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“How to Get Grace from God”

Does that title startle you? It should.

“Getting Grace from God” by Jim Berg, BJU Dean of Students, was the formal title of the sermon that made the rounds on campus when the Spirit started poking me awake way back when.

Again — listen. Don’t take my word for it. Just look at these words carefully. And get out your Bible and read what it really says. It isn’t this.

There is even a more pointed definition [of grace] that we could, we could take, and that is from Philippians 2:13 even though this verse does not even mention grace. But Philippians 2:13 talks to us about the work of God in our lives–this divine help. And, and broadly speaking we could call grace divine help, divine enablement. But Philippians 2:13 kinda gives us a little better window into a working definition of what it is like when God is enabling us and working in us.

And Philippians 2:13 says, “for it is God that worketh in you both to will”–creating a willingness, a desire–and giving us the power, He says, “to do of His good pleasure.” So when God is working in us, He’s doing two things He says here: #1 — He’s giving us, He’s creating desire in us to do His will and He’s giving us power to do His will. And I think that’s about the best definition I’ve ever heard of grace. It is that God is working in us, creating in us a desire and a power to do His will. When God is working in us, giving us his grace, we have desire to do things we normally wouldn’t want to do. And we also have the ability to carry out those things that seem impossible to us.

And there are a lot of times in my life when I’ve looked at what I have to do, and I had no desire to do it. I’ve looked at it all and said, “I just want to close the door and leave the office and not come back for a week.” And you’ve had situations like that. There just is no desire. I just don’t want to do this right now. and I have no power to carry it out.

Well, that’s because I’m lacking God’s grace at that time. And we’ll talk in a minute about how to get it (2:38+).

And you know, your life and my life ought to have the stamp of the Supernatural on it. That somebody looks at that and says, “How on earth does all that get done?” And we ought to stand back with them and say, “I don’t know either. Except for one thing, God is doing something amazing here. It’s supernatural desire and power to do His will” (5:50+)

There is Grace for everything. And God says I will give you the divine help to do whatever you have in front of you. . . . if you’ll turn on the faucet. And we’ll talk about that (12:46+).

We have to do right and be sweet about it anyway, and we can with the Grace of God!

The reason you’re so bitter is because you don’t have Grace.

It’s not a problem with the rules, it’s the problem that we don’t have grace. It’s not a problem that WorkBrain has changed our life. [laughter] It really isn’t, folks. Nah, I mean there’s some bugs that have to worked out occasionally in any kind of new thing. But anybody who’s sitting around griping about that, whether it’s in a faculty lounge or in a room, and complaining doesn’t have the grace of God! I mean, again we may as well wear a t-shirt that says “I don’t have the grace of God right now” because that’s exactly what we’re saying to everyone that’s watching. “I’m in a hard situation that I don’t like and I don’t have the grace of God and I’m upset.” I tell you what, if our Lord was on this earth and had to use Workbrain, He wouldn’t be fussing at it like some of us have. He wouldn’t do that . . . because He has the grace of God (18:46+).

The fact that we’re so frustrated and so upset shows that we don’t have the Grace of God because He’s promised that He will make all grace abound toward us (19:43).

If you’re losing the moral battle, folks, you have no Grace from God (21:39+).

Stubborn people have no grace. The faucet does not come on. That’s why all kinds of little things and big things irritate the fire out of them. There is no grace. . . . God says, “if you wanna go down My path, I will give you all the grace you need. But if you wanna go down your path, I’ll let you go down that path. I will take away all the desire to do My will. I will take away all the power to do my will. And furthermore, while you’re going down that path, I’m gonna shoot at you! I will give grace only to the humble. The one who says ‘God can be God in my life!'” (28:19+)

31 thoughts on ““How to Get Grace from God”

  1. This are so many things wrong with this… But his basic mistake is treating grace as a force rather than as an unchanging part of God’s character. When you start making a separation between the two you start treating grace as a power source to be tapped into and it just goes downhill from there. It becomes all about you and what you need to do to get that power.

    I won’t even even get into the problem of linking having God’s grace with our outward behavior. Blech.

    Nice redesign, BTW. 🙂

  2. “‘Getting’ Grace From God”? Well, I’m certainly glad he cleared that up. Here I thought that God’s grace was something He gave freely and that I couldn’t do anything to earn it. Now that I know I can “get” grace, I’ll just have to work harder. Let’s see. I know, I’ll go back to doing all the things they told me to do when I was growing up in fundamentalist churches. That’ll get me some grace for sure!

