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The problems of cheap grace: A wise virgin’s guide to waiting for the Bridegroom

It is wonderful when an evangelist comes to town and leads a revival service with large crowds, or a church is active in street evangelism, but there has been something that bothered me about revival meetings and street evangelism that has not received the attention that it is due. On the one hand I appreciate the zeal to reach people for the Lord, but on the other hand, it it seemed to me that this wasn’t enough. Something was missing. I believe that the missing elements are the cost of discipleship and the act of discipleship. When these things are missing from the development of new Christians, they can contribute to producing foolish virgins. Let’s begin with the cost of discipleship.

When Jesus told people the good news of salvation, He got one of three responses. Each time Jesus called on a person, they knew that His call meant leaving everything behind to follow Him. Sometimes people immediately left their nets to follow Him (Matt 4: 18-20), sometimes they asked for additional time so they could attend a funeral or say goodbye (Luke 9: 57-62), and sometimes they turned down the opportunity to follow Jesus (Mark 10: 17-22). Whatever the case, “follow me” clearly meant leave everything behind to serve Him:

If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple.  Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple. For which of you, desiring to build a tower, does not first sit down and count the cost, whether he has enough to complete it? Otherwise, when he has laid a foundation and is not able to finish, all who see it begin to mock him, saying, ‘This man began to build and was not able to finish.’ Or what king, going out to encounter another king in war, will not sit down first and deliberate whether he is able with ten thousand to meet him who comes against him with twenty thousand? And if not, while the other is yet a great way off, he sends a delegation and asks for terms of peace. So therefore, any one of you who does not renounce all that he has cannot be my disciple.

Luke 14:26-33 (ESV)

Apart from Him, all other considerations were to have the value of rubbish.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote that “When Christ bids a man to come, He bids him to come and die.” This is an accurate sentiment and expectation of discipleship. It expresses a Christianity in which we give up the right to live our own lives and own our own possessions. We transfer everything about our lives (the title deed of our life) to the Lord Jesus, and this is the true cost of discipleship. Unfortunately, in our zeal to get people saved, this expectation is oftentimes neglected when evangelists make their altar calls. I don’t know why people would omit this when speaking about the good news except that maybe they feel this would frighten people from listening. Perhaps the speaker feels he will sound “extreme” or too radical if he tells the audience they have to give up everything to follow Christ. Maybe the evangelist himself has never had this expectation made clear in his own life, so he does not pass on the information. After all, you cannot give what you don’t have. Those who grew up with this omission are in danger of becoming foolish virgins because since they don’t leave everything for Him, this creates a condition in which the new believer has divided loyalties. He hasn’t walked away from his fishing nets; he is at the funeral and saying goodbye to his family (Matt 4: 18-20; Luke 9: 57-62).

If a person is converted without knowing the true cost of discipleship, then they have been given “cheap grace” as Dietrich Bonhoeffer would say. Cheap grace doesn’t make any demands of holiness or total commitment on a believer (e.g. Mark 8: 34-38), it’s really laissez faire Christianity. Cheap grace is to Christianity what Burger King is to fast food: In both cases people get it the way they want it. Cheap grace leads a person to compartmentalize their life into personal and religious lives. Since the new believer is unaware of the true cost of discipleship, they do not know that everything belongs to the Lord. Even if they do learn about the true cost of discipleship, they will disregard it if it isn’t modeled in the lives of other believers. Consequently, they act like Jesus has only bought a timeshare in their life instead of purchasing their whole life. Since the title deed to their life did not really pass to Jesus, He is just the copilot, but they are still the pilot. They can therefore justify such thinking as “I have given some of my time and some of my money to the Lord, the remainder belongs to me.” Therefore, compartmentalization and Burger King Christianity are natural consequences of cheap grace. The result of cheap grace is a harvest of scorched and stunted plants that never yield a crop (Matt 13: 5-7, 20-22).

