'Isn't it wonderful that we're now under grace?' they enthuse.
'Sure is,' you say.
And then they explain what they mean by 'grace' and you wonder what it is they've really found themselves 'under'.
Here are 8 common misconceptions.
1. Wahey! Isn't it great that God has lowered the bar? He used to care about loads of stuff. Now it's just a few things. You know, important stuff. So now we don't have to sweat the small stuff.
2. Wahey! Now we obey God out of gratitude for what He's done, which is an entirely new concept. The law was only ever about duty, apparently. Now that we've got gratitude it means all legalism is a thing of the past (just so long as we're grateful).
3. Phew - now we don't have to get hung up about the laws of the land. If you ask me to pay my parking ticket, you're a legalist.
4. Isn't it great - it's not about duty-bound works, it's all about love. As long as we stress love we're avoiding all forms of legalism.
5. I'm so glad that God used to be fierce and judgemental but now He's just sweet and nice
6. I'm so glad that God used to be about pragmatics, now He's just interested in dogmatics. He used to be interested in my physical state, now He's just interested in my mental state (my faith).
7. Discipleship used to be important but now it's about grace. Which means... you know. Not really discipleship. More... you know... grace.
8. It used to be about my works. But now it's about my faith.
No, no, no.
In the flesh it was about your work. In the Spirit it's about Christ's work. That's the difference. Him. His work. His redemption. His Person in Whom all the promises of God are yes and all the laws of God are fulfilled. He defines the realm of grace. Not abstract qualities like gratitude or lovingness or certain mental states - all of which might be worked up quite apart from Jesus. Neither is it about God's own disposition softening in His old age. And neither is it about the absence of certain obligations, from the state or Scripture or conscience or Christ or wherever.
It's about the kingdom of the Beloved Son in Whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins, and over to which we have been delivered apart from any merit of our own. It's the position we find ourselves in - hidden in Christ at the Father's right hand - lavished with mercy and honour and kindness, our old man crucified and put away, His Spirit put within us. A new realm, a new Master, a new Power, a new freedom, a new destiny and we've done nothing to deserve it. And it's all real and it all holds true not by my own workings but by the Almighty Father's, who raised Jesus from the dead and raised me up with Him.
Grace is not like a new and improved religious programme that's a bit nicer, a bit less draconian - less duty, more love and groovy vibes. Grace is the blood, sweat and tears of Jesus expended on your behalf while you do nothing but cause His death. It's the mighty resurrection of Christ in which you are swept up to glory entirely apart from your own efforts and merits. Grace is where you find yourself - in Christ - and you're in Him not because but in spite of yourself. Now compare with the 8 misconceptions above.
How do we get it so wrong?
Perhaps my favourite verse:
I was crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body I live by faith in the Son of God who loved me and gave Himself for me. (Gal 2:20)
Here's an older post on grace. Or just click the 'grace' tag for more.