    Oh wait. Now I remember. It didn’t work then. Probably won’t work now. Oh well.

  3. So, according to Berg, when I complain about having to wait over an hour in a NOT busy ER to have my son’s bleeding and cut head looked at, I don’t have Grace. My planning on writing a nasty letter to the hospital’s board of directors about haveing to wait two and half hours to get any care–that’s me being stubborn and wearing my “Ain’t got no Grace” t-shirt. So God will shoot at me.

    According to Berg, Grace is all dependant on me and my actions and what I DO. Poor Berg. What an unhappy life to live! Constantly trying to measure up and get Grace when God wants to give it to him for free.

  4. My first response was the same as Brian’s. Blech.

    And Bri brings up another really good point, “. . .his basic mistake is treating grace as a force . . . treating grace as a power source to be tapped into. . . what you need to do to get that power.”

    Berg would probably shudder at the thought, but he sounds a LOT like Binny Hinn and his ilk. Just substitute “Holy Spirit” for “grace” in the above quotes. . . Sounds more like TBN than BJU.

  5. So…..WHO does get God’s grace? It’s apparently not anyone who’s losing the moral battle. It’s not anyone who would be talking about how unbelievably buggy WorkBrain was or the rollout disaster. It’s nobody who is frustrated or upset. And it’s apparently not anyone who is fatigued or overworked. No grace to you if you’re angry. No grace to you all you who are stubborn. And if you make a selfish decision, God’s going to…what’s that?…..SHOOT at you? Huh?

    No wonder I’m so confused. I believed all this stuff.

    I heard a sermon today. The teaser for the show was what to do when you are facing problems: gas prices, family situations, loss of job, loss of relationship. Cut to the commercial. Preacher comes on and spends a few seconds talking about how hard things are for most everyone in the entire world today. His first major point is, “Well, the main thing is that you don’t buy into the HERESY that you have these problems because God is punishing you for some sin that you did. If that were the case then Jesus Christ himself should never have suffered since he was completely sinless.” And then he talked about Paul and his sufferings and how there was much good to the 4-yr. wait for a trial, the shipwreck, snake bite, etc. The ruler’s families were learning the gospel from Paul’s experiences.

    I cry when I hear the truth now, because the Spirit is ministering to me that it IS the truth. I grew up at Bob Jones University, and the truth about God’s grace and our sins was not taught. I believed I could never be used of God because of my sin. I sorrow for the lost time and the incredible damage that was done. I have a whole bunch of catching up to do.

    Thanks for your blog, Camille. I wonder if a lot of the hits your site is getting recently are from BJU IPs or maybe even faculty kids past and present. I am burdened and grieved for us all. As a group, we may need a special measure of truth learning catch-up time.

  6. I am one of those hits on your blog and though I would delurk for this one. I came across your situation and blog through a roundabout way and I have to say that it has made me think and study my Bible. I actually have had trouble figuring it out b/c I really can’t always figure out what we disagree on. Maybe I was just fortunate to grow up in a fundamentalist church that had a balance. I did go to BJU for most of my school years and my husband worked there for a couple years. I know what they believe and honestly don’t hold it in the same contempt you do. I will admit that when my husband left working there ( and it was for financial reasons- we wanted to be able to live on his income alone) I did feel very free, so I do understand that. There are a lot of rules and I am glad that they seem to be relaxing some of those. I pray they continue that evaluation. Although having a lot of rules can=legalism, I do disagree that someone having a strict standard necessarily means they are legalistic. I guess b/c I know so many people there and other people that choose a standard and don’t feel it earns them favor with God. We all have standards-areas where the Bible isn’t perfectly clear and we make an interpretation. I don’t impose that on others but I personally have them.
    Anyway I have heard Dr. Berg preach many times and have never got the impression he feels we need to earn grace. Frankly I feel that is a misinterpretation. I know that at this point you will probably give me all sorts of examples but I just think that after years of hearing him in context and watching his life I would have to disagree. He is not a miserable man. In fact he seems to be quite the opposite. I am not saying he is perfect. Like every man who preaches I may not always agree. I believe that we always have God’s grace. It is what keeps us alive and moving and able to get through each day- whether it is a good or bad day. We don’t deserve it and can never earn it. However, I do believe that there are moments when I am not aware of that when I do not allow God to help me make right choices-where in pride I choose my own way. It is not the fault of God’s grace but mine for choosing my own way. His grace is always there and especially when I fall. He doesn’t make me do right and accept His help. Just like He doesn’t make us get saved. He holds us responsible for not choosing Him in salvation.
    I do understand where you are coming from. I have been immersed in the BJU enviroment.
    I did go through a trial of infertility that did change my view of God and helped me understand His love and grace in a new and wonderful way. We waited five years for God to bless us with an adopted son. I learned so much and still do as this trial still brings me pain at times. I know God loves me and it is not dependent on me at all. I had good times and some very bad times in how I responded to God though all of it. He always loved me!!!! But had I chosen bitterness would I have the benefit of the experience of God’s grace? Yes it would have always been readily and freely available. I have a hard time writing what I mean so please forgive my attempts.