In order for the word of God to bear fruit for eternal life, it must fall upon the soil of a heart that is fully aware of the cost of discipleship and accepts it. This is the kind of heart that immediately leaves the nets and boats to follow the Lord. It is a living example of what full commitment to Jesus looks like, and it bears a harvest of thirty, sixty and a hundredfold. On the other hand, cheap grace is aptly named because it shortchanges everyone who lives by it. Cheap grace cannot ever be the soil that yields a harvest of thirty, sixty, or a hundredfold because the person raised by it has not given up the title deed to their life. Since there is no total commitment, it is at best a living example of being double minded. The seeds that fall on the soil of cheap grace are either scorched and withered, or they are choked by weeds. Those who are not fully committed to Jesus will find their lamps going out as they wait for the Bridegroom.

Cheap grace also neglects the command to make disciples. When a revival meeting occurs, or street evangelism, I have noticed that oftentimes they use a“catch and release” evangelism. What I mean is that they catch the fish, but instead of following up with discipleship, the new believers are released back to fend for themselves. The emphasis is on preaching the Gospel, but there is little to no provision to train these new believers with a solid program of discipleship. It’s like they say “well now that you’re saved, it’s up to you to work out the details. Good luck!” This is my personal experience, and I don’t think I am alone. This is not what the Lord intended. After the resurrection Jesus said:

“All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

Matt 28:18-20 (ESV)

Let’s take a look at this and ask some questions.

Catch and release evangelism may produce many new believers, but it cannot produce many mature believers if they are left to fend for themselves. Mature believers are the result of discipleship, not from being left to their own devices. Unless they have had some kind of church background, new believers are not able to fend for themselves, and we should not expect them to do so. They need guidance from mature believers at this critical point in their new lives, and without discipleship they will be ill equipped to survive the enticements and attacks of the world, the flesh, and the devil. At least in the wild animals defend their young and teach them how to survive. If wild animals do this for their young, shouldn’t we do even more for those whom the Lord gave His life?

Let’s be honest. Is it reasonable to expect a new believer who has little or no knowledge of the Scriptures to know how to mature spiritually? Now that they are saved, do they even know they need someone to teach them the commandments of the Lord? Do they know that believers have a responsibility to disciple them? If they do know about discipleship, do they know where they can get the training they need? Do they know that not all churches are equal? There are poisonous churches in the world whose teachings end up making their converts twice as much the children of hell. Just because a building has “church” on it doesn’t mean its teachings are Christ centered (e.g. Westboro Baptist church). Who will tell them the difference if they are ignorant and left to fend for themselves? This is the tragedy of catch and release. This cheap grace is particularly destructive because it says on the one hand I love you enough to witness to you and get you saved, but not enough to invest my personal time and train you to be a mature Christian. There is something very wrong with this picture. There are many dangers that new believers needlessly face because there is no discipleship set to receive them and train them.

To be fair, I believe many of us are uncomfortable with training new believers because we have no template to draw from. After all, if no one gave us an example how to disciple a new believer, how can we give them what we never received? This is a question I ask myself because I am one of the catch and release survivors that wasn’t devoured by the roaring lion. There is a better way. It’s time to end the harm caused by cheap grace. Let’s agree that new believers must not be left to fend for themselves. The Lord told us to make disciples, so let’s do it! I encourage all my brothers and sisters to take time and pour your life into a new believer. The one who waters will himself be watered. Be Jesus to them. Don’t let the Adversary talk you out of this wonderful opportunity to help new believers become workmen who accurately handle the word of truth; you have a lot to offer new believers! Start them on the way that they should go, and they will not depart from it. No more cheap grace! We must help these fledglings to mature into wise virgins and help them avoid unprofitable teachings that produce foolish virgins.

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Deceptive cessation doctrine: A wise virgin’s guide to waiting for the Bridegroom 3.3

The book of Joel contains a prophecy about what the Lord would do in the last days. Once you see it, it should be instantly familiar:

And it shall come to pass afterward, that I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh; your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams, and your young men shall see visions.  Even on the male and female servants in those days I will pour out my Spirit. “And I will show wonders in the heavens and on the earth, blood and fire and columns of smoke.  The sun shall be turned to darkness, and the moon to blood, before the great and awesome day of the Lord comes. And it shall come to pass that everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.

