Clash Book Intro
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Clash of the Covenants: Escaping Religious Bondage Through The Grace Guarantee
Michael C. Kapler
~ Introduction ~
I WAS A YOUNG CHILD at the age of ten when I professed faith in Jesus Christ and I can remember it like it was yesterday. I recall looking over at the picture of Jesus hanging on my bedroom wall and coming to the realization that I had just entered into personal contact with the One represented in that picture. In that moment, I experienced something I can’t describe, but the reality transpired within me that Jesus was more than a mere religion. He wasn’t just a swear word or figment of someone’s imagination, and he was much more than a picture on the wall.
Right after this experience, someone told me when I committed a sin I should simply remember to ask God for forgiveness and then I would be forgiven (again). They were sharing with me what had been handed down to them, but they said it rather nonchalantly and with a shrug, as if it wasn’t a big deal. Naturally, I wanted to be forgiven, but just as importantly, I wanted to stay forgiven, so I figured I’d better stick to this rule. Little did I know it would eventually become one of the biggest burdens in my entire life. This small piece of well meaning instruction diminished the finished work of Jesus Christ and immediately placed the responsibility of my position with God back on my shoulders. Although I knew salvation was supposed to be a gift that brought freedom, I got it into my head that my release from prison would be based upon good behavior, while having to regularly report to my parole officer.
After more than two decades as a believer, I found myself at a spiritual crossroads. I became somewhat disconnected, disillusioned, disenchanted, or just plain “dissed” by much of the message I had been taught for so many years. Don’t get me wrong—it wasn’t that I was feeling challenged in my faith or doubting God. I could not deny his reality in my life, but I began to perceive that some of the status quo teaching and certain traditional beliefs commonly found in much of Christianity was inconsistent. Something was “off” and just seemed out of order. I began to see where certain things within traditional Christian concepts were not calculating correctly. I couldn’t quite put my finger on all of it, but once I started doing the spiritual math, something was not adding up. I knew God’s Word was truth, but much of what was being taught by the majority of churches and other popular ministries was somewhat contradictory at times. It brought me to a place where I felt like throwing in the towel when it came to “organized religion.”
Puzzled by this overwhelming sense of frustration, I began to see the hypocrisy in much of the message being taught, including some of what I had shared with others over the years. It became more clear to me that many of the biblical dots did not connect the way they should, at least not with the way religion embraced them. As my frustration and burning dissatisfaction increased, I sensed God was somehow a part of why I was feeling this way. My heart knew it, but my mind could not put it together.
Through a series of circumstances, a moment came along where something started to click within and I was changed forever. I began to see the gospel and the entire Bible in a way that I had not seen it before. I became more aware that something powerful was missing from the message that most of us were hearing. Significantly, God began to open the vault to where many of the answers to my questions had been hidden. No, I didn’t understand it all right away, but while at this crossroads, my eyes became opened to something that I had not fully seen after all those years as a believer—it was the gospel of grace!
I know this may sound ridiculous to some in the church world. Of course the gospel is about grace, right? Most institutional churches think it’s a good topic to discuss, at least on special occasions. Everybody knows it has a sweet sound and causes the blind to see, because the hymn says it’s so. But as I began to realize the essence of grace, it revealed a gospel thoroughly separated from religious rules and the effort of self-improvement. To my amazement, it was something that was noticeably absent from the typical teaching you would find in church or on TV and radio.
After a decade of growing in the grace of the gospel together, my friend Joel Brueseke was encouraged to launch an Internet podcast and asked me to co-host what would come to be known as “Growing in Grace.” In time, Joel and I came to be criticized in a book full of legalistic attacks on some well known and respected ministries of God’s grace. How our humble little podcast made the honorable mention list, I’ll never know. We were accused of running from the words of Jesus. Nothing could be further from the truth. While this writing is not meant to be a specific response to that, the desire is to address a modern-day works message that has contributed to nullifying the promise of faith and the message of the gospel of grace. I believe the biggest culprit is the entanglement of two covenants that have clashed in the church.
Although there is plenty to ponder in these pages, what has been written is meant to be simple enough for a child to understand. Frankly, that’s the only way I’m able to absorb the incredible depth of the gospel. Although no one has cornered the market on truth, in general, a hefty portion of what religion has put on display has caused many of us to misinterpret the good news. If I’m allowed to be less diplomatic, we have been duped. I’m not in the convincing business, I have no hidden agenda or denominational banner to wave, and I’m not even trying to persuade you to believe everything the same way I believe. I do not speak the language of a seminarian, and it is not my intention to negatively target any specific brand of dogma, denomination, or ministry by name. I simply want to offer some perspective that may help you begin to see the gospel in a different light and realize the love of God as you never have before.
If the closest thing to experiencing unconditional love has been from your pet dog, you’ve been missing out on something very special between you and your Creator.