  7. Religion is the study of the way God works.

    Magic is an attempt to use the God’s power for your own purposes.

    Jim Berg is teaching the practice of magic.

  8. Thanks for delurking, Stacy! Nice to “see” you!

    There’s no contempt in the least, Stacy. Not at all. I wouldn’t have stayed 20 years in a place if I didn’t sense God’s work there. It’s quite the opposite of contempt. If I were truly feeling contempt, I’d ignore the whole thing. And it’s only because I’ve had so many private emails saying, “I know there’s something wrong with that expression of God’s Grace, but I can’t put my finger on it” that I’m saying this at all.

    I understand that Jim Berg is fine, generous Christian man. Everything I’ve said about him personally has backed that up. I have said publicly in the past that I have longed admired his gift for being a “father to the fatherless.” I’ve witnessed that first-hand. And when we lost our Elise, his words to me at her memorial service still ring in my head — “It’s okay to be sad. Be sad. You’re supposed to be sad. We live in a lost and dying world, so be sad. But never be sad without hope.” He was exactly right, and I’ve thanked him personally for saying that. And I’ve thanked the Lord for him.

    But this is not a personal criticism against him. It’s a systemic problem that is brought to light in his words. We can be distracted by our affection and admiration for a gifted man. We can hope against hope that our alma mater is still orthodox. But — look at the words. Those do not match up with Scripture. They simply don’t.

    I’m not trying to change “them” per se. I’m trying to speak for the scores of us who have left but still have that incorrect reading of Scripture ringing in our ears. It is incorrect, and no one dare speak of it. This is no deacon board, no elder session, no church congregation to whom we can appeal. But this is in error. And it needs to be pointed out as such.

    God comforts us so that we can comfort others. That’s what this is.

  9. One of the things I love about you is that you don’t just accept whatever you are being told and blindly follow it. Not to say that you (or I for that matter) haven’t done that in the past, but, your eyes are open. When you hear something that doesn’t quite sound right, you ponder it, you pray about it, you study up on it, and then, you make your decision. As Christians we are so often accused of being unthinking and just following the leader. I just recently had a discussion about this with an older (and much, much wiser) woman at our church.

    Thank you for always thinking, always questioning, and for being bold enough to speak up for your convictions.

  10. Thanks for answering me. I really would love to discuss this more. This may not make sense but I think I need to wait until I figure out what it is I am having trouble with regarding what you are saying as opposed to what I have always believed. At times I honestly have a hard time figuring out what the difference is but yet I have so many questions forming. I have been looking at my Bible for answers in this. I want to know what the Bible says and not what people say. I can’t say that what I have seen in the Bible brings me to complete agreement with you. I see your point and realize that neither does what the Bible say completely match up with all I have been taught. Anyway you may see me delurk again if I can figure out how to phrase my questions. If anything this has made me start looking for myself. I am thankful for that.
    Also maybe contempt wasn’t the best choice of words. I apologize for that.

  11. No apologies necessary, Stacy!! I understand.

    I’m trying my best in these most recent posts and in the ones that will follow in the next 10 days not to talk about my perspective. It’s not about Me vs. Jim. It’s about these words versus Scripture. Yes, as a rhetorician, I’ve tried to be “productive” in suggesting a solution. But if we don’t agree on the alternative, I don’t care. The problem we should all agree on — that this is not how the Bible presents the Gospel.

    Come back tomorrow because there’ll be another post that makes this clearer, I think. So stay tuned!!

  12. Berg would probably shudder at the thought, but he sounds a LOT like Binny Hinn and his ilk

    My first thought was that Berg sounds a lot like Bill Gothard when he talks about grace. But I can see the likeness to Hinn as well. Both are based in what I can do to get power from God.

