The committed Christian reading it may be tempted to decide the book has nothing for them; that they are better taught than to fall into such folly. But when one continue to read on, Chapter 3 contains an exposition that will challenge their understanding of grace.
Grace is explored by the author as that which not only brings salvation, but also sees a Christian along the path of purification till one fully become “His own special people, zealous for good works.” (Titus 2:14)
The author asserts that salvation is seen as a work in progress in which an individual is saved by grace through faith, if one persevere to the end, as in Matthew 10:22 and 24:13. Lauren demonstrates the Bible's insistence that grace is needed not only to save the fallen from sin and from folly, but to bring them to the fulfilment of God's heart's desire for a people who will truly be His very own – a people like Him.
To show the reader the complete picture, the author employs many scriptures that are little-expounded in many churches today; scriptures that speak powerfully of God's desire that His people should walk in godliness, be a people of good deeds, and that warn of the consequence of failing to understand God's heart and plainly-stated expectation. Scriptures that promise God's grace to enable His people in it all.
Lauren confronts the reader with the verse: narrow is the gate and difficult is the way that leads to salvation, and explains that entering in by the only gate to salvation that is available to man does not in itself ensure safe passage to the final destination. That God's grace is supplied to see the person who will depend on it - and on it alone – arrive at the “full salvation” Hebrews 9:28 promises Christ will bring at His second coming to those who are “eagerly, constantly and patiently waiting for and expecting Him” (Amplified).
It may well be that being called but not chosen is decided for many at the gate to the narrow way by those who are led to it but baulk at going in. However Lauren reminds her readers that those who have started along the path of godly obedience are urged by Paul in Philippians 2:12 to “work out (cultivate, carry out to the goal, and fully complete) their own salvation with reverence and awe and trembling (self-distrust, with serious caution, tenderness of conscience, watchfulness against temptation, timidly shrinking from whatever might offend God and discredit the name of Christ).” (Amplified).
She points out that Paul says it is God within the Christian who is at work to will and to do for His good pleasure, (Philippians 2:13) and brings out many scriptures to show the need one has of His grace to recognise and surrender to His work in the individual.
Among the scriptures the author brings is the passage from 2 Peter 1:2-10. It begins with the heartfelt wish that grace be multiplied to the believers who are so dear to Peter. It finishes by explaining the need for this grace, which is that they would not be short-sighted, but eager to make their calling and election sure.
Lauren points out that when Paul testified in front of Agrippa concerning the reason he preached, he did not stop short at his aim that men should repent and turn to God. He added the further aim that they should “prove their repentance by their deeds.” (Acts 26:20)
Jesus Himself covered this subject extensively in Luke 13:3-9, Lauren reminds her readers. In that passage Jesus is very explicit about the need for repentance that shows. He twice mentions that if one does not repent he shall perish, and then He tells a parable to explain the kind of repentance he means. It's the parable of the fig tree in the vineyard. The owner of the vineyard comes looking for fruit on the tree and for the third year in a row finds none. He instructs the keeper of the vineyard to cut the tree down. The keeper intercedes for the tree and promises the master that if he will leave the tree standing for one more year, he will dig around it and fertilise it. If after that it still bears no fruit, he will not contest its being cut down.
Lauren brings to the reader’s attention that Jesus said if anyone wants to follow Him they must deny themselves and take up their cross daily (Luke 9:23); and “he who does not take his cross and follow after me is not worthy of me” (Matthew 10:38). When someone considers that taking up one’s own cross is a commitment to die to their own life, to the desires of the flesh, to temptations to sin, and to put one’s will before the Master's, this greatly contrasts the “all about you” message often heard today.
Arguing from Luke 14:27, the author points out that Jesus said “whoever does not bear his cross and come after me cannot be my disciple.” A strong word, but the word of the Master.
Elsewhere citing James 2:14-26, Lauren calls her readers to examine the validity of faith without works. “What does it profit?” James asks concerning faith without works. “Can faith (alone) save?” he asks, and answers by saying that faith without works is dead. “You see that his faith and his actions were working together, and his faith was made complete by what he did.” (NIV). James emphasises his conclusion with the very in-your-face statement that even the demons believe, and tremble.
The author reminds Christians of a very stern warning Jesus gave when He said, “Depart from me, all you workers of iniquity.” (Luke 13:27b) She points out that He was speaking to people who called Him “Lord” and said, “We ate and drank in Your presence and You taught in our streets” (v 26); but that Jesus made it plain (v 24) that these were people who had not entered in at the narrow gate, but had taken the broad road. In other words, they had done what they thought to do, and not been disciplined by His word and His Spirit, the means of His grace for the saving of their souls.
Continuing to warn her readers, Lauren cites chapters 2–3 of Revelation where the risen Christ 'admonished the churches for their ungodliness, disobedience to the commands of God, and submitting to false teachings. “I hold this against you…”; “Repent, therefore! Otherwise…”'
Book overview Part II: here
Book overview Part III: here
Has Grace Been Abused? is published by Westbow Press, a division of Thomas Nelson USA, and can be purchased on Amazon.