God’s Judgment and Glory
Open Your Bible
2 Thessalonians 1:1-12, Isaiah 66:1-4, Isaiah 66:12-16, Romans 8:30
I tend to focus more on grace when it comes to understanding the gospel. It’s easier for me to focus on how all my sins, infractions, and struggles are covered by the spread of the gospel’s cloak, rather than examining my continued need for grace. Because of Jesus, all my sins have been forgiven, but it seems I’m still looking for loopholes when it comes to actually living as a Christ-follower.
By nature, I’m a bit lazy and despise boundaries and constraints, unless they’re of my own making. So, I look for ways around, under, and over the call to Christian living, but rarely through because through is hard—and, well, I don’t like hard. This is why I like to focus on a grace mentality: I can fail hard, all my life, kicking against the pleasant boundaries God has set for me, because I’m still in, still covered by grace.
But this emphasis on forgiveness without much understanding or conviction of my continued need for Jesus, is what Dietrich Bonhoeffer called “cheap grace.” This is, as Bonhoeffer put it, “forgiveness without requiring repentance, baptism without church discipline. Communion without confession. Cheap grace is grace without discipleship, grace without the cross, grace without Jesus Christ.”
In other words, when I make the gospel solely about the grace offered to us and not about the ongoing work of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, I cheapen the work that has been accomplished on my behalf. I blur over my need to be discipled by Jesus, to learn from and follow His ways. I venture into another form of godlessness where it’s all about me, my performance rather than holiness.
In his second letter to the Thessalonians, Paul tells them, “We always pray for you that our God will make you worthy of his calling, and by his power fulfill your every desire to do good and your work produced by faith” (2Thessalonians 1:11). Paul is encouraging the Thessalonians in their call of discipleship under Jesus Christ. It is God who compels and pursues us, guards and guides us, protects and provides for us. He completes the work of salvation by the power of the Spirit, through the work of the Son, and under the care of the Father. This work is by and for and with and about Him—not us. Even my wriggling out of the careful and pleasant boundaries He has laid for me point to His calling and His power (Psalm 16:5–6). We cannot make ourselves fit or worthy of this calling. Only God can do this.
Where are you omitting God from the gospel today? How are you making it simply about grace and your own work? Where are you forgetting the wonderful truth that you are both set free by the gospel and made for holy living? His calling, His work, and by His power. The gospel of grace was very good news for the Thessalonian church, as it is for us. This grace is not cheap. You and I were bought with a price (1Corinthians 6:19–20). But this grace is also entirely free by the work and hand of God—for you and for me.