  13. God only gives grace to the morally strong–that’s why the Pharisees and Puritans are still around.

  14. I remember hearing this sermon and then thinking to myself afterward how I really needed to work harder and harder to get grace. I felt so guilty and defeated, and confused too because I wasn’t quite sure how to go about getting the grace. I left my seat that day thinking all about ME and not about God at all!

    But now, by God’s grace (which I did nothing to deserve or work up), I cast myself on mercy!! I cast myself on love! Jesus, my only hope, my only plea! My Righteousness, my Great High Priest! Jesus I trust in You alone!

  15. Maybe grace is synonymous with self-restraint. It seems like that word could be substituted in most every place Jim Berg uses the word “grace” in the context of not sinning.

  16. Brian said My first thought was that Berg sounds a lot like Bill Gothard when he talks about grace. But I can see the likeness to Hinn as well. Both are based in what I can do to get power from God.

    Agreed re: Gothard. Camille, no wonder you asked me where you’d heard that before. That definition of grace is *eerily* similar to Gothard’s. I’m glad I was gone before that was preached in those words at BJU. Very glad.

  17. Jim Berg gave me this in pamphlet form when I was counseled by him. No wonder I did not understand what Grace was. No wonder I was so scared of not measuring up. Thanks for posting this.

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  19. This…rings true to the few messages I heard him preach in my time at BJU. The first message I heard him preach was on 1 Corinthians 6:12-20, in which he taught us that any sexual conduct would forever negatively affect our relationship with Christ. As a survivor of sexual assault and as a woman who probably has a higher sex drive than most, this DEVASTATED me. I thought that my assault fell into this category (since so many had told me that it was my fault and/or it wasn’t a big deal). I agree with you – personally, outside of the lecturn or pulpit, he is very kind-hearted. But his public mishandling of God’s Word has had a severely bad affect in my life.

    1. So even if God forgives a person for sexual misconduct, God ‘withholds’ healing and restoration ? God ‘condemns’ a person to a life of perpetual shame and guilt? God will not restore a damaged relationship with that forgiven person and Himself? I don’t think so! Doesn’t sound like the woman at the well, the first evangelist! Or Mary Magdelene, who so freed by the Master’s healing love and forgiveness, mercy and compassion, that she, Mary Magdalene has been spoken of with such honor for generations, since she bathed our precious Lord’s feet with her tears of gratitude, and then wiped our Lord’s beautiful feet with her hair. And all this after pouring precious oil over His head. “Forever negatively affect’a person’s relationship? Sounds like God being blamed for the lies of the enemy and God being blamed for the damage done from the curses that come from unforgiving man who cannot look beyond his own offense and bitterness. Or beyond his own selfish superiority complex! False teachers of shame / blame/ and condemnation NEED TO BE SILENCED. The best way is to STOP LISTENING TO THEM. Easier to do that when we LEAVE their toxic territory. Preaching a Gospel denuded of God’s Healing and restoration, so easily leads to false and distorted messages such as Berg’s. What gospel is Berg reading? The gospel of Berg! It sure doesn’t sound like the Gospel of Jesus to me! Misinterpretation ( of the Bible ) is a DANGER. The Holy Spirit is called THE SPIRIT OF GRACE! If we want God’s power in our lives, it won’t come to our lives apart from Grace, or apart from the Holy Spirit. Benny Hinn has been maligned and misrepresented more by christians than by unbelievers in the world. Spiritual jealousy, envy and competition, as well as rejection of the power of God, based upon Biblical Illiteracy and upon rejection of what happened at Pentacost, are all behind this character maligning. To criticize Benny hinn is to invalidate the ministry of Evangelism God has called him to. If you truly believe in evangelism, then you will believe that God really calls people into this kind of ministry. If you believe in evangelism, then you won’t bash the Evangelists God is using. We will all have to stabd before God some day. What will we say to Him, when He asks us, ‘why did you judge and criticize my servants?’ Not all evangelists turn out like BJ the first! And who knows if the man was a true evangelist to begin with? I think we would all be wise to follow Billy Graham’s example, who never criticizes other minsters. I believe ministers who criticize other ministers, have low self-esteem, and really don’t even know who they are. They have an identity crisis, and follow the herd of like minded ignoramuses who have no love in their hearts for fellow ministers of the Gospel. Corrie Ten Boom once said, that the biggest problem in the world is not atheists etc,. The biggest problem in the world is ‘powerless christians.” Christians with no power in their lives, such as the power Jesus told the Apostles to wait for. Fundamentalism has told the lie that, ‘nobody needs that anymore!’ Now, I wonder where those religious bozos found ‘that’ one in the Bible? Probably in the fundamentalist Bible commentary of PERSONAL OPINIONS. Who needs ‘truth’ when man’s opinions are all so much more appealing, such as TO THE FLESH! Sorry for the rant. I’m just so tired of what fundamentalism has done to the message. Don’t you wish we could all just push, ‘fundamentalism over the cliff?’ Just leave the people behind, so God can them a new mind so they can ‘think right!?

