How do we handle the suffering of those in the world, those who refuse to follow the Lord? Well, what about those who profess to be Christians yet have no hunger for living a Holy life? Look, all of us know that there are some within our churches that may attend every Sunday, but during the rest of the week, display base and “unholy” lives. Just sayin’ . . .
What about those who are indeed sincere and committed disciples of Jesus, but find themselves fallen and beaten from their own sins?
I used to always say that there is one way to tell the difference between true believers and those just hanging around. It is quite simple actually: those with the life of Christ in them are not trying to get away with sin; they are trying to get away from sin. See the difference? Far too many are being chicaned into embracing what Dietrich Bonhoeffer called, “Cheap Grace.”
Probably one of the most quoted parts of Bonhoeffer’s book, “Disciple,” makes a clear delineation between “cheap” Grace and “costly” Grace. As Bonhoeffer writes,
“cheap grace is the preaching of forgiveness without requiring repentance, baptism without church discipline. Communion without confession. Cheap grace is grace without discipleship, grace without the cross, grace without Jesus Christ.”
According to Bonhoeffer, modern preachers say, “Of course you have sinned, but now everything is forgiven, so you can stay as you are and enjoy the consolations of forgiveness.” But there is no demand for discipleship. However, he adds:
“costly grace confronts us as a gracious call to follow Jesus, it comes as a word of forgiveness to the broken spirit and the contrite heart. It is costly because it compels a man to submit to the yoke of Christ and follow him; it is grace because Jesus says: “My yoke is easy and my burden is light.”
Okay, so how can we be sure that we belong to Him? Well, simply by looking into our own hearts: are we really trying to do what he wants? Is our heart intent on obedience and love? Clearly we can always find someone out there saying, “I’m a Christian; I am on my way to heaven; I belong to Christ.” Nevertheless, Jesus made it clear that if they do not obey Him, they are being deceived. Actually, one translation puts it much plainer: you are a liar. Ouch!
On the other hand, those who do what Christ tells them to will learn to love God, and will be drawn even closer and those lines of doubt will be erased. That is the way to know whether you are a Christian. In his first letter, John wrote,
“No one who lives in Him keeps on sinning. No one who continues to sin has either seen him or known him.”
So how can you tell the difference from the chastening of the Lord and the retribution of our sins? How can we tell if we are under some intense test or simply reaping what we have sown? Now don’t forget Proverbs 19:3, from the Message, it says,
“People ruin their lives by their own stupidity, so why does GOD always get blamed?”
Just because you have been fighting cancer or having constant financial struggles is not an indication the Lord is putting you through a severe trial or test. Although, He is there for you any time to rescue you from those obstacles. But you need to ask a simple question: where is your heart? Only you can judge the purpose and intent of the suffering. Will you react with a yearning for understanding or rebel in anger? Have you been living a life of sin or one in the pursuit of holiness?
But here’s the thing. If someone has been suffering, as a result of something they had done, you know, the result of their own foolishness or failure, shouldn’t go blaming God for it. Quite frankly . . . well . . . it is their own fault. If you rob a bank and end up in jail, don’t get angry at the judge, you were found guilty and you are now reaping the results of your own choices. Yeah, that may sound harsh, but it is the truth.
But before you start condemning and kicking yourself and feeling that there is no consolation available to you, know that your are wrong. You do not have to bear this alone! The Lamb of God, slain for us, has borne all of our griefs and carried all of our sorrows, irrespective of the cause! All grief and sorrow are the results of sin somewhere along the line, so you can rejoice and celebrate that Jesus received them willingly. It is nothing but pride that will keep you from asking Him to help you to bear the troubles, even the ones which are clearly your own fault!
The Lamb of God, who was slain for us, has borne all of our griefs and carried all of our sorrows, regardless of the cause! All grief and sorrow are the results of sin somewhere along the line, so you can rejoice and celebrate because Jesus received them willingly. It is nothing but pride that will keep you from asking Him to help you to bear the troubles, even the ones which are clearly your own fault!
That’s right, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world, takes away your sin.
I take Him at His word indeed,
Christ died for sinners–this I read–
Of Him to be my Savior
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