This a response to a comment I received on my blog. I heard a lot about this talk by Brad Wilcox lately and thought I would share. Hope you all enjoy!
Thank you so much for your comment. I really appreciate your feedback. I enjoy being able to discuss and talk about different things. I love hearing other people’s perspectives on things! I hope you will take my response and consider what I have to say. I look forward to hearing from you in the future!
It’s funny you bring up the talk by Brad Wilcox. Last Monday, when I was having dinner with my daughter, her friend had sent her the same talk and had asked her to watch it. We read through it together and discussed the struggles we had with it. We were excited because in the beginning, he hit the nail on the head. It sounded so right!
But before I can go much further I want to first define a few things. In order to make sure we are on the same page we need to make sure our definitions are the same. So, just for clarification purposes I am going to put down some definitions.
First Gift, dictionary.com defines gift as: something given voluntarily without payment in return, as to show favor toward someone, honor an occasion, or make a gesture of assistance. Mirriam-Webster.com defines gift as: something voluntarily transferred by one person to another without compensation.
The next thing I want to define is earn dictionary.com defines earn as: to gain or get in return for one’s labor or service or to merit as compensation, as for service; deserve. Mirriam-Webster.com defines earn as to receive as return for effort and especially for work done or services rendered.
The next one is sin. Dictionary.com: transgression of divine law or any act regarded as such a transgression, especially a willful or deliberate violation of some religious or moral principle. Mirriam-Webster.com: an offense against religious or moral law or an action that is or is felt to be highly reprehensible. I personally believe that a sin is anything that offends God or that would be considered offensive to God.
And finally let’s define grace. Dictionary.com: a manifestation of favor, especially by a superior Mirriam-Webster.com: unmerited divine assistance given humans for their regeneration or sanctification. As an added definition I spoke with my pastor on Sunday and he was teaching about grace. He was telling me in Hebrew Grace has 2 definitions Hen and hesed. Hen, is grace like a ballerina. To be graceful. Hesed is grace where kindness is shown to the undeserving, unmerited favor. Hen and hesed are the English translation of two Hebrew words. They Can be spelled in English Chen or Chesed also. English doesn’t have the ch sound like in Hebrew so the sound is translated in words like Rachel. The grace that Christ extended to us on the Cross was Hesed: unmerited favor.
So according to those two sources, I think it is fair to say that a gift is something given to someone freely without any payment or repayment. To earn something is to gain or receive compensation or something you have done. A sin is a violation or transgression of a moral law or principle. And according to all of the definitions grace is being shown favor that is undeserved.
So with those things being clarified, I want to address Mr. Wilcox’s example he used in his speech about piano lessons. Mr. Wilcox did such a good job in the beginning at addressing grace. There is nothing we can do to receive grace. Then he stated “Christ’s arrangement with us is similar to a mom providing music lessons for her child. Mom pays the piano teacher. How many know what I am talking about? Because Mom pays the debt in full, she can turn to her child and ask for something. What is it? Practice! Does the child’s practice pay the piano teacher? No. Does the child’s practice repay Mom for paying the piano teacher? No. Practicing is how the child shows appreciation for Mom’s incredible gift. It is how he takes advantage of the amazing opportunity Mom is giving him to live his life at a higher level. Mom’s joy is found not in getting repaid but in seeing her gift used—seeing her child improve. And so she continues to call for practice, practice, practice.”
I believe that grace is a gift. As I defined above a gift is something given to someone freely without any expectation of anything in return. In his example he said that mom pays for piano lessons and now can expect something but if you expect something in return it is no longer free. You now have to earn “receive compensation for services rendered” the gift that was given. Mr. Wilcox stated that mom can expect the child to practice as repayment but again the defeats the whole purpose of the gift that was given to us so freely.
