Monday, March 3, 2014

 Fight Fair!

"Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth, but only such a word as is good for edification according to the need of the moment, so that it will give grace to those who hear." (Eph. 4:29, NASB)
2But if your enemy is hungry, feed him, and if he is thirsty, give him a drink; for in so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.” (Romans 12:20, NASB95)
In any theological debate - whether face-to-face, in writing (journals or books) or even on Facebook, the debaters can easily slide into "the ways of the world" in their approach. This last week, I read or heard two different attacks against free grace in general and, included in the attacks, each criticized the Free Grace Alliance. Such attacks are nothing new. And, like most attacks, the attackers did not "fight fair". Both attacks made incorrect statements about free grace theology, both employed emotional arguments to make their position sound stronger, both used weak logic in some of their arguments.
What they said isn't important here, we address that elsewhere. What I do want to address is, how do we fight the fight? We will face theological challenges, some significant, some less so. But no matter how serious the issue, I hope this principle rises to the top:
Practice grace when talking about grace (or any other topic, for that matter).
I know when I am attacked my initial response is to fight back. The trick is learning to respond differently; to "give grace to those who hear."  I'm not saying harsh words are never necessary, but usually I jump to such words far too quickly. How can we "give grace" and "heap burning coals on their head?
(1) Know your opponents viewpoint. Too often I am too busy defending my view without understanding the other's view. I get irritated when they misrepresent me; it is no longer a "fair fight" if I misrepresent them. If you are really brave, summarize to the other person what you understand their view to be. You might be surprised by their response!
(2) Avoid pejorative terms. In the Lordship / Free Grace debates, those we call "lordship" often refer to our position as "no Lordship" or "cheap grace".  Some labeled the position of Zane Hodge's, et al, as "the crossless gospel". Such terms do not promote discussion; they denigrate both the position and the person who holds it. Granted, the position may be untenable, but we still need to avoid pejoratives!
(3) Avoid bad logic! I've had people say, "If you hold the FGA position, then you believe x, y, z". They then knock down x, y, and z. The problem with their conclusion?  I don't believe x, y, or z! For example,  "If you hold the FGA position, then you believe you can do anything you want"! That's only partially true - I do believe I can do anything I want without fear of hell, but I do not believe I can do anything I want with no consequences, perhaps including severe discipline from God (Heb. 12). Be careful to avoid bad logic when debating someone else's view.
I hope those outside the FGA, will see us differently. I want us to be known as people who believe in free grace (whether or not the person agrees with that view) and practice grace when addressing people and issues. I've heard far too many people shy away from the Free Grace Movement because they perceive too much in-fighting. Let's not be legalistic about grace; let's practice what we preach. We do need to take a stand on certain issues; we need to takes such stands graciously.

"Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth, but only such a word as is good for edification according to the need of the moment, so that it will give grace to those who hear."

"Just make sure it's your ideas that offend and not you, that your beliefs cause the dispute and not your behavior." (Gregory Koukl, "Tactics"). *



Walking with you in grace;
Roger Fankhauser, D.Min.
President, FGA



* I highly recommend this book to challenge our thinking about how we address those with whom we disagree, Christian and non-Christian alike. Greg Koukl, Tactics, (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2009).


 

Friday, January 3, 2014

A Time of Transition by Dr. Fred Chay

Times of transition cause one to contemplate the state of things. Having been with FGA since its inception, on the FGA council for 6 years, serving as president for the past 4 years, and now having recently stepped down to hand thing off to Dr. Roger Fankhauser, I thought I would reflect on where we are and what has changed. 

Although it is true that we are not in danger of the Lordship salvation debate abating soon, it does seem that there has been a subtle transition in the Lordship camp. It seems that we have seen the moving away, slight as it may it be, from the “frontloading” error evidenced by the early works of the Lordship persuasion demanding that faith be attendant with remorse and a repentant change of life evidenced by obedience, full commitment and total surrender as a condition for receiving the free gift of eternal life.

