Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Ukraine Ponderings on "Cheap Grace"

Sasha and Natasha Savich

I asked my good friend and fellow pastor, Sasha Savich, what is one major difference between USAmerican evangelical Christians and Ukrainian evangelical Christians.

He thought for quite a time. Then, he said, "Cheap grace. You American Christians have cheap grace. You think that once you're saved, you're always saved no matter how you live. There is no seriousness about how you live your lives before God. In Ukraine, we think our daily life shows whether or not we are truly saved. We have to persevere in obedient living in order to have confidence that we belong to God. It's not that we believe we lose our salvation, but that, in obediently following Jesus, we show that we have true salvation. There is no 'cheap grace'."

Somehow Sasha's comments have an apostolic ring to them. We in the USA present a "bar code"gospel (according to Dallas Willard), believing we'll be scanned into heaven when we die--no questions asked. The idea of seriously persevering in the faith (as a good tree bears good fruit) is optional for us because we have a glib "eternity security" rider on our salvation insurance.

Plus, Sasha went on to say, we in America have so many places to go to church. If a church is not to our liking or confronts us because of our sin, we just go down the street to a church that fits our tastes. We can live any way we want. In Ukraine at present, to be called to a holy life is a serious matter because biblically faithful, believing communities are hard to find. Sadly, with the McDonaldization of the church in Ukraine, this will fade. Sasha laments this inevitability.

Perhaps we leaders and congregations in the USAmerican church need to take the warnings, the very real warnings, of the Book of Hebrews to heart.

It's worth pondering.



At 2/22/2007 12:23 PM, Blogger Terry Rayburn said...

Hi John,

"We have to persevere in obedient living in order to have confidence that we belong to God."

Sasha sounds like a wonderful brother, but I have really mixed feelings about his comments because of the following:

1) "Cheap Grace" has become an un-useful term, because it is so abused by Legalists. Biblically speaking, "grace" is not only *cheap* for the believer, it is *free*, or it's not grace at all. Paul made it clear to the Galatians that to mix grace with performance was to "fall from grace". I.e., to get off of the ground of grace onto the ground of performance.

Yet "grace" is, of course, not *cheap* for Jesus, since it cost Him dearly on our behalf.

2) To put "obedience" as the ground of our confidence is to cry out for the question, "How much obedience? 10% of the time? 90% of the time?" As the old song goes, "Runnin' runnin' runnin', trying to make 100. 99 and a half just won't do."

Obedience is certainly a natural result of the New Creation, and God is indeed at work in us believers both to will and to work for His good pleasure.

Yet when obedience is the ground of our confidence, it will either cause us to doubt our relationship to the Lord (when we're not performing too well), or cause us to feel self-righteous (when we think we're performing pretty well).

Surely you've seen both of these states many times, John, as a Pastor. Both are unbiblical, because the foundation is unbiblical (performance-based confidence).

3) What looks like "cheap grace" (in America or wherever) is not grace at all. It's a subtle form of Legalism called "go forward and your in", or "get baptized and you're in", or "say this prayer and you're in". That's not Grace, cheap or otherwise, it's simply a "stamp-your-ticket, good-for-the-whole-trip" Law.

Those who are really "in" are those who believe on the Lord Jesus Christ. The accompanying New Birth, causing a New Creation, miraculously results in a Saint who loves Jesus and hates sin, in their very spirit.

4) In that sense, Sasha has a good point, because there are obviously many in America and elsewhere, who call Jesus Lord, but simply are not "those who love Him and are the called according to His purpose".

But to be looking for one's confidence in one's level of obedience, is to keep one's eyes off of Jesus, and onto self --- a dry, if not miserable, way for a New Creation to live.

5) Finally, Paul does admonish us to "examine" ourselves to see if we are "in the faith". I've always recommended a careful reading of 1 John for that purpose, since it contains insights into the "heart" of a believer/unbeliever, without undue emphasis on measuring specific performance.


At 2/24/2007 10:30 PM, Blogger John Frye said...

I appreciate your observations. I read them to Sasha and he thinks you are making helpful comments. By obedient living as evidence of salvation Sasha simply means "by their fruit you shall know them." It is not enough to just say "I am saved. I received Jesus." Like James says, "Faith without works is dead." Blessings to you and your family.

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