Don in Tucson // December 6, 2018 at 11:20 am //

        Hi, Marjorie. You articulated that very well me thinks : ) Paul E has taught us well wouldn’t you agree ?

      • Marjorie Keenan // December 6, 2018 at 2:11 pm //

        Thanks Don! In 2014 Holy Spirit led me to write a book. He started to teach me about real Grace. He also taught me what the story of Job was really all about. I always knew we were being taught wrong, but I couldn’t seem to get a handle on it and was not good at arguing about translation of Scripture. I was scared to release my book as I knew it was controversial, but Holy Spirit assured me I should. Right after that Holy Spirit took me to Paul Ellis’ site. I was so excited, as he was teaching what I had written and he was filling in all the blanks for me. His book AD70 put the icing on the cake for me, as I had always questioned what was being taught about end times. I thank God for Paul and also Creflo Dollar who is teaching on living under the Covenant of Grace. All these years it was right under our noses, but it takes bold teachers to step out and give these revelations to the body of Christ, which has been bound by the law for far too long. God bless you Don! I can tell you have been set free too!

  3. Was pushed out of a graceless Church, because I called it the way it was. But we won’t abandon our Savior, we will pray for the miss guided and forgive the wrongs. A Church without grace is a Church whose leadership is without grace. Without grace not one of us could enter into the gate.

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