The subtle transition is seen in that the focus has now shifted to the “back-loading” of the gospel with the fixation on assurance being gained through obedience, submission, and a committed life of holiness to validate the faith on the front end. As to which is worse, I would suggest the former is a far more significant theological problem. It is not that the latter is not worthy of great debate; it is!  But removing the frontloaded elements allows the purity of the free gospel gift of eternal life not to be compromised when presented as “faith being the only condition” to the question being asked, “What must I do to be saved?”

I would suggest that the FGA is partially responsible for this transition within the Lordship camp. The force of “Causation” is hard to determine and there is often more than one change agent involved in the movement of ideas. However, I sense that the Lord has utilized many of the resources whether books, articles, papers and sermons as well as personal dialogue, produced by FGA members to influence and impact  those in the Lordship salvation camp. Of course the greatest asset has been the fervent and diligent prayer by many of our members asking the Lord to lead His Church into all truth.

Let us be thankful for “small victories”.

Serving Him with you
Until He comes for us,
Fred Chay

Monday, December 30, 2013

What Does It Take To Lose Salvation?

By Dr. Roger Fankhauser

Some people have heard the sad words, "we're disowning you" or "we're writing you out of the will". Some think something comparable can happen to the believer; God can "disown us" under certain circumstances. Have you ever thought carefully about what must happen for us to lose our salvation? I started making a list in my mind. To lose my salvation for any reason, including for "losing faith", would require God to:

  • Unjustify us
  • Unadopt us
  • Unredeem us
  • Unreconcile us
  • Unregenerate us
  • Unforgive us
  • Unsanctify us (positional sanctification)
  • Remove eternal life from us
  • Uncircumcise our circumcised heart
  • Disinherit us (remove our birth inheritance)
  • Unbaptize us (Spirit baptism, 1 Cor. 12:13)
  • Unseal us (take away the Holy Spirit)
  • Make both Father and Son release their hold of us (John 10:28-29)
  • Make the New Creature old again
  • Transfer us out of the Kingdom of light and place us back in the kingdom of darkness
  • And most importantly, it would require the faithful, promise-keeping God to be unfaithful (2 Tim. 2:13)


You get the idea. And I suspect there is more we could list. So, "losing my salvation" isn't as "simple" as it sounds. It forces God to undo so much that he has done and so much that he has promised us. 
I'm grateful I'm held by His grace.

Monday, November 4, 2013

The FGA at Work!

One example of  how the Free Grace Alliance works:

"The mission of the Free Grace Alliance is to connect, encourage, equip and lead the body of Christ to advance the grace message throughout the world"

Tero Fredrikkson of the Greater Grace Church in Finland (a free grace church) discovers Gracelife Ministries (a free grace ministry) on the internet and uses some of their materials. The church calls Gracelife Ministries and invites Charlie Bing ( a free grace teacher, writer, and missionary) to Finland. Charlie travels to Finland to teach. He invites Tero to attend the Free Grace Alliance conference in 2012.

Tero attends the conference and meets many others who hold the Free Grace position. He returns to Finland with many new friends and a lot of Free Grace material! Some, including John Corria (a free grace pastor) and Richard Grubbs, agree to travel to Finland to assist the work there by teaching.

Tero returns to the United States for the 2013 conference. He speaks at Burleson Bible Church ( a free grace church) where Roger Fankhauser (a free grace pastor) serves. The church is challenged and encouraged by Tero. At the conference, Tero shares his testimony at the banquet, so many who did not previously know him now know at least a bit about God's work in Finland.

Tero connects with many others, including Dr. Dave Anderson, president of Grace School of Theology (a free grace school). The two discuss seminary training in Finland, with at least some preliminary talks about how GSOT and the Greater Grace Church might work together to enhance theological training in Finland and beyond, since Tero's church includes a large international community.

Do you think anyone was or will be connected, encouraged, or equipped by just this one set of interactions? I do!

