The intersection of grace and faith
April 3 2003 by Tony W. Cartledge , BR Editor

The intersection of grace and faith | Friday, April 4, 2003

Friday, April 4, 2003

The intersection of grace and faith

By Tony W. Cartledge BR Editor

John Tagliarini is one sharp guy, and I don't say that just because he is chair of the board of directors for the Biblical Recorder. Following a recent meeting of our board, we were loading up and preparing to leave when he whipped out a pen and started drawing on a pad. "Let me show you something I've found helpful," he said.

I found it helpful, too. Tagliarini, who is pastor of First Baptist Church in Bryson City, said something like "It occurred to me that a lot of our doctrinal problems result in a failure to realize that we live at the intersection of grace and faith." He drew two intersecting lines, labeling the horizontal one "faith" and the vertical one "grace."

Our spiritual life is healthiest when we balance grace and faith, he said, but we're often inclined to venture away from the intersection, and all roads from the center can lead to trouble.

On Grace Avenue, for example, some believers prefer to head north, putting major emphasis on the sovereignty of God. We should indeed trust in God's sovereignty, but going too far in that direction can lead to fatalism, a belief that God determines everything and we have no role to play.

Others are more at home going south, in the direction of human free will. It's important to recognize that we are free to respond positively or negatively to God. But, it's also possible to travel so far down the road of free will that God gets lost from the equation, and we end up in chaos.

One can also choose alternate directions on Faith Street. Some think of faith in terms of obedience, stressing adherence to certain behaviors, laws or traditions. Obedience, indeed, is essential. Jesus called us to be obedient in following Him. But He also warned against the dangers of legalism, moving so far from grace that we think salvation grows from our good works.

The opposite direction on Faith Street leads toward liberty. Jesus taught that His followers are set free from the law to live in liberty, guided by the "new commandment" to love one another as He loved us. It's easy enough, however, to get so caught up in our liberty that we lose track of the law of love. Without that grounding, we can slip into a lifestyle of unbridled license.

Tagliarini observed that most heresies of the church through its history have resulted from an over-emphasis on traveling in one direction, moving away from a healthy spiritual balance and toward one extreme or the other. Many conflicts of the present are also proportional to the distance we may travel from the center.

I've met Christians whose theological perspectives are all over the map, and I am continually amazed at God's patience with us, God's grace toward us. Our hubris leads us to think our personal version of the gospel - down whichever road we prefer to travel - should be normative for all others.

But as I pondered Tagliarini's schematic, I imagined that the Spirit of Christ is at work, gently shepherding us toward the fold where there is security, productivity, abundance of life and even peace between the sheep - that blessed spot at the intersection of grace and faith.

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4/3/2003 11:00:00 PM by Tony W. Cartledge , BR Editor | with 0 comments
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