Grace Gone Wild! Getting a Grip on God's Amazing Gift
Author and pastor Robert Jeffress speaks candidly on what he believes are the misunderstandings, misuses and abuses of God's great gift of grace. Jeffress purports that while the word "grace" is common to Christianese lingo, it has never been more mishandled, and this error is having a significant impact on the life of the church.
Christians seem to fall into one of two camps. They can live as libertarians, where the motto they resoundingly utter allows them license for engaging in "immorality, self-indulgence, and uninvolvement in God's kingdom." (And in the process, Jeffress believes these self-same proclaimers of the "anything is permissible under grace" maxim deny themselves the joy they would experience from living a life of obedience to God.) Or on the flip side, Christians take on a legalistic role, where in days past they would adhere to the "no dancing, no drinking, and no movies on Sunday" rules. Today, that list of no-nos might include "no public schools, no divorce and remarriage under any circumstances, and no Harry Potter novels." This end of the Pharisaic "grace" spectrum is what Jesus hated most --- this self-constructed, works-driven mode to pleasing God that, in fact, did quite the opposite.
Jeffress underscores the point that while Christians cannot earn God's love, there is much they can do to receive His blessing. In short, living under "grace does not relieve us of the obligation of obedience; it intensifies that obligation." Citing scripture text, "He who has My commandments and keeps them is the one who loves Me; and he who loves Me will be loved by My Father, and I will love him and will disclose Myself to him" (John 14:21), the author supports this assumption by further delineating the difference between "bad grace," where Christians serve no master, and "good grace," where believers recognize they now serve a new master: Christ.
After laying a lovely foundational picture of what grace should and should not look like, Jeffress delves into a chapter-by-chapter look-see at what is happening to grace in relation to spirituality, decision-making, relationships, marriage, divorce, churches, giving, confrontation, and even spiritual surgery. One of the touchiest topics the author discusses is the oft-debated divorce issue. With careful study, Jeffress succeeds in offering a sensitive directive that will encourage readers to look more fully into scripture before glibly spouting off impulsive theological rhetoric to those mired in the horrific pain of marital problems.
Jeffress details the tendency of the legalists' stance that divorce is never an option for a Christian, period, as they seek to attain and maintain that "higher standard." Meanwhile, the libertarians do the opposite by lowering the standards of scripture by offering easy "outs" not supported by the Bible, such as self-esteem issues, differing parenting philosophies, incompatible life goals, and the like. Neither extreme is scripture-based nor accurate.
Thoughtful readers will appreciate Jeffress's empathetic style that he balances with great attention to unpacking the truth of the Bible. One of his parting words is that it doesn't matter what camp a Christian falls into, be it legalism or libertarianism, because both are lethal enemies to the spiritual life. It's all about balance.
Reviewed by Michele Howe on November 13, 2011