Throwing Grace Under the Bus
Bad things happen. We understand that is part of this living in this world. Cars break down, parades get rained on and raisins are put into cookies instead of chocolate chips. Some bad things are on another level. People get diseases, relationships are broken and wars are fought. But a tragedy is something unique. A tragedy is when an exceptionally wonderful good is dramatically and unexpectedly snuffed out by evil. Such things would be the death or crippling of children or the shocking sin of a trusted leader.
But we have to remember that so much is relative. Even tragedies can be of different types. As mentioned above, the death of a child is always tragic, but even the death of a child, as tragic as it is, is not as devastatingly horrific as falling under God’s wrath. Death, even the death of a child, cannot be compared to the second death, for the second death is eternal and unspeakable in its sufferings. And that brings us to the ultimate tragedy. The ultimate tragedy is to experience the blessing and power of grace and yet be dramatically and unexpectedly drawn away from it. This is something that can happen and there are several warnings in scripture about this.
Galatians 5:4 You have been severed from Christ, you who are seeking to be justified by law; you have fallen from grace.
Hebrews 12:15 See to it that no one comes short of the grace of God; that no root of bitterness springing up causes trouble, and by it many be defiled;
2 Corinthians 6:1 And working together with Him, we also urge you not to receive the grace of God in vain—
Right now the whole world is experiencing God’s grace. This is called common grace and everyone is enjoying it. It is experienced in varying degrees through rain and sunshine, food and family, government and various restrains on sin. But some people are given much grace. They own a Bible, they are in a good church, they go to seminary, they have believing and faithful parents, they see God change lives with the gospel and on and on. This is to have much light. God has revealed himself and shown how glorious he is in marvelous ways.
To fall away from this much grace is possibly the greatest tragedy that can be imagined. Everything needed was there, there was so much glory to be had, but they fell away from grace and choose the temporal over the eternal. In the above verses, we see varying degrees of this. In Galatians 5:4, it is turning from the good news of the gospel and back to a work-based salvation. This rejection of Christ would surely lead to condemnation. Hebrews 12:15 describes either coming short of God’s grace and being condemned or falling short and being a Christian in disobedience. The 2 Corinthians passage is strictly directed to believers, encouraging them not to ignore what they have but to tap into God’s powerful help.
Each of these is a tragedy. These were people who were basking in the light of grace. They were not teetering on the edge of doubt, but securely fixed upon the platform of vision with clear views all around. Yet, in a move of dramatic and unexpected rejection, they chose the world instead. They refused the fountain of living water and ran to broken cisterns that could hold no water (Jeremiah 2:12-13).
The ultimate example of this is what is called the unpardonable sin in Matthew chapter 12. Jesus spoke to the Pharisees and warned them that having had the word of God fulfilled in their view, and having seen the work of the Spirit of God in their midst, to then attribute it to Satan would be unforgivable. When the Spirit has revealed that much and it is rejected, there is nothing left to be done. Judgment comes early and a person is sealed in their hardness. You see this same event happening in Hebrews 6:4-8 where people are “enlightened”, have “tasted of the heavenly gift”, are “partakers of the Holy Spirit”, have “tasted the good Word of God, and have tasted the “powers of the age to come.” This is all grace upon grace. And yet they fall away from it and come short of it. So much good rain, but only thorn and thistles grow, as expressed in verses 7-8. This is a tragedy. So much glory and good was experienced and more was to come. But it was all thrown away.
How could any of this ever happen? Why trade the wings of grace for the lead shoes of sin? Deceit is the only answer to why people would reject grace. If you make those lead shoes look good enough, people will turn over their wings. Put a sweet paint job on those shoes, attach fake rocket boosters, promise the glories of flight, and add the endorsement of celebrities and people will turn over their wings. Deceit is Satan’s master craft. He has pulled this off countless times.
How do you save yourself from this? One of the specific calls of God upon his people is that we would “encourage one another day after day, as long as it is still called ‘Today,’ so that none of you will be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin.” (Heb.3:13) We are God’s instruments for keeping the glories of God’s grace front and center in each other’s lives and for exposing lies. We fight the fight of faith both for ourselves and for one another. We strive to never take grace for granted, but to receive it with thankfulness and walk in it. We strive to never neglect, or squander, or downplay what God has done in giving himself to us. We strive to grow in it and be strong in it. And we do all of this for one another as well.
Hebrews 13:9 Do not be carried away by varied and strange teachings; for it is good for the heart to be strengthened by grace…”