Preaching: Grace and Discipleship

The photo to the left is a picture of Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore along Lake Michigan.  It is a really beautiful place to be in the summer.  I know that because I grew up fifteen minutes from the beach but I never knew this growing up.

Don’t get me wrong.  I visited the lakeshore a many of times when I lived near it but I took it’s existence for granted, having little appreciation for it’s grandeur and beauty.  Only once I moved away and came back for a visit did I realize what a gem this Mid-Western lakeshore is.

It’s unfortunate that people can live in the middle of something so beautiful and fail to see it.  I suppose this happens to most people at one point or another.  Still, it shouldn’t be that way.

So here’s my point.  Paul depicts the Christian as standing in the midst of God’s grace.  According to Romans 5:1-2:

…we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this GRACE in which WE NOW STAND. And we boast in the hope of the glory of God.

So by faith, according to Romans 5:1-2, the church stands in the grace of God.  But does the gathered church see it, appreciate it, and live into it?

Some do for sure and the rest of the church needs to hear their voices and see their witness.  But some in the church gather unaware of the grace of God they stand in.  Maybe it’s self-righteousness and idolatry.  Those are deadly viruses that will blind a person to God’s grace on the pathway to spiritual necrosis.  Others gather even though they secretly are so overcome with doubt or the shame of past sin to the point that the grace of God is out of focus.

So an important function of the preacher (and preaching) is to serve as a tour guide, helping the church to open her eyes and see the ocean of grace she is sailing in.  I don’t think this point can be overstated enough.

Elsewhere in scripture, Paul describes the “grace of God” as teaching people “to say ‘No’ to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age” (Tit 2:11-12).  So understand this: Grace and discipleship belong together and in that order.  Grace without discipleship becomes what Dietrich Bonhoeffer called “cheap grace.” Conversely, the attempt to form disciples apart from the grace of God becomes nothing more than fundamental legalism.

Yet to preach and open the eyes of the gathered church to the awesomeness, beauty, and joy of God’s grace…

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