Hyper-Grace Teachings About Pleasing God

bike-tyresDr. Sam Storms’ article entitled “HYPER-GRACE AND OUR SPIRIT-EMPOWERED EFFORTS TO PLEASE GOD” – original source here.

Some advocates of Hyper-Grace argue that since our salvation is all of grace, there is nothing that Christians can do that displeases the Lord. God is always pleased with us because of who Christ is and what he has done. We can never grieve the Lord except by failing to receive and rely upon his grace. Hyper-grace teachers insist that there is nothing we can do as Christians either to “please” God with our behavior or “displease” him by our moral disobedience. Says one hyper-grace author:

“My bad works don’t move God any more than my good works move Him. He simply isn’t moved by ‘works’ of any kind. If you are motivated to do a great work for God, good luck!”

Again, he writes:

“Do good, God is glad; do bad, God is mad” is the M.O. of legalistic Christianity. I curry favor with God by good works and incur His displeasure by sinning. . . . It is utterly heathenish and deadly wrong.”

Well, when put like that I would agree. But the fact of the matter is that God is glad when we, by his grace, do good. And God is displeased when we sin.

Before we look at those texts, it would be helpful to remember that there is genuinely a sense in which God is always and eternally pleased with Christians. When it comes to our status as justified in God’s sight, we are pleasing to God. He has imputed or reckoned the righteousness of Jesus to us and always sees us in his Son. In that sense, God is certainly always pleased.

Likewise, when it pertains to any of the other glorious truths related to our “eternal union” with God, such as our adoption as his beloved children, the forgiveness of sins we have through faith in Christ, our redemption, our reconciliation, etc., we can confidently say (and rest in the truth) that God is “pleased” with us.

But when it comes to our “experiential communion” with Christ, that is to say, when it comes to our daily response to the many biblical exhortations and commands, we are most assuredly able either to please him or to displease him. That we can “displease” God through disobedience and the refusal to repent does not mean our eternal union with him is rescinded. Neither is it the case that when we “please” God by our obedience to his commands our status as his beloved children is increased or our justification is somehow enhanced or made more secure or that now, because of our obedience, God loves us more than he did before.

So, by all means we should strive to please God. But our striving must be in the power that God supplies. Flesh-driven efforts in which we “pull ourselves up by our bootstraps” or attempt in the strength of our own will power to make God smile are entirely out of line. We can only “please” God when our obedience is initiated, sustained, and empowered by the grace of God’s Holy Spirit who indwells us. Continue reading

Hyper Grace and Repentance

uturn-signIn an article entitled “Hyper Grace and Repentance”, Dr. Sam Storms writes:

Among the many things often heard by advocates of what I’m calling Hyper-Grace is that too many Christians are focused on repenting of their sins. We are excessively “sin-conscious,” so they say, and should instead turn our attention to the finality and sufficiency of God’s saving grace to us in Jesus Christ.

There is a sense in which this is a good and important reminder. Some Christians are excessively sin-conscious and have failed to recognize the glory and peace that come from trusting wholly in what God did through Jesus to remove the guilt and condemnation or our sin. But what they fail to recognize is that it is precisely because of the wonder and majesty of God’s saving mercy in Jesus that we should be sensitive to our sin and quick to repent of it. We do not repent in order to curry God’s favor or to make it possible for us to be reconciled to him. But repentance is absolutely necessary if we hope to live in the daily delight that comes with being reconciled to God.

Our experiential communion with Christ is always dependent on our sincere and heartfelt repentance from sin. We are altogether safe and secure in our eternal union with Christ, due wholly and solely to God’s glorious grace. But our capacity to enjoy the fruit of that union, our ability to feel, sense, and rest satisfied in all that is entailed by that saving union is greatly affected, either for good or ill, by our repentant response when the Holy Spirit awakens us to the ways that we have failed to honor and obey God’s revealed will in Scripture.

Part of the problem in the Hyper-grace message is their failure to properly define repentance. Several Hyper-grace authors contend that the only sense in which a Christian is required to repent is to change his/her mind or to rethink regarding sin and our relationship with God. Here is how one man thinks we think about repentance. In other words, this is how he believes we believe:

“Ongoing repentance is necessary to keep an angry God happy enough with you to be willing to bless you and use you. Your standing with God must be maintained by ongoing good behavior, and the only way to accomplish this behavior standard is through frequent sessions with God where you confess all known sins, ask for forgiveness, and repent or turn away from those sins.”

Again, he writes:

“Repentance is viewed as a necessary but onerous requirement in dealing with sin and staying in God’s good graces. It is a tool to be used to keep us in line and to prevent us from acting like the heathens we once were. If behavior modification is the goal, and it is with all legalists, then repentance is viewed as the primary method of accomplishing it.”

He argues that repentance simply means “to change your mind” about something. Rethink it. See the truth and believe it. Here is how he sums it up:

“The Holy Spirit convicts . . . or convinces me that I have believed a lie. I confess . . . or agree with the Spirit of Truth (no sense of condemnation). I then repent . . . or change my mind in light of truth.”

Michael Brown, who has written the most comprehensive response to hyper-grace, provides us with an illustration of how bad a definition of repentance this is. I’ve taken the liberty of expanding upon it a bit.

If you live in Oklahoma City, as I do, and you wish to join me in a leisurely drive to Dallas, Texas, you would typically depart from my house, drive east on Memorial Drive, and then turn right onto I-35. It’s about a 3½ hour drive. Everything seems to be going well until you notice a sign that says, “Wichita, 124 miles.” You turn to me (since I’m driving) and say, “Hey, guess what: we’re driving north instead of south. Dallas is in the other direction.” My response is: “Huh, you are correct. I’ve changed my mind about whether or not we are driving in the right direction.” And then I proceed to continue driving north, heading straight for Wichita, Kansas, instead of south for Dallas, Texas.

