“Fall From Grace?”

falling_from_grace_cd_cover_by_mediadesignGalatians 5:1-12
No matter who you are, whether you are a Christian or not, it is very likely that you do not want your picture on the internet with the caption below reading, “YOUR NAME has fallen from grace!”  Do you?  Of course not!  Who would?

You can do a simple Google search of “Fall From Grace” and immediately your browser is filled with 17.3 million hits in less than .41 seconds!  That’s a lot of falling from grace!  The Google hits are about politicians, religious leaders, and others who have sinned, been caught, and suffering the fallout of their poor choices.  In general, the term “fall from grace” seems to be when someone commits a sin that society has labeled to be unacceptable.

But what is “Falling from Grace?”  What does it look like?  How do we know if we’ve done it?  Is there any coming back from it if we do it?  These questions and many more will be our focus today.  “Falling from Grace” is not a made up term.  It’s right from the Bible! In fact, it’s in our passage this week in Galatians 5:4 “You have been severed from Christ, … you have fallen from grace.”  There it is!  Unlike some other religious mumbo jumbo, this isn’t a made up phrase.  It’s actually in the Bible and apparently the Christians in Galatia have done it–they have fallen from grace.

Before we dive into what “Falling from Grace” is, let us first make sure we know what “Grace” is.  Grace is much more than a theological doctrine.  It’s much more than a point on a sermon outline.  It’s much more than a teaching.  Grace is really a Person!  Jesus Christ is the very personification of grace.  In fact, when introducing Jesus to his readers, the Apostle John says that Jesus is full of grace and truth (John 1:14), and that from Jesus comes “grace upon grace” (John 1:16).  So, it seems, to receive Jesus is to receive grace.  Grace, by definition, is free.

A good definition of grace is “getting something that you did not earn.”  If a guilty prisoner, who is facing execution, is suddenly freed by his governor, this is an act of grace.  While many may disagree with the action of the governor, he gave that prisoner something he didn’t deserve.  He had earned his punishment, but he was given freedom.  By the way, mercy is the idea of “not getting something that you did earn.”  The prisoner deserved his execution, but the governor showed mercy by not giving him what he deserved.  But the governor went beyond mercy and extended grace!  He not only withheld something that he did deserve, he gave him something that he also did not deserve.

It’s not fair!

Grace is simply not fair.  It is not fair for us to receive what we did not earn.  None of us deserves forgiveness, but God has graciously granted it.  None of us deserves freedom from law, but God has graciously granted it.  None of us deserves God, but God has graciously granted us with Himself.  We all were that guilty prisoner–guilty before we were even born because of our ancestor, Adam, but God, being rich in both grace and mercy, has given us things we will never be able to deserve.

Grace is always greater.

One of the amazing realities of God’s grace is that it is greater than all our sinning.  Look at Romans 5:20 real quickly, “The Law came in so that the transgression would increase; but where sin increased, grace abounded all the more.”  Apparently God gave the Law to Moses so that sinning would increase (ever read that before?).  Now why in the world would God want sin to increase?  Because God wanted to show off the full extent of His radical grace towards sinners!  Where sin increased, grace abounded all the more!  Sin is no match for the grace of God.  In fact the phrase “all the more” is the Greek prefix “hyper!”  God’s grace is “HYPER!”  Just like the hyperactive kid in school who is always more active than the other kids in class, God’s hyper-grace is always more than sin.  This means that if you were to take all the sins of your life, from childhood to death, and add them up, you’d get a cardinal number.  Something like 78,301 (for example!).  The Bible is saying that God’s grace is always greater than your measly 78,301 sins.  God’s grace isn’t just 78,302.  How much grace does God have?  Does he just have one more grace than you have sins?  That would be enough, but is that all the grace God has?  Well, think about how big Jesus is.  The Bible teaches that Jesus is God.  God is not even measurable.  Our best attempt at measuring God is to say that God is infinite.  He has no beginning and no end.  God has no limitations whatsoever.  So if God is infinitely large (immeasurable) and if Jesus is this God, and if Jesus is full of grace (John 1:14), then how much grace does God have?  Did you follow that? If not, here’s the answer: God’s grace is unlimited.  It is as immeasurable as He himself is immeasurable!  So God doesn’t have just one more grace than you have sins.  God has an immeasurable supply of this grace, and you will always have a finite number of sins!

Now watch this!  Take your 78,301 sins and multiply them by the eight billion people that are alive right now, plus the billions upon billions from previous generations, plus the countless sins of future generations!  Think of that number!  It may even be larger than the National Debt!  But guess what?  If Romans 5:20 is true, God’s hyper-grace still wins!  God’s grace will always outweigh all the sinning we could ever do as humanity.  Aren’t you glad about God’s hyper-grace?  I am!  What if His grace wasn’t “hyper?”  What if it was “typical” or “average?”  If God’s grace was not hyper and was limited, then there would be a very real possibility that we could out sin God’s grace.  However, God has rigged it so that would never be possible.  God’s grace hyper abounds above any sinning we could ever do!  It seems God even increased sinning by giving the Law to show just how hyper his grace really is!

