I just finished a book by Steve Brown (www.keylife.org). I strongly recommend you checking him out and listening to him before reading this book. Learning his personality and style will make this book even more enjoyable (and his sarcasm more hilarious)! What exactly is this book about? Well, three free sins!
Steve brown has been a controversial individual. He is part of my denomination, the PCA (Presbyterian Church in America). If you are at all familiar with presbyterianism you’ll know that to be ordained in the PCA, you’ll be about as theologically orthodox as it gets. Steve was a pastor many, many years before he retired (he says, and I quote, that now he is “as old as dirt”). He was a professor of preaching at RTS Orlando (a sister campus to my own seminary RTS Jackson). Despite these seemingly conservative roots, he still stirs the pot. How? He preaches grace. This grace is scandalous (he has another book called Scandalous Freedom). This grace says that God is not mad at you, that he loves you without you trying to get better and make him like you more. You can’t. So, stop it.
This book did a wonder for my own heart. I’ve seen in my life my own tendencies to be afraid God’s affections for me changed after sinning. Or, I’ve been afraid God loves me less because though I want to consistently and biblcially follow Christ, I don’t do that every day. I’m a formal Bible teacher with a seminary degree, and (sad to admit it) there have even been days where I haven’t read my Bible! Yet, Brown’s main thesis went to battle against my inherent notions. Thank goodness.
My sins were placed on Jesus, fully. His death is my death, and now as he lives, I will also live. My sins, past, present and future, were all on Christ as he was nailed to the tree. And as he arose victorious over death, hell and the grave, so too am I victorious over death, hell and the grave. My sins are not remembered anymore (even the future ones?!!?!? Mind blown). There is absolute freedom in Christ. Absolute freedom. God’s affections for his children do not change, ever. He’s not waiting to “break you legs” (numerous times quoted in the book). He loves you. He’s not mad at you.
This type of grace preaching gets Steve in trouble because of the common objection, “Well, if we are really free, and God’s affections never change, then I can do whatever I want.” Yet, this is rather ridiculous, don’t you think? The type of love that’s on display through the pages of this book (or, better than this book, the Bible) describe a love in which we really are free, and that is so wonderful, so delightful, once we encounter it, we’d never seek to abuse it. The type of grace described in Scripture causes people to leap, sing, dance and run after Jesus.
I agree with Steve. Trying to be good and get better is killing me. I just can’t do it. Daily I say something sinful, do something sinful, think something sinful, or even not do what I should do, which (you guessed it) is sinful. Yet, like Steve, my strongest desire is to please Christ. I want to delight him and proclaim the excellencies of his grace. The problem is, I can’t. I fail. And, if I lived in the feelings of failure, I’d quit yesterday. But, like Steve says, the love of God is inexhaustible for his children. Back to the problem of my inability to live for me. Guess what, I can’t. He can, and did! What I cannot do, even though I absolutely do want to (Romans 7) he has already done!
Galatians 2:20 – “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.”
Galatians 4:1-7 – “What I am saying is that as long as an heir is underage, he is no different from a slave, although he owns the whole estate.The heir is subject to guardians and trustees until the time set by his father. So also, when we were underage, we were in slavery under the elemental spiritual forces of the world. But when the set time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those under the law, that we might receive adoption to sonship. Because you are his sons, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, the Spirit who calls out, “Abba, Father.” So you are no longer a slave, but God’s child; and since you are his child, God has made you also an heir.”
2 Corinthians 5:17-21 – “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here! All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God. God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.”
Romans 5:8 – “But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”
Romans 8:1-4 – “Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit who gives life has set you free from the law of sin and death. For what the law was powerless to do because it was weakened by the flesh, God did by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh to be a sin offering. And so he condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fully met in us, who do not live according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.”
Notice how there is no room for your own works (or mine)! There is nothing we contribute to our salvation except for the condition from which we need saving. This great salvation was accomplished on our behalf not while we signed an agreement to improve by 25% every two years, but “while we were sinners.” Paul says in another place (Eph. 2) how we were saved while we were dead. The dead don’t do much of anything. While we were in that condition, Christ died. Amazing love!
This is one of the best books I’ve read in a while. Steve Brown walked through a subject in such a way that caused the little legalist in me to become very angry and start packing his things. This is a nice change. God is not mad at me (or any of his children). Amen!