Joel 2:28-32 (ESV)

Now let’s go to the book of Acts and the upper room. The disciples who obeyed Jesus’ command to go to Jerusalem and receive power from on high have been waiting in the upper room. Something happened that no one anticipated:

When the day of Pentecost arrived, they were all together in one place. And suddenly there came from heaven a sound like a mighty rushing wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. And divided tongues as of fire appeared to them and rested on each one of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance.

Acts 2:1-4 (ESV)

No one knew what had happened. At this time, Jews from all over the world were present in Jerusalem for Pentecost. They were amazed to hear these Galileans speaking about God’s mighty works in the native language of their lands. When some accused the disciples of being drunk, Peter addressed the crowd. He told them that this was not drunkenness, but God pouring out His Spirit on the people as Joel had prophesied. The gifts of the Spirit are: Word of wisdom, word of knowledge, faith, healing, working miracles, prophecy, discerning between spirits, tongues, and interpretation of tongues (1 Cor 12: 4-10). The Spirit administers these gifts and apportions them to us according to His will. It sounds good, so what exactly is the problem?

The problem is, some teachers have decided that these gifts were only intended for the days of the apostles. The gifts were intended to jump start the church and get it going, after which they would no longer be in effect. These people tell us that since the gifts are no longer in operation, we go to the doctor if we are sick, and we go to school if we need to learn a new language. I will call this doctrine which teaches that the gifts of the Spirit are no longer in effect today as Cessation Doctrine (CD). This doctrine has been around for a centuries, and it’s about time someone overturned this table. Let’s investigate these things: Do the gifts of the Spirit have an expiration date? If so, when is it? If not, are they still in operation today? Why do we need these gifts? What does this mean for the wise virgin?

Do the gifts of the Spirit have an expiration date?

Yes they do. In his first letter to the Corinthians, Paul tells us that these things will end one day: “Love never ends. As for prophecies, they will pass away; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will pass away” 1 Cor 13:8 (ESV). These gifts are to be in use during a specific time, after which they will cease.

When do the gifts of the Spirit cease?

To answer this question, we must think like Bereans (Acts 17:11) and use their strategy. CD tells us that the gifts of the Spirit ceased after the days of the Apostles, and Paul does tell us that they will end. The question remains when will they end? In the same letter to the Corinthians, Paul tells us when the gifts of the Spirit will cease:

For we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when the perfect comes, the partial will pass away. When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I gave up childish ways. For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known.

1 Cor 13:9-12 (ESV)

Paul does not tell us a specific date, but he tells us the season in which the gifts will cease. Does he say “after the days of the Apostles”? No! It does appear that Paul means a day after the ministry of the Apostles, but refers to a day far removed in time from the day of the Apostles, not immediately after the days of the Apostles as CD alleges. Paul calls the season of the gifts a partial impartation, when the time of perfection comes, then these gifts will cease. If CD is correct, then we must be living in the days of perfection because the gifts have ceased. I must disagree with CD and overturn this table. When you listen to the news and you hear about nation rising against nation, famines, natural disasters, signs in the heavens, false prophets, lawlessness, love growing cold, and persecution of believers, I can safely say we are not living in times of perfection. Paul was obviously speaking of a date in the distant future since these things have been happening since his day. Since we know that man cannot perfect this world on his own efforts, I believe that this time of perfection could be when the Lord returns after the Tribulation and established His rule. This leads to the next points.

Are the gifts of the Spirit still in operation today? Why do we need them?

