Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Radical Grace ISN'T New and it ISN'T Heresy!!

One of the many charges levelled at Rob and Ryan Rufus and Joseph Prince and any other Ephesians 4 Ministries who are seeking to spread the "Grace Revolution" around the globe is that they are giving people a "license to sin". I love Rob's reply to this one - he says; "You who say this - check your own churches. You will find your people are not requiring a license to sin!". But other charges are that Rob Rufus is misinterpreting the Word of God and dangerously close to antinomianism - all of which simply isn't true. I've heard enough of Rob's sermons (and I've heard a lot) to know that he deeply cares how his church live because he knows that true happiness doesn't lie in sin!

But last night when I was at work I decided to take along some books to explore deeper some of the verses that I've heard Rob Rufus expound and see how he compares. Last night I took along two volumes from Dr Martyn Lloyd-Jones wonderful series on the book of Romans. The one volume I read last night was "Exposition of Chapter 7:1 - 8:4 - The Law: It's Function and Limits". And let me say it was a highly interesting read. Dr Martyn Lloyd-Jones is a highly respected evangelical preacher and would be held by most as a hero of the faith. I know even some of the legalists who hate Rob's grace teaching so much respect Dr Lloyd-Jones. I was stunned therefore to read the following quote while the Doctor was preaching on Romans 7:1 (p10);

"It does not matter how deeply, how violently you may sin as a believer, you should never come again under condemnation. If you do, it is because you have not understood your relationship to the Law, and you have put yourself back 'under law' again.

'By saying that' says someone, 'yu have incited people to go on and sin as much as they liked'. Not at all! In reality I have done the exact opposite; because if you but really understand the truth at this point it will give you much strength to withstand sin.

I say again, that however much you may sin, and whatever the character of the sin, you must never put yourself back 'under the law'; you must never have that sense of condemnation again".

I sent this quote as a teasing text to Pete Day this morning and knew he would instantly guess it was Rob Rufus who said it - like myself, he was amazed to find it was Dr Lloyd-Jones! The second volume I took along was; "Exposition of Chapter 6: The New Man". And it had some just as amazing quotes! Does anyone remember my rather snappy reaction to a Christmas Newsletter where I read that the writer stated that Todd Bentley had "fallen from grace"? I stated then back in December that I just couldn't agree with how the writer used the term. "To fall from grace" is in fact to fall back "under law".

I was intrigued therefore to find out that Dr Martyn Lloyd-Jones had his views on the right usage of the term "fallen from grace" also. I note them because I happen to know the writer of that newsletter had great respect for Dr Lloyd-Jones. Here's what the Doctor had to say - commenting on Romans 6:11;

"I am not only not under the dominion of the Law at this moment - I never shall be! My whole relationship to the Law as something that is against me, that condemns me, has finished once and for ever. THERE IS NO SUCH THING AS 'FALLING FROM GRACE'. If I am in Christ, I am in Christ".

Considering that the whole volume is talking about "The New Man" - a reader might be forgiven for wondering what Dr Lloyd-Jones views on the "Old Man" are. My US friend Janelle and I have had some interesting discussings about "Indwelling Sin" - I remember her making a comment that I thought over for ages saying something like; "My old man is particularly strong at the moment". It troubled me back then. I think I know where Sovereign Grace Ministries get this flow of thought from. C J Mahaney stated years ago that one of the books that tops his list of most influential is Volume 4 from John Owen's Works; "Mortification of Sin".

Bearing in mind this is Dr Lloyd-Jones we are discussing - I suppose even I would have assumed he would have a similar view to the Puritans as he had such respect for them. But Dr Lloyd-Jones was never afraid to critique his heroes. He much preferred Jonathan Edwards because Edwards had a far more experiential theology as opposed to John Owen's more "academic" style. So Dr Lloyd-Jones had this to say again on Romans 6:11 - "reckon yourselves dead to sin";

"Therefore we must not begin to think in terms of a conciousness of sin within us and how we are going to get rid of it, for there never was any sin in Christ at all and He never had any conciousness of sin ... We are told to realise and hold before ourselves and in our conciousness constantly, something that is already true of our position or status. It is not an exhortation to us to do anything with regard to sin but to realise what has already been done for us with respect to our relationship to sin.