God’s promise of Grace!

One more quick thought on what God’s grace even is before we jump into the idea of “falling from grace.”  God’s grace is all based on a promise.  If you haven’t read through the previous blog/devotionals in Galatians, let me encourage you to do so.  This free gift of forgiveness of all our sins, freedom from the Law, freedom from the flesh, our new life in Christ, intimacy with God himself, and so much more, is all based on a promise that God made to Jesus.  The question really is, “Can God lie?”  Because if He can lie, then why in the world am I even typing this and why are you even wasting your time reading anything that is based on what God has said?  However, if God cannot lie, as Hebrews 6:18 and Titus 1:2 both say, then we can take what He says to the bank.  One of the most unbelievable things that God has said is found in Jeremiah 31.  We have talked already, and will talk more, about verses 31-34 where God promises the New Covenant of Grace that will be nothing like the Old Covenant of Law, where God will be intimate with people, where God’s desires will be etched in our new hearts, and where He will forgive all our iniquities and remember our sins NO MORE!  This new covenant started when the one who made the covenant died.  This was when Jesus, God in the flesh, hung on a tree plunging the entire human race into death so that He could begin a whole new race–a holy nation a royal priesthood, no longer from the First Adam, but now from the Last Adam–Jesus Christ Himself.  But I want to look at the next couple of verses–verse 35-37.

In verses 35 and 36, God promises that the very order of the universe would have to end before He would end His relationship with us.  The very earth would have to stop rotating.  The moon would have to stop revolving.  The seasons would have to end, on and on and on, in order for God to renege on His promise, and you would stop being His special treasure.  Now let me ask you, “If the order to the universe stopped, would we have some major problems on our hands already?”  Even more dramatic, verse 37 says that the universe would have to be measured and the core of the earth would have to be traversed before God would cast you off because of something you have done.  The problem with measuring the universe is that every time we get a bigger telescope to see further, we see even further!  There’s no end to the universe.  How do you measure something that has no end?  The problem with traversing the core of the earth is this substance called liquid hot magma!  You can’t walk through it and live.  So here is what God is saying, “In the new covenant of grace, I will kick you out from my presence because of something you have done if you are able to measure the immeasurable universe and if you are able to traverse the untraversable core of the earth.”  To which we say, “But, God, wait a minute, we can’t measure the immeasurable universe, and we can’t traverse the untraversable core of the earth!”  To which God says, “Bingo kid!  That is a taste of what My grace is really all about!  You will never fall from me because of something you have done because I took everything you’d ever do and destroyed it when I destroyed Jesus on the cross.  You sins are now impotent!”

This means that God’s New Covenant of Grace is not based on my behavior but based on His unfathomable, unimaginable, immeasurable grace!

So what does “Fall From Grace” mean then?

We have to see that our sinning is not the catalyst for this fall from grace that Paul talks about in Galatians 5:4.  If we can sin our way out of God’s family, then what was the cross for?  Why would Jesus have done what He did, if our sinning can undo it?  No, our sinning isn’t what causes this “fall from grace.”

Look at Galatians 5:4 again.  Earlier I quoted it as, “You have been severed from Christ, … you have fallen from grace.”  I intentionally left out a part and put in the “…” things.  The part that is represented by the “…” is very, very important!  Here’s the whole verse, “You have been severed from Christ, you who are seeking to be justified by law; you have fallen from grace.”  Whoa, does that change things!  God’s system of relating to humanity has changed.  It changed from a system of rules and laws (the Old Covenant of Law) to a new system of grace (The New Covenant).  There is now only one way to relate to God–to connect with Him.  It is by hearing what Jesus did for us and then believing the news!  This is how God continuously supplies His Spirit to us–by hearing and believing.  Grace is channeled to you by your hearing and your believing.  This is God’s new, perhaps controversial, way.  But so many people were, and still are, interested in relating to God based on the old way of living by rules, laws, and regulations.  The thinking is that if we can perform certain ways, then we can better relate and better connect with God.  That sounds fine and dandy, but the problem is that isn’t the way God set up this new system to work.  It isn’t performing a list of rules.  It’s hearing and believing.

These Galatians had been distracted from the new way of grace to the old way of behavior.  They had been invited to fall into God’s grace, but they were opting to do the opposite and fall away from God’s grace.  If someone seeking to be made right with God by law, falls out of grace, what is he falling towards?  He is falling toward laws, rules, and regulations.  Being perfectly right with God by simply hearing and believing seemed too simple.  There had to be more.  There had to be something they brought to the table.  By falling towards law-based rightness with God, they were falling away from grace.  You can’t have it both ways.  You can’t fall both into grace and into law at the same time!  To fall into one you fall away from the other.  God’s invitation is for you to fall out of law-based living and into His grace!

