Why does "Radical Grace" matter?

I recently received one of those innocuous notification from a friend on Youtube stating that said friend had "favorited" a video, one featuring popular evangelical preacher John MacArthur. I had never heard this man preach before, and the friend who favorited the video is a Lutheran, so I figured I'd give it a listen.

Now, before I go any further, let me just say this. I had my guard down for this listen. I have a few people who I let my guard down when they preach. One, of course, is when Pastor Gary Held, my cohort on Radical Grace Radio, is preaching. It's likely that I'd also let my guard down for a sermon by Greg LeSieur as well... but for this John MacArthur sermon, I had my guard down because it came from the favorites list of a Lutheran.

I'll never make that mistake again. John MacArthur's sermon nearly killed my faith. I'm dead serious. His sermon was filled with everything from Lordship salvation to works righteousness. He claims that, yes, Christians sin, but if you have a pattern of sin in your life, you need to "check your foundation" before it's too late.

Now, I'm not trying to be too thoughtful here. I'm not interested in talking points, or well crafted prose. What I am interested in is expressing how angry I was with this man. I told Pastor Gary the other day "How dare this man try to take the grace and mercy of God away from me!" I was furious! I wanted to have John MacArthur in my studio for a few minutes, just long enough to ask him this: have you sinned today sir? If so, do you think your going to sin tomorrow? How about the next day? Yes to all? Do we see a pattern here yet? Is there now a discernible pattern of sin emerging?

So back to the point of the day. "Why does Radical Grace matter?" It's simple, yet so difficult for people to grasp: Because we need the Radical Grace of God to match the Radical nature of our sinful condition. We are, as a matter of course, so sinful at any given moment that even if someone were to administer several CCs of curare and render you in a state of coma, the doing of passing out itself would be tainted by sin. The depravity of our existence knows no bounds. That's literal. No pulling punches.

If people are only marginally sinful, then some form of mild grace from God would be sufficient. But the fact is, our sinful nature is matched only by one possible Godly response and that is the immeasurable grace and mercy of our Lord.

Radical Grace matters because it shoots for the dark recesses of our lives and fills up those lives with Christ. You all remember, I'm sure, of that description of the "God-shaped hole" that was a prominent evangelistic analogy for many years. Radical Grace tells us that there is a "sin shaped hole" in our lives that can only be filled with Christ!

I'll be doing more posts on this as time goes by. I have to. It's all I have.


Eric said...

I think it is worth noting that when a Baptist talks about "a pattern of sin" he means a pattern involving some serial or habitual sin -- a sin in one particular area or a sin of one particular kind repeated over and over again. If one day you get angry at someone and the next day you are somewhat less than honest with someone else, that is not considered "a pattern of sin." That is two different "sin problems," both of which need to be conquered before they turn into one or two distinct "patterns of sin." At least, that's what I would take John MacArthur to mean by his comment.

I think your understanding of "sin pattern" is much more basic and more accurate. In the application of Law and Gospel it eliminates degrees of sinfulness and breaks down the distinctions we so often use to excuse ourselves. Any and every sin we commit is part of a pattern of sinfulness, and we cannot fix it by checking our foundation. We can only run to the cross of Christ.

Perhaps, someday, you can have that conversation with Pr. MacArthur... I certainly hope so!

Matthew said...

Thanks for the comment Eric.

I grew up in Baptist circles, and this view that John MacArthur puts forth is the common view there. What I can't stand is, like you said, using this view of "a pattern of sin" as a standard to show how a Christian is doing gives people a false sense of hope and is used to cover up the fact that we all still do sin. Just because someone doesn't sin regularly doesn't mean they aren't a sinner.

Keep up the good work by the way. I peeked at your profile and find it heartening to find someone walking by faith.

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