As my daughter and I discussed this last Monday we talked in-depth about this and we brought up the Thief on the Cross. Christ extend him the Gift of Grace while he was on the Cross. No expectation of him to practice anything. Just like you and I there is no expectation. Once you receive the gift it is yours. You choose what you want to do with the gift but there is no expectation of repayment. You can set that gift on a shelf and never do anything with it. It is still yours, it is still there, and it is still grace. You are still covered by the blood of Christ; you still accept that gift. You can also choose to take that gift and use it as a tool to worship God. Not as a form of repayment but as a way of showing gratitude and love to the One who gave you the gift. God doesn’t expect any repayment.
So, here is interpretation of that analogy from a Christian perspective. Mom gives you the gift of piano lessons, and whether or not you accept them, they are paid in full. The end. It is that simple. You can choose to accept them or not but they are always there. The gift of grace that Christ offers is like the gift of piano lessons. The difference between Mr. Wicox’s analogy and mine is that in his analogy, now that Christ has paid the price for your sin, he has the right to ask for something in return. In my analogy he doesn’t. In my analogy grace is truly a gift. In Mr. Wicox’s it is something you earn because the giver has the right to ask for something in return.
In Christianity you have the right to accept grace or not. It is a gift, given freely to everyone. You don’t have to earn the gift. You don’t have to ask for repentance first or be good enough to be given the gift. It is already there. Already offered to you, and everyone. The gift of grace, unmerited favor. A gift that we don’t deserve. A gift that is lavished on us. Ephesians 2:8-9, Titus 2:11, Romans 4:4-5, Romans 6:14, Romans 11:6, Acts 15:11, Galatians 2:21, these are just some Bible references to the free gift of grace without having to earn it.
I think one of the biggest differences from Mormonism to Christianity is the understanding of the atonement and why Christ died for our sins. I never understood the Jewish law, until well after I gave my life to Christ. Our pastor does a 13-week Bible study and I went through it twice before I understood that God gave the Israelite’s 600+ laws to follow. And in order to repent or receive forgiveness from these broken laws they had to offer living sacrifices. There had to be blood spilled for the sins to be covered. That is why Christ was offered as a living sacrifice. He completed the law. His blood covered all the sins that were required to be repented for, covered by a living blood sacrifice. All sins past, present, and future, are done. It is finished because Christ died on the cross.
In Matthew 5:17-48 it talks about sin and that Christ came to fulfill the law. In this passage Christ talks about the importance of being righteous and sinless. However, He is intentional to point out the impossibility of doing everything pleasing in the eyes of God, up to God’s standard. In Mathew 5:27-29 he talks about adultery and that you should not commit adultery, but to even look at a woman and lust after her is to commit adultery in your heart. Have you ever looked at a woman besides your wife or even your wife before you were married and lusted after her? That is to commit adultery in your heart. To live according to the law is impossible. To live a life completely perfect sinless is impossible to do except for the One who came and died so the law could be fulfilled.
I think another big difference is the is when you realize what Christ has done for you. When you truly accept that gift as a Christian, you want to please God, you want to please the one who sacrificed so much so you can live and be forgiven. It isn’t to earn anything. It is gratitude and love. It is acknowledging the lavished grace you have been given, and being grateful knowing you won’t be punished for what you deserve to be punished for. It changes your heart. It has nothing to do with repayment but complete gratitude. Sunday, our pastor taught about the prodigal son. He was given so much by his father. He took his inheritance and squandered all of it. He came home to beg for a place as a servant in his father’s home. His father welcomed him with open arms and gave him more of everything. Lavished grace. He didn’t get what he deserved. He was showed unmerited favor.
It doesn’t matter how much you do, how hard you work, or how good of a person you think you are. You will never be good enough, you can never work hard enough, you can’t earn enough. You can’t “practice” enough to be in the presence of the Lord unless you have accepted that Christ is the only way.
Sorry my response is so long! I hope this gives you some added perspective into where I am coming from. Thank you again for your comment. This is the exact purpose for this blog. To create discussion and dialogue!
And just for fun a skit that shows it doesn’t matter what you do it’s only Jesus that can make you good enough to get into Heaven. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s9SJp0T08ZQ