  20. My husband, who worked in the Dean of Men’s Office during Tony Miller, saw first hand the fruits (Mt. 7.16, 20) of the theological error identified here (Is. 8.20). To this individual, sanctification is a dual effort of the Spirit (Rom. 8.1ff.) and us (cf. Phil. 2.12). If, and when, he means that sanctification is synergistic, that is, the work of the Spirit (2 Thess. 2.13; I Pet. 1.2) and of the new nature, “created in righteousness and true holiness” (Eph. 4.24), he is correct. But his rhetoric may be flawed, or his actual theology.

    In his discussions, both in lectures and in print, he is arguing “God” and “us” … “we” and “God” … In his lectures on Changed into His Image, for instance, he illustrates that sanctification is like the two-treaded tractor on a farm he drove in his youth, the Spirit being one tread propelling sanctification and the “we” being the other. He appears to believe we “get” grace from God out of our own fleshly strength, that is, from the effort of the original sinful nature.

    Many have decried how the individual is boastful, proud, self-adulating, self-righteous, egotistic, narcissistic, self-praising … and so forth. His erroneous theology serves to explain his warped self-image. He appears to believe that he ascended the ranks at his religious institution, becoming a veritable vizier to the Jones dynasty, through his own efforts, and that if anyone does not attain to acceptability in the Jonsian dominated religious community, they should be laughed at, scorned, pitied, smeared, slandered, and “cursed.” The individual would warp, for instance, many Scriptures, including, but not limited to, 2 Samuel 12.10, “the sword shall never depart from thy house.” The individual would misapply this Scripture to students who did not conform to the University, and were cut off – expelled, terminated, or asked to leave. The individual would pronounce this curse upon them, that the student was “cursed” for life, that the curse would follow them for the rest of their lives, and the “sword shall never depart from thine house.” Because the student did not “get” the grace of God, like he did, the student would be shamed, humiliated, ruined, tainted, smeared, sheared, skinned, sacked, and cursed – for life. At times, he would even laugh at students he had so cursed.

    Most evangelicals, evanmentalists, fundagelicals, fundamentalists, and funny-mentalists could not even imagine the extent, depth, and breadth of the spiritual pride of this individual. At the root of such sin is the erroneous, unbiblical belief that he has contributed to his own salvation – not positionally, in heaven, but practically, on earth, because HE, of his own doing, has GOTTEN grace from God.

    Let us pray that he comes to true repentance, and is restored (Gal. 6.1), and comes into a right relationship with the Lord.