And that's just the tip of the iceberg. Tero connected with other ministries and people not mentioned above. And connections like this happened and are happening between other people and other ministries with a free grace perspective.

That's what the Free Grace Alliance is about. It's not primarily about the Free Grace Alliance as an organization. It's about

Free Grace, and
Alliances between believers who hold to free grace.


Connect, encourage, equip. Let's do it!

Friday, September 13, 2013

Habitual Sin by Dr. Roger Fankhauser

I have come to the conclusion I am not "truly" saved.

I hope that rattles you. Let me explain why I have come to this conclusion: Traffic.

Yep, traffic.

You see, I consistently get irritated when other drivers fail to use their turn signals. I get a snarky attitude, and I often make some obnoxious comment about said driver (which does not please my wife, by the way).
I am stuck in habitual sin. Sure, I confess.... but then it pops up again. And again. And again. Probably has for decades. Even after deciding to write this post, fully aware of my tendency, I still responded poorly to traffic. While driving through a little town outside Seattle, it took us 30 minutes to go two blocks through two lights. My attitude was stinky, my comments were not kind. My wife was, rightfully, not pleased with me. And then again today, I gave a snide "gee, thanks" to someone who failed to use their blinker.

So here's my problem. As one well-known writer puts it, "The apostle John ... wrote an entire epistle about the marks of a true believer (1 John 5:13)... Scores of ... passages throughout the epistle confirm the same truth, that the one who is truly saved cannot continue in a pattern of unbroken sin (1 John 3:6-10)." Others use the term "habitual sin" rather than "unbroken sin", but the idea is the same.

Habitual sin means I'm not 'truly' saved. And I am a habitual sinner (at least behind the wheel).
Maybe I can read your mind at this point. "That's not really unbroken sin, Roger. You may slip into it again and again, but the pattern is broken. You probably even confessed it" Or, you may think "Really? You think that sin is serious enough to prove you are not 'truly saved'?" And, at this point in your reading, some of you might have already called me or texted me to straighten me out. But keep reading before you react!

Here's the truth. I do not believe what I said above about the consequences of habitual sin. I have no doubt that I am "truly saved". I think what the above writer and others like him say about habitual sin is wrong.
Think about how subjective and troubling the "habitual sin" or "unbroken sin" trap is. It is easy to look at someone else's life; it is tougher to look at my own. It is easy to think of "big" sins (like addiction to pornography); it is tougher to think of "little" sins (like attitudes towards obnoxious drivers - oops, there I go again). It becomes very subjective! And of course, how does one define "habitual"? What sins? How often? 

Over how much time (days, months, years)? I hope you get my point.  If habitual or unbroken sin of any kind means I never "truly believed" I have a problem and so do most of you (probably all of you). Maybe the sin is as "minor" as anger while driving. Maybe it's our attitude towards certain politicians (I told you this is a problem for most of us). Maybe it is as serious as addiction to something (coffee doesn't count). And if only certain kinds of habitual or unbroken sins cause the problem (instead of any habitual sin), I'm still in trouble, because I don't have a biblical list to differentiate which-sins-are-which. I only have the opinions of people.

Here's the whole truth: When I react poorly to another driver, my actions, words, and attitude are not the result of "walking in the light". They are not a reflection of following Jesus. They are, well, sinful! And I need to let God work on my heart so that the next time that guy fails to signal..... well, you get the idea.
I am saved by grace through faith alone in Jesus alone. My security is based on the objective truth that Jesus died on the cross for my sin, was raised from the dead, and gives, as He promises, eternal life to all who believe in Him.


Thankfully, confirmation of my salvation is not based on how I respond to those drivers. Or on any other "habitual" or "unbroken" sin. Those sins are growth issues, not identity issues.  That's the beauty of grace. My confidence lies completely on what He has done for me, freely, as a gift. 

