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Charlie Sheen, Tiger Woods, and What It Means to Fall from Grace

I always used to associate the expression, “fall from grace,” with major acts of sin. Enormous failures. Significant falls.

People who fell from grace were people like Ted Haggard, who lost his church and nearly lost his family after admitting to a homosexual affair after years of speaking out against homosexuality.

Or Tiger Woods, who had an affair that cost him his family and tens of millions of dollars.

Or Charlie Sheen who…well, pulled a Charlie Sheen.

So falling from grace was where you had an affair. Cheated people. Engaged in an addictive behavior. Melted down in public. In general, had some kind of an enormous moral failure and lost everything. Your reputation. Your family. Your livelihood. In the case of Charlie Sheen, your sanity.

That’s what I used to think. And if you were honest, it’s probably what you associate falling from grace with as well.

But we’re both wrong. That’s not what it means. The true definition is astonishing. And infinitely more threatening, convicting, and relevant to most Christians than the stories of the men above.

If you go back to where the phrase comes from in the Bible, here’s what you read:
You who are trying to be justified by law have been alienated from Christ; you have fallen away from grace (Galatians 5:4).

Crap. Ted, Tiger, and Charlie can no longer be our punching bags for falling from grace.

I understand why they are. They’re easy targets. They warn us of the danger of falling into sin and ruining our lives. And if we’re honest, they make us feel better about ourselves. But here’s the truth: Most Christians aren’t in danger of pulling a Charlie Sheen or a Tiger Woods or a Ted Haggard. We’re in danger of something far more deceptive and equally offensive to God.

And that’s living as if we have no need of His grace. It’s believing that all of our good deeds actually put us in a better position before God. That because we’re not Charlie, Tiger, or Ted; we’re closer to God, even if only by an inch.

This couldn’t be further from the truth.

Even if you read your Bible everyday and now have it memorized in Hebrew, Greek, Latin, and the 1611 KJV.
Even if you never have an affair.
Even if you live a life that makes the Pharisees look like cat-strangling, coke-snorting, Wiccan worshippers.
Even if you have it all together.

When Jesus comes back and every knee bows and every tongue confesses that He is Lord, your head won’t be one centimeter higher than Charlie’s. Or Tiger’s. Or Ted’s. Or anyone else’s.

The quickest way to fall from grace is to think that there is an ounce of your life that isn’t dependent on it. Every step that you take to be acceptable to God in your own effort apart from Jesus and the cross is actually a step away from God.

Don’t fall away from grace. Ted needs it. Tiger needs it. Charlie needs it.
But so do you. And so do I.

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Steven Furtick is the founder and lead pastor of Elevation Church, based in Charlotte, North Carolina. Elevation Church meets at eight locations in the Charlotte area, as well as one location in Toronto, Canada. The church has been named one of the Fastest-Growing Churches in America by Outreach Magazine for each of the past six years.