    1. Oh the Blood of Jesus, that’s washed me white as snow. Oh the Love of Jesus that been gradually making me whole. Oh the Grace of God in Jesus that the Father sends to me. Oh the glorious gospel, freely given to set me free. Allelujiah. “Pride goeth before destruction. And haughty spirit before a fall.” Strange how Pharisees pick and choose what they want to believe. Calling themselves Bible christians, they practice a nominal christianity of pick and choose cafeteria style fundamentalism with Bible verses. Only obeying whatever is convenient to them, and twisting what they want to use against other people. My how convenient! I guess christians who just don’t ‘see’ the pride in such pharisees, are partly blinded to protect them from being attacked if they ever opposed such pharisees. As when one opposes a pharisee or disagrees with them, that ‘spirit of religion comes out’ to kill you, kill your spirit. It’s pretty bad. I remember speaking an honest word of correction, respectfully, to a good friend in front of a small group of friends, that ‘she had not used a certain scripture in a right way, but in quite a wrong way. Something that should not have gone unmentioned. As her tendency to being opinionted came acoss as her own version of truth and the Gospel and I wasn’t having any of it. All of us were ‘shocked’ at her reaction! She was so angry! “If you cross me I’ll ‘break’ you,” is what she said to me. And she really meant it! Talk about intimidation! We were all so stunned into silence, shocked at her behaviour that nobody said anything. As you can imagine, that friendship was heading for the rocks. Less than two years later, I had to break it in obedience to God. In the beginning we were simply ‘awesome’ friends. But when two people are not going in the same direction, nothing seems to go right anymore. I always thank God for what we learned about God and ourselves from God through each other. Her home group broke up too. Pride is so serious a problem, more so when so little of this is even recognized at all anymore as pride or even sin. Whatever happened to what God said sin was? I guess one could say, understanding of the truth when down the drain with so many christian’s loss of interest and true desire to read the Bible for themselves, and find out what God really says about such important spiritual realities. Why read their own Bibles, when pastor so and so says such and such about it, and then concludes that emptiness of nononsense lifeless preaching with the mantra “It’s in the Bible!’ When what that mantra really means, is, ‘this is my interpretation’ and you had better swallow it. It’s the game of Simon says. Simon says ‘this’, Simon says ‘tha’t. Do ‘this’ do ‘that’. Just substitute the word pastor for Simon and you get the gist. God never told any of us to only listen to what men say in and from the pulpit. God desires a relationship with us that we learn to freely respond to, without religious interference from empty headed religious parrots in pulpits who confuse Grace with religious Performance. My God,’what’ have these men done to the Gospel? Rhetorical question! An excellent subject to ponder. May all of us receive a deeper revelation from God of His wonderful Grace. And everybody says AMEN.

    2. I am a latecomer to this blog article. I am a 1975 graduate of BJU, saved as a 16 year old in the summer of 1969. A friend shared the gospel of Jesus Christ and I melted under the warmth and power of God’s precious word. Too many among us have little to no recollection of what it was like to walk in darkness. In many ways, that’s a pity. I can tell you it was a cold and cruel existence. I vividly remember the pit from which I was dug.

      I find the comments in this particular blog fascinating. The common thread seems to be that the word “get” disturbs the sensibilities of those who have a different theological world view from the object of the collective criticism. I am no apologist for Jim Berg. I have other issues with Jim, but this collective criticism based on words like “get” or “gotten” seems to me to be both unwarranted and shortsighted.

      Can we ever “get” grace? Can either mercy or grace ever be “gotten?” Or does grace only find us whenever a sovereign God chooses to dispense it? Before you answer that, consider whether you’re about to fall into the “either/or” trap. There are an abundance of scriptures that tell us grace comes as a gift from God. We have no quarrel over the source of all good things. They come from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variableness or shadow of turning. Mercy and grace are certainly gifts from above. But am I merely consigned to wait for it. Here’s where our roads diverge.

      Yes, grace originates from on high. But I need not wait for it, or for mercy. In fact, I can go get them both. I know where they may be found. Hebrews 4:16 tells me I may go boldly before that throne to “OBTAIN mercy and FIND grace to help in time of need.” Imagine that. While there are verses to confirm that grace can find you, there are also verses to confirm that you can find grace. Any theology that ignores the truth of both precepts is out of balance and short sighted.

      I can’t speak for Jim Berg. Like Jim, we all have feet of clay. It matters not what Jim said, or what Camille said, or what I say. It only matters what the breath of God says, as in all scripture is God-breathed. Perhaps Jim Berg’s point was to remind each of us that we are blessed to have the opportunity and the ability to avail ourselves of the grace of God. There have been too many times I have failed to avail myself of that ever present gift. I chose not to take “the way of escape” in order to rise above the temptation. I neglected to hide God’s word in my heart so that I might not sin. I turned a deaf ear to the reproving of the Spirit as He tried to persuade me of sin, righteousness and judgment. Our problem (or at least mine) is in failing to recognize the very demonstrations of God’s grace in our lives. So let’s not pretend that “grace” is only some invisible power that gives us some warm fuzzy feeling of acceptance in God’s eyes, or that it only falls upon us as some special visitation. You think too highly of yourself if that’s how you see grace. Grace is a gift, to be sure. But a gift that isn’t received isn’t a gift at all. We’ve all walked away from grace gifts and have the scars to prove it.
      Maybe that’s all Jim Berg was trying to say. But again, all that matters is what God’s breath says.