Friday, August 9, 2013

The Pastoral Impact of Our Theology by Dr. Fred Chay

I think all of us of FGA realize the impact theology can have at the pastoral level. Consider the advice from Dr. John Piper, noted pastor, prolific author, and reformed theologian.

“When I confronted a man about the adultery he was living in, I tried to understand his situation, and I pled with him to return to his wife. Then I said, “You know, Jesus says that if you don’t fight this sin with the kind of seriousness that is willing to gouge out your own eye, you will go to hell and suffer there forever.”
As a professing Christian, he looked at me in utter disbelief, as though he had never heard anything like this in his life, and said, “You mean you think a person can lose his salvation?”
So I have learned again and again from firsthand experience that there are many professing Christians who have a view of salvation that disconnects it from real life, and that nullifies the threats of the Bible, and puts the sinning person who claims to be a Christian beyond the reach of biblical warnings. I believe this view of the Christian life is comforting thousands who are on the broad way that leads to destruction (Matthew 7:13).
Jesus said, if you don’t fight lust, you won’t go to heaven. Not that saints always succeed. The issue is that we resolve to fight, not that we succeed flawlessly.”


This is a quote from Piper’s book, “Future Grace” published in 1995, page 331. This selection is offered in the daily devotional called “Solid Joys” posted July 27, 2013, over 18 years after its original publication. Think about the impact this could have on a Christian, especially one with a weak conscience or one that has difficulty with certain sins. Think about the theology that leads to such a statement. 

This is the theology that Dr. Piper received from his teacher, Dr. Dan Fuller, (“The Unity of the Bible” 1992 Zondervan) who he credits in “Future Grace” as being totally influential in his theological convictions. Dr. Fuller and Piper take it back to Jonathan Edwards. And of course all of the above would go back to John Calvin, who in his “Institutes” put it so eloquently - “Thus it appears how true it is that we are justified not without, and yet not by works.” (Institutes 2:98-99)  

I hope you are ready to explain how you would respond to such a theology.  

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Why Teach Grace?

By Dr. Roger Fankhauser


Why proclaim grace?

“I must not be saved if I can’t beat this sin.” The person then walked away from their faith.
Someone else said, “I've lived way too many years of my life in bondage, conforming to religious rules instead of only looking to Christ... Some days I feel as if my heart will burst knowing how much God loves me. Some time ago, I started meeting with a group that, unfortunately, was a shame based group that doesn't practice or walk in grace. I feel like I've been saved all over again finding freedom in Christ as he is showing me truth in his word.

The subtle – or not-so-subtle – problem with any kind of performance based “Christianity” is that it is counterproductive. Instead of producing joy or producing “abundant” life, it produces guilt or unreasonable introspection. Instead of producing power for living, it knocks us down. Instead of producing hope, it produces despair. It doesn’t produce freedom, it produces bondage.

I know not everyone under this type of teaching ends up in the dumps. But it is far too common.

The first person above could well be a believer, one who has eternal life, but one needs help in dealing with an overpowering sin. He needs to see God’s incredible love for him; he needs to see that our relationship with God is based on the objective reality of who Jesus is and what He has done, not on the subjective basis of how well we live. He needs to better understand God’s grace for living. (I say “could well be a believer” only because I have not spoken to this person about what they believe. Others who know him said he has trusted Jesus for eternal life. But he’s been under teaching that says “if you habitually sin, you’re not really saved”).

The second person tasted grace. She and her family are now out from under bondage and enjoying God’s grace.

Don’t misunderstand; grace does not take sin lightly. It realizes the consequences of sin might be severe, but that sin does not mean I have lost my salvation or that I never “really” had it. Grace doesn’t minimize sin, it maximizes God’s love. Grace realizes that God loves us, when we sin and when we don’t. It is not an “excuse” for sin, but it helps us deal with sin the right way.

When we live under the grace of God, we experience freedom and life unlike anything else. Live it, teach it, and help others understand it. I wish we had more of the second story – someone who basks in God’s grace – and fewer of the first.