It is an exhortation to us to remember what is already true of us. It urges us to realise what has already happened to us as Christians; those of us who are joined to the Lord Jesus Christ. And what is true of us is that we are already in an entirely new position and standing with respect to sin".

As though knowing that he would receive experience-based arguments, Dr Lloyd-Jones answers them;

"Should someone come to me and say 'But how can I say that I am indeed dead unto sin when I am concious of sin within me and I feel I am a terrible sinner?' - my answer is that you have got to believe it in spite of those feelings, exactly as Abraham had to believe God's Word that Sarah was going to bear a son though he knew that as he had reached the age of ninety-nine and Sarah ninety, the thing was a sheer impossibility on the natural level.

Now this is what this statement exhorts us to do. It is not experimental, not a matter of experience but we just have to take this word that if we are in Christ, if we are joined to Christ - and that is true of every believer in Him - then we are already "dead to sin" even as He is dead to sin".

I realise that has rather breath-taking implications for the Christian book-saturated market. Writing books on techniques to defeat sin is big business. But what money the Christian could save if we would be realise that we are "dead to sin" and that sin has no more power in us than a rotting corpse! But we do sin! That's the fact! Dr Lloyd-Jones doesn't deny this but he says;

"We must realise rather that every time we sin, we sin deliberately and as a child of God. We are no longer merely breaking or offending against the Law, we are now wounding love. That is much more grevious, but it is not a legal offence".

I am not sure why the church has so deliberately bound itself to coming back 'under law' and becoming so works-focused. But I suspect that the devil had a strong hand in it - and in deceiving us to believing that what we do actually makes some difference to our standing with God. What Christ has DONE makes the difference! I am so excited about these quotes - I think it adds to the growing evidence that there is something so powerful in this "Grace Revolution". It is not only a matter of our conversion and how we came in - but how we progress. If these quotes are right and Dr Lloyd-Jones has a point - as do Rob and Ryan Rufus and others - then this view has got breath-taking implications for our on-going sanctification too.


jul said...

Excellent post my friend!

lydia joy said...

It's ashame that the church can't take God at His word and instead have to be convinced of the truth, based on some hero of the faith's thoughts and quotes..........nevertheless, this was an excellent post!! Well done!!

RJW said...

I am soooo enjoying witnessing you coming into your understanding of who you REALLY are. are santified. It's not ongoing. You are totally complete in Christ; you're just growing in your revelation and experience of that TRUTH.

If sanctification is dependent on us, well, 'nuff said. :)

You are a NEW CREATION. That status doesn't change, improve, etc. Just your realization of this changes, which might affect your experience but certainly not God's point of view.

God speaks; life happens. God says, "You are" and we ARE! What we do, understand, or experience doesn't dictate to God; what He has said should be dictating to us!! God isn't interested in "positional" truth. He placed us in His Son; we're in TRUTH. THAT's what our minds have to be renewed to!!

Dan Bowen said...

"It's ashame that the church can't take God at His word and instead have to be convinced of the truth, based on some hero of the faith's thoughts and quotes".

Yep Lydia - good point. Does that "hero mentality" stem from a basic lack of confidence in the fact that God will speak to US and reveal His truth to US just as clearly as He will to His servants like Rob Rufus and Dr Lloyd-Jones etc etc? Do WE believe that God loves US just as MUCH as He loves those men? Well up until recently I would have probably hesitated. Now I can say with assurance; "YESSSSSSS!!!!!".

R J W - thanks so good to see you back again! Loving your blog, its such a place of refuge. Thanks for the correction, yes you are right. See my past still speaks! It is all about realising who we are and then the change comes into effect! The legal statement has already been uttered that we are seated and reigning with Christ NOW! And the devil and demons are under our feet NOW!!

And we have DIED to sin!! NOW!!

Chris Welch - 07000INTUNE said...

In 1972,I'd been baptised in the Spirit,and a kind friend referred me to The Normal Christian Life by Watchman Nee. I read it, potted it down and gave the small litho version to my friends. I spent the summer hols in Scotland on the Isle of Coll(Inner Hebrides) and earlier in Wales. I remember the precise meditations I was pondering. It was wrestling with Corinthians and Romans. And it was simply this. Why is what I 'm hearing preached at the renewed Baptist Church in Amersham NOT what I'm reading. And you my friend are spelling out the first bit of the reason why. The church...particularly in England, is NOT grounded correctly. It's Jesus plus works over here.