      “Cast away from you all the transgressions which you have committed, and get yourselves a new heart and a new spirit. For why should you die ….” Ezekiel 18:31 NKJV. GET YOURSELVES A NEW HEART AND A NEW SPIRIT? Oh my. Perhaps God really does intend a synergistic relationship after all.

      1. Hey, Rick. Nice to see you here.

        It’s not just the word “get” in the sermon title. It’s the whole metanarrative at work here.

        Think of how a parent acts and feels towards his child. Sure, our kids “get” *stuff* from us. They get breakfast. They get money for lunch. They get new shoes.

        And yeah, they “get” love and advice and support.

        If one of us stumbled on an article written by our child that said, “How to get love from my dad” — even if it were in jest — there’d be a little punch in the gut there. Because we’d like to think that they don’t have to do anything to “get love” from us. They get love because we love them because we’re their parents. We love our kids. We started it. We nurtured and cared for them from before we knew they existed. And they give back of course! It’s a relationship and all. But the parents started the love before the kids really could even lift their heads up.

        God is our Heavenly Parent. He loves us. He started that love story from before the foundations of the Earth! He loved us while we were yet sinners! He does “give Grace.” But nothing we’re doing “gets” it for us. Sure, sure, we do things for God. God invites us to participate in His kingdom. But those efforts don’t get us more Grace. 🙂 Just like when my sons open the car door for me, it doesn’t get them more of my love.

        Berg does use the term “turn the faucet” of Grace on. Put it in a parental metaphor. Do our kids “turn on the faucet” of our love? If that’s how you would describe it, then you’re describing an abusive relationship.

        And this quotation. Put it in a parental relationship. Or a marriage relationship. Or any relationship:

        “if you wanna go down My path, I will give you all the grace you need. But if you wanna go down your path, I’ll let you go down that path. I will take away all the desire to do My will. I will take away all the power to do my will. And furthermore, while you’re going down that path, I’m gonna shoot at you! I will give grace only to the humble. The one who says ‘God can be God in my life!'”

        If a parent says to his child, “go ahead and leave. But while you’re going down that wrong path, I’m going to shoot at you!” would that be okay? Of course not! That’s terrible. That’s a terrible parent who would say that. The worst kind of parent.

        And God’s not a terrible parent! He wouldn’t do this or say this!

        I agree with you that God’s Word matters. That’s why we’re having this discussion that lasts over . . . what now? 8 years? Wow! Yes, God’s Word matters. And the mishandling of God’s Word is very serious. And when Jim Berg preaches God as an Abusive Parent, I object. We all should. Because that’s not True. And it’s not Biblical.

        1. I appreciate the perspective that compares grace with love. For God so loved the world … The ultimate demonstration of grace. Your example of parental love is particularly poignant and apropos. The father loves. The child may reject that love. Again, let neither of us fall into the either/or trap. The child can avail himself of the father’s love, or he can push it aside. Yo can’t force love upon anyone, can you?

          God gives grace to the humble. That’s only half of the precept. He resists the proud. I, for one, have many scars to prove that a loving God will indeed oppose me, withdraw favor, cause me to stumble. Maybe “shoot at me” was too harsh, and poorly stated. But to ignore the precepts taught in James 4:6 is foolhardy.

          Yes, God is a good and loving “parent.” He chastens, he spanks, he strives. That is also an expression of grace and love. It seems grievous for a time, and not like love or grace. But it is. It’s not either or. I’m not telling you anything you don’t know. Perhaps the better anology is that we have the ability to turn off the faucet of God’s grace in our lives. To deny that is just self delusion. But I can “arise and go to my father.” In my father’s house is bread enough and to spare.

  21. And we can also talk about the incorrect definition of Grace that Jim Berg uses. Most of the fundamentalists of his ilk use this definition — Gothard, Pettit.

    It’s Grace as Power. They regularly define Grace as a kind of vitamin pill that helps you get stuff done. Berg does this all the time, stating that the reason he gets so much stuff done is because of God’s Grace.

    That’s a very extra-biblical take on what Grace is. Grace isn’t the thing that helps you get stuff done. Grace is that the Thing you need most is already done and planned and all yours. Grace might tell you to stop getting stuff done.

    Grace is Love. It’s the same. It’s seeing beauty in ugly things. It’s Babette making an irrationally opulent feast for Amish-like prudes. It’s washing dirty feet with perfume. It’s loving the world to its inner beauty.

    http://www.drslewis.org/camille/2010/02/23/a-time-to-feast-on-grace/

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