Changing of one’s mind is useless if it isn’t accompanied by a change of direction, a change of life and action. The only reasonable thing for me to do, having first changed my mind/belief about what direction I’m heading, is to exit off the interstate and do a 180 degree about face and head south in the direction of Dallas. It’s one thing to change my belief about where I’m heading. It’s another thing to change my behavior. And both elements are involved in genuine, biblical repentance. Continue reading

Conviction

ConvictionDr. Sam Storms, in an article entitled “HYPER-GRACE AND CONVICTION OF SIN” (original source here) writes:

In an earlier article I pointed out what I perceive to be one of the errors in the message that I’m calling Hyper-Grace. It had to do with repentance. Certain authors who promote this doctrine build their concept on the notion that the Holy Spirit will never convict Christians of their sins. Here is how one Hyper-Grace author put it:

“The Holy Spirit never convicts (Christians) of your sins. He never comes to point out your faults. . . . It does not take a revelation from the Holy Spirit to see that you have failed. However, when you know that you’ve failed what you do need is for the Holy Spirit to convict you of your righteousness.”

First of all, I beg to differ. Often times it takes precisely “a revelation from the Holy Spirit” to see that I have failed. All of us (I trust I’m not alone in this) are prone to self-deception. It is all too easy for us to drift from the path of righteousness and convince ourselves that we are doing God’s will. We are prone to self-justification, self-righteousness, and often are blind to the clear teaching of Scripture. Beware of self-delusion. The “conviction” for which I will argue below is the work of the Spirit in awakening me to the ways in which I have sinned and restoring me to the path of righteous living.

Now, back to my main point. The man whom I quote above then points to Paul’s words in 2 Timothy 3:16-17 where the apostle tells us that Scripture has for one of its purposes our “training in righteousness.” This he says “is believing that you have been justified or made righteous by faith in our Lord Jesus.” The only way God “corrects” us is by reminding us that we are already righteous in Christ. To be trained in righteousness, he contends, is to learn how to look backwards at your justification by faith in Christ. But Paul clearly is describing something that is yet future in our lives. We are instructed by God’s Word and empowered by the Holy Spirit to learn how to live righteous lives day in and day out. We are trained to say no to the passions of the flesh and yes to the guidance of the Holy Spirit and the commands of the NT.

Again, he says:

“The bottom line is that the Holy Spirit never convicts you of your sins. He NEVER comes to point out your faults. I challenge you to find a scripture in the Bible that the Holy Spirit comes to convict you of your sins.”

Advocates of this view argue that the only verse where the Spirit is said to “convict” someone of sins refers to non-believers (John 16:8). Undoubtedly it is true that John 16:8 is describing what the Spirit does among and in unbelievers. But that hardly settles the issue.

The reason they give for this is that God has already fully and finally forgiven us of all our sins, so why would the Holy Spirit continue to remind us of them or bring to our hearts a sense of guilt for having committed them. But conviction is not condemnation. The purpose of conviction is to lovingly awaken us to where we have strayed and to restore us to vibrancy and joy in our walk with Christ.

Are these individuals correct? Does the NT teach that the Holy Spirit never convicts a Christian of his/her sins? No.

I may be wrong, but I get the sense that they draw their conclusions based on what they find in their English translations of the NT rather than on the Greek text. Perhaps what has happened is that they looked through a variety of English translations and discovered that the word “convict” nowhere else appears with reference to what the Holy Spirit does in the lives of believers. Does this settle the matter? Hardly.

The word in John 16:8 translated “convict” is elencho. We find it in several other NT texts that describe how the Spirit uses the Scriptures and the ministry of other believers. Here are some examples.

“Preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove [2nd person plural, aorist active imperative of elencho], rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching” (2 Tim. 4:2). We could just as easily have translated this, “convict, rebuke, and exhort.”

“This testimony is true. Therefore rebuke [2nd person singular, present active imperative of elencho] them sharply, that they may be sound in the faith” (Titus 1:13). Again, this could easily have been translated by the word “convict”.

“Declare these things; exhort and rebuke [2nd person singular, present active imperative of elencho] with all authority. Let no one disregard you” (Titus 2:15).
“But if you show partiality, you are committing sin and are convicted [a participial form of elencho] by the law as transgressors” (James 2:9). Here James is addressing Christians who are discriminating in the church based on socio-economic factors.

Perhaps the advocates of Hyper-Grace would respond by saying that in none of these texts is it explicitly the Holy Spirit who does the work of conviction in our hearts. But it is the Holy Spirit who inspired these very biblical texts and who fills and energizes the preacher/teacher who is called upon to “reprove” or “convict” everyone by the application of such texts to their lives. Surely if it were out of line for the Holy Spirit to bring conviction it would be equally inappropriate for Christian ministers to do so who operate at his urging and under his influence.

Of course, there are still other texts where it is specifically said to be God who brings conviction.

“And have you forgotten the exhortation that addresses you as sons? ‘My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord, nor be weary when reproved [participial form of elencho] by him’” (Heb. 12:5).

“Those whom I love, I reprove [1st person, present active indicative of elencho] and discipline, so be zealous and repent” (Rev. 3:19).

This final text in Revelation 3 is especially important because it ties the Lord’s work of bringing conviction to our hearts to the love that he has for us!

In summary, it is, of course, quite true that the Holy Spirit never “condemns” a Christian for his/her sins. That condemnation has been endured and exhausted by Jesus. As Paul says in Romans 8:1, there is therefore now “no condemnation” for those in Christ Jesus. Praise God for that. But the Holy Spirit most assuredly does “convict” us or “reprove” us or “rebuke” us or bring to our minds and hearts the realization of the ways in which we have disobeyed and fallen short of God’s revealed will.