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Things I Never Heard in Fundamentalism — Sola Gratia (1)

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I’ve been keeping a running tally over the last several months because it’s usually the case that Grant and I sit agape during church. Our collective jaws drop, we nudge each other, point and nod and giggle, and then I scribble and he iPhone-taps it all down so that we can remember.

This Message outside of fundamentalism is so different. So very different.

The first time I started recording these epiphanies was last December before Communion. Our pastor said:

You sin. You go to God. You ask forgiveness. He forgives you. You leave.

You sin again. You go to God. You ask forgiveness. He forgives you. You leave.

You sin again. You go to God. You ask forgiveness. He forgives you. You leave.

You sin again. . . .

I literally held my breath and stiffened my back. I was braced. I knew what was next, right? You do too. Said in a loud, scolding, harsh voice (summoning the spirit of the great revivalists): “When are you going to get your act together and stop sinning!? How can you even call yourself a Christian when you keep sinning like that??!”

But that’s not what he said. Instead:

The problem comes when you stop going back to God — either because of your moralism or secularism.

Huh? . . . Wait a second. Say what?

It went by so fast. Grant and I were blinking at the pastor and then whispering to each other. We were sure we misunderstood something. What did he say?

He was right, of course. It’s not about me being perfect because Christ did that. If it were about me doing all the right things, then I wouldn’t have a very clear sense of my full-of-sin status. It’s not about me getting all my ducks in a row before I go to God. The church is a hospital, not a pageant.

How wrong I heard it for all those years.

But this? This really is Sola Gratia.

10 thoughts on “Things I Never Heard in Fundamentalism — Sola Gratia (1)

  1. Woo-hoo for inescapable grace!

    I remember when I first heard forgiveness explained biblically:

    You sin. You go to God. You ask forgiveness. You leave. He chooses not to remember what you did ever again.

    You sin. You got God. You say, “Here I am again for that same thing I always ask forgiveness for.” God says, “And what would that be?”

    Every time is the first time! Praise our Savior for His dear sacrifice!

  2. I, too, have found many refreshing things that aren’t in fundamentalism. What part of 7 times 70 don’t some people get? The Good News is that we have the greatest example in Christ, who forgave the people as he hung on a cross. I don’t understand this kind of unconditional love. I also don’t pretend to understand. Love like that is truly a mystery.

  3. I had that moment last week at church too.

    something like “if you think that your sin keeps getting smaller as you become a better Christian, then your Jesus keeps getting smaller too”

  4. It’s amazing how such a simple truth can be so revolutionary. If only I had heard it sooner! Embracing grace is still a difficult thing to do, but what a relief that we can live with the freedom to be less than perfect.

  5. I’ve enjoyed reading your blog as I sort through these issues in my own life. I’m a BJU grad from a fundamentalist Baptist background and am now attending a more expository Bible church. I appreciate so many of the people that influenced me in my growing up years, and I know God used all of it to bring me to where I am now. Questioning, keeping much, and sometimes leaving certain ways of thinking.

    This post by Tim Challies caught my eye today. I’m thinking a lot about why we “perform” our Christian disciplines and what we believe to be God’s view of us as a result. I still have lots to mull over, and I think God loves to see His children ponder and search His Word always for the answers. He is bringing about our sanctification in ways we sometimes cannot understand, but we can always trust in His grace because of who He is.

  6. I feel like I tend to be the dissenting voice here:) In a lot of ways I agree with you-I really do. I have grown up in all this. I still go to a church that you would consider fundamentalist. Believe it or not my husband and i have no doubt we are exactly where God intends us to be. We are learning and growing. See the thing is I heard those things in a fundamentalist church. And honestly I am hearing a tone change in fundamentalism. I am very glad for that tone change. More grace and more love. An understanding that none of us will ever have it together this side of heaven. I hear it pretty much every Sunday. Will my church ever be what you think it should be? Honestly- no. But I do think things are changing. I do hate to see so much division and I see it on both sides of the fence. Fundamentalists have their issues but there are people on the other side of the fence who do, too.
    Maybe God loves and is working on all of us -both in fundamentalism and in those who have left the movement.
    I know someone in a reformed church and I have noted that there are grace-filled growing Christians in both who are overwhelmed with God’s love. I honestly don’t always know who has the more correct theology. What I do know is that God is not reformed, or Baptist or fundamentalist. He is God and He is working in all of us- and yes showing grace even to fundamentalists.

  7. Hey Camille,
    The third or fourth time I read this wonderful blog writing, something plunked in my heart, mind and spirit. And this has really helped me, better understand the pain people such as yourselves, who love God with all of your hearts, have gone through, trying to please God by doing all the right things you were instructed to do, in order to ‘meet with the ‘good enough for God quota!’ I love God’s Grace, and yes, it ‘is’ such a wonderful FREE gift. I would ‘not’ think of ever minimising any of your past suffering within fundamentalism. But this blog about only Grace has helped me understand a little better what you went through. Fundamentaism was not part of my background. But perfectionist parents ‘was’! I could never please my parents, and I grew up thinking that God was ‘just like them’, demanding, un accepting, and highly disapproving.Yet they tried to do the best they could with what they had. You know, religion tells us to try, try hard, and try harder. I believe Grace calls us to receive and trust. One is performance. The other is freedom. Hearing the message of grace and love in church as a little one and a child growing more and more frustrated with a double message at home, and then having to live by an opposite way at home, was hard. All is forgiven now, and I love my parents who are now in Heaven. I Thank God for redeeming my past so that I did not repeat my parent’s mistakes with my own children.

    Graceless Christianity really hurts people! “Truth without Grace …… KILLS….and Truth without Love WOUNDS.” a quote from a very loving pastor who teaches with such Grace. I understand Luther’s predicament a little more now. I am only an amateur with history, and am certainly not a history scholar. But I do love learning what I can about history . Luther wanted to get ‘religion off his back’, and he desperately sought Grace to take its place. He wanted God’s Grace so much, whether he understood it or not, he wanted what God’s Grace really ‘was’ always meant and sent to be, as a free gift from God, to become ‘real’ to him. I remember how I tried and tried to get my parents to love me, but they just could not demonstrate love and affection well at all. So at some point in time I just gave up. how hard it was living parents who could not love me back. Their love for me was somehow locked up inside their deeply hurting lives and broken hearts, and letting that love out was something that they seemed afraid to do. I tried and tried to please them, but with an empty love bank,that was very hard. God didn’t fill that up until he finally caught up with me at age 36. Now I understand the man Luther’s heart a little better. And this helps me appreciate more the brave stand that he took. A brave stand that Grace was ‘so important’, that people desperately needed to be free from whatever was restraining them from receiving Grace. And how he sounded a bell whose ring rang around Europe, and woke up a Church’s dull minded leaders, as to how much ‘they’ needed reform too. Others had been telling them that for a hundred years but they wouldn’t listen. and those leaders deserved every humiliation they got from God. The scandal was that people suffered so terribly ‘fighting over’ the right to have God’s Grace in their lives ‘without’ religion. Great blog Camille. Thanks again for being such a blessing to my life. Peace, Barbara Quinn

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