Since it is obvious that we have not reached the time of perfection, it means that the gifts are still in operation. There two additional arguments that support the operation of the gifts of the Spirit today. During the last supper, Jesus told His disciples that “Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever believes in me will also do the works that I do; and greater works than these will he do, because I am going to the Father” John 14:12 (ESV). You may be curious why I would point to this as an argument against CD, but let me explain. First, if Jesus said we would do the works He did, then what were the works Jesus did? According to the gospels, He performed miracles, raised the dead, cured lepers, healed all manner of sicknesses and infirmities, prophesied about the future, He knew what was in people’s hearts, and He distinguished what was truly good from what only appeared to be good. Let’s ask ourselves this question next: If we are supposed to do the same works that He did (and even more), how can we do them without the gifts of the Spirit? Can we raise the dead without faith? Can we perform miracles without the gift of miracles? Can we cure disease without the gift of healing? Going to the doctor is not the same thing as having the gift of healing, is it? The list goes on, and the obvious answer is no. We cannot do all the works of Jesus without the gifts of the Spirit. If CD is true, then why would Jesus tell us we would do the same works He did if the gifts of the Spirit (which makes the works possible) ended operation after the days of the Apostles? The truth is we need the gifts of the Spirit to do the works He did.

The final apology comes from Jesus’ example of life. Without exception, we can all agree that He showed us how to live a life that pleases the Father. We are to pay close attention to His works and do the same things. In Matthew we read some of His first actions:

Then Jesus came from Galilee to the Jordan to John, to be baptized by him.  John would have prevented him, saying, “I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?” But Jesus answered him, “Let it be so now, for thus it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness.” Then he consented. And when Jesus was baptized, immediately he went up from the water, and behold, the heavens were opened to him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and coming to rest on him; and behold, a voice from heaven said, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.”

Matt 3:13-17 (ESV)

In this early picture of Jesus’ life, He was baptized and received the Holy Spirit. If we are to do the same things He did, we must follow His example, which includes receiving the Holy Spirit. If Jesus needed to receive the Holy Spirit, how much more do we? It is good that we still stress water baptism, but it does not follow that we should neglect the baptism of the Holy Spirit. If CD is true, then we only need to get a water baptism. But that does not seem correct because Jesus gave us an example that was meant to be followed by all generations, which included receiving the Holy Spirit. Has anything changed?

 What does this mean for a wise virgin?

As the times get closer to the end, we need every gift that God gives us to endure the darkness that is coming. The gifts of the Spirit are just as important to a fully equipped saint as the armor of God (Ephesians 6: 10-17). Neglecting these gifts and not seeking them puts a Christian at a serious disadvantage in the times to come. Although there are many more examples that could be given, I will close with this example of why we need the gifts of the Spirit. Jesus tells us that in the last days “For false christs and false prophets will arise and perform great signs and wonders, so as to lead astray, if possible, even the elect” Matt 24:24 (ESV).

What is Jesus saying here? He is telling His disciples that in the last days the lies that the enemy spins will be so convincing that even God’s own children would be deceived if it were possible. These deceivers will walk like us, talk like us, and in every way they will have the appearance of being authentic. Those virgins who are able to distinguish the authentic from the deceiver can do so because they have the gift of distinguishing spirits. Those virgins who do not have the gifts of the Spirit are much more at risk to be fall into the trap of the Adversary. Virgins who want to be wise take note! The Holy Spirit and oil go together in Scripture. God wants you to have enough oil for your lamp so that your light will shine brightly while waiting for the Bridegroom. What does that say about the virgins whose lamps were going out? Remember that Jesus did not face the devil until He had been baptized and received the Holy Spirit. We will also need the Spirit’s help to endure the coming darkness and Tribulation as we wait for the Bridegroom. Get your oil!!! The gifts of the Holy Spirit are available today for those who will ask for them. If you haven’t received them yet, it’s time to start praying.

Finally, I would like to end by recommending three DVDs that demonstrate the supernatural power of God in operation today. We need the power of God to do the works of Jesus, and these DVDs show actual examples of what God is doing in the world today. The DVD titles are “Finger of God,” “Furious Love,” and “Father of Lights.” I hope they provoke you to seek the Lord as never before. Be blessed, my beloved.

Finger of God DVDFurious Love DVDFather of Lights

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