So how does someone “Fall Out of Grace?”

We can fall out of grace by becoming distracted that our behavior, whether good or bad, is able to affect our intimacy with God.  We sit before God’s throne of Grace with confidence not in our ability to do or not do, but rather with confidence that this whole thing was His idea and not ours.

It was His idea that all our sins be placed on His Son and taken away from us.  It was His idea that we die with Jesus so that we could be raised with Jesus.  It was His idea that we be free from a system of rules, laws, and obedience to lists.  It was all His idea.  Now what if we think we know better than God?  What if we look at God’s idea of grace and say that it isn’t good enough, that it is too simple, or that it is just too good to be true.  Would we not be calling God’s intellect, wisdom, and character into question?  Would we not be saying that we know a better way than God?  Humanity has been saying it knows of a better way than God ever since the Garden of Eden, and God has graciously shown us time and time again that Daddy truly knows best!

So, do you find yourself leaning back on your flesh, your performance, and your track record to ensure you are right with God?  If so, I think Paul is saying you are falling away from grace.  If your performance were a factor in this new and better way, then, let’s face it, you’d be toast.

Your sins deserve death.  Jesus died your death!  You now have His life!  That, my friends, is grace.  Let us not fall away from this!

So what do I need to do now?

Are you worried that if you take your performance off the table that sin will creep in?  You’re not alone!  So many that Paul tried to share this better way of Grace thought the same thing.  But here’s the deal.  If improved performance is a desire of yours–you want to stop that same old sinning you have been doing forever–then there’s really only one option.  You must hear the invitation God has given and believe Him.  He’s inviting you to trade your fixation.  Instead of being fixated with your behavior, with your performance, and with your track record, God wants you to become fixated on Jesus’ behavior, Jesus’ performance, and Jesus’ track record.  You see, that is what God is fixated on!  God is fixated on His Son and all those who are in His Son!  If you are in Christ, then you are in the behavior, the performance, and the track record of Jesus Christ himself.  His whole identity is yours now.  You’ll never improve your behavior by being fixated on your behavior.  But as you become fixated on Christ, guess what actually starts coming forth from your body?  Christ!  You become an actual vessel through which Christ Himself now manifests Himself into this world (2 Cor. 4:7-10).

I Cor. 1:30 “But by His doing you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, and righteousness and sanctification, and redemption, 31 so that, just as it is written, “Let him who boasts, boast in the Lord.”

Are you concerned about your thought life because it would be the most embarrassing thing in the world for someone to know what you think at times? Consider Jesus’ wisdom and thoughts, because you now have His very mind.

Are you concerned about your behavior because it’s all over the map?  Consider Jesus’ righteousness, because you have become His righteousness (2 Cor. 5:21)  That means you equal Jesus’ righteousness!

Are you concerned about your sanctification because you think it’s some sort of process that you’re not good at?  Consider Jesus’ sanctification, because He has become your sanctification.  That means you are actually as sanctified as Jesus is sanctified.

Are you concerned about your abundance of sinning, thinking it will jeopardize your gift of salvation?  Do you have a list of “but what if I’s….?”  But what if I sin the same sin over and over? But what if I get divorced?  But what if I ….  Consider Jesus’ redemption, because He himself has redeemed you.  How saved are you? Are you saved somewhat?  Are you saved unless you sin?  Are you saved unless you sin the same sin over and over?  Consider Jesus’ redemption of you and the truth of Hebrews 7:25 “Therefore He is able also to save forever those who draw near to God through Him, since He always lives…”  He has saved you completely and forever!  In fact, the duration of your very salvation is not tied to your life in this flesh at all.  According to Hebrews 7:25, what is your the duration of your salvation tied to?  It’s tied to Jesus’ life.  Since He lives forever, you will be saved forever!

But don’t take my word for it!

Read Galatians 5:1-13 for yourself>

Question to Consider:

  1. What would it say about God’s grace if “falling from grace” means that you can lose your salvation because of your sinning?
  2. Upon reading Galatians 5, and the rest of the New Covenant promises, why do you think there is such a fixation on the ability to lose one’s salvation?
  3. Paul tells us in Ephesians 1 that we have been sealed with the promised Holy Spirit.  Ultimately what must break in order for that seal to break?
  4. If we can lose our salvation by something we have done, then what does that say about the work of Christ on the cross?
  5. In what tangible ways is your life bettered by knowing God will never remove you from Himself because of something you do?
  6. The devil even used scripture to question Jesus, don’t you think he can do the same today with you?  There are a few passages that always seem to be used to promote loss of salvation.  Hebrews 6 is usually one of them.  Take some time and read Hebrews 1 through 6 to see if Hebrews 6 is promoting the “insecurity” of a believer or perhaps the exact opposite!  Remember, any scripture can be taken out of its context to try to communicate something it actually doesn’t.
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“Fall From Grace?”