Grace is Free | Marci Preheim

Grace is Free | Marci Preheim

When I first read “Grace is Free”, by Marci Preheim, it was actually self- published under the title, “Super {free} Woman”. I saw a few quotes from this book on twitter and it piqued my interest. It was a book about a woman coming out of the throes of fundamentalism into grace. That is exactly where I was sitting at that very moment and I felt as if I were the only woman on the planet who knew what it was like, except perhaps this “Marci”. I looked her book up on Amazon, and saw that the forward was written by Byron Yawn, senior pastor of Community Bible Church in Nashville, Tennessee.

My stomach jumped into my throat and I had an emotional seizure.

As the Lord would have it, Byron was the first person who said to me: “you’re not crazy”, as I began describing for him the world that was crashing down around me as a result of understanding grace and the gospel as a believer who had been sitting in church for years.  I was liberated from the fundamentalist mindset and it was scaring me to death. I listened to Byron’s sermons online and began to pray for his church in Nashville. Did these people have any idea what a gift it was to have a pastor unashamedly preach Christ alone to them?? I prayed that they understood the gospel message that they were hearing and I prayed that they loved their pastor well.

As the Lord would also have it, Byron was Marci’s pastor. *Add to cart*

Getting this book in the mail, I sat down and read straight through the first four chapters and wept my face off. It was like reading someone else tell my own story. I could hardly breathe, I really wasn’t crazy. When Christ calls you out of everything you’ve ever known it’s scary. For the legalist, it’s downright terrifying. To put down the lists of rules and expectations that have been handed to you as your guide for life and to trust in Christ’s work alone, to be led by the Spirit instead of people, is unthinkable. I was experiencing panic attacks for the first time in my life, because I realized that everything I had been trusting in was futile. I could no longer hang on to legalism but at the same time, the free fall felt like it was too much to take. Even though it was scary to preach what was so contrary to my religious environment, I could not keep my mouth shut. I had to share this good news with anyone who would listen. People in this sort of culture look at you like you’ve lost your mind as the words pour out of your mouth. Something has gone wrong in evangelicalism when you find yourself whispering about Jesus in the halls at church. If you think I’m exaggerating, I had friends later admit to me that they had been praying for me. They thought I was leaving the faith. The gospel sounds like heresy to the legalist. Needless to say, the battle for belief was raging…. and yet, God was gracious to me. I was no longer on an island because here was another woman who understood what I was going through, discovering the gospel as a believer who had been sitting in church for two decades. She had been on the inside of the fundamentalist culture and knew the difficulty of breaking free mentally from all that you have been taught for years. Reading through this book felt like sitting across the table from a friend, who was holding my hand while I wept bitterly and then joyfully into my coffee. She got it.

“Depending on Christ’s righteousness is the joyful alternative to human achievement. The beauty of the gospel is realized when we humbly admit we have nothing to offer — no righteousness to bring. Christian women know this but don’t always live it in front of each other. Instead, we try to prove the opposite. Covering our sin and wearing a mask of external righteousness, we fool others into thinking we are godly. We are not robots. Jesus said in John 13:34-35, “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” I cannot truly love someone if I am enslaved to her opinion of me. Being fake is not love.”

The truth is, living in a fundamentalist culture, everything is about appearance, by it’s own mechanics we are enslaved to one another’s opinions because we are stuck in a system that requires us to follow one another’s rules. I sat, jaw dropped that someone else saw the flaws of this structure built on a foundation of cheap law. Not only did Marci see it all for what it was, she called it out from scripture. Like — out loud, in public, as a woman. It was mindblowingly freeing for me.

In her book, Marci absolutely nails the issues of performancism and the way we practically live as if justification were all by works, because we insist on preaching sanctification by works. She, without hesitation, calls out how we use our disciplines and our trust in them instead of falling on Christ in our desperation and living by faith and the power of the Holy Spirit. She says it this way, “If we must discipline ourselves against our will to draw near to the Lord, then there’s a bigger problem than lack of discipline. There is a crisis of faith.” You see, the legalist has zero use for faith once they are “in the door” of salvation. They propel themselves forward by the sweat of their brow. We fall into the trap of sin management instead of confession which is brought by the gift of repentance. It is there, in our confession of sin that the light of the gospel comes flooding in and we hear those healing words, “It is Finished”. We are completely forgiven and in Christ. Marci explains so well how this pietistic trap leads to hiding our sin and diving deeper into it, never truly overcoming anything and certainly never drawing us to want intimacy with God himself. She never says that works are unnecessary, she just spells out for us what a good work is and what it isn’t. It isn’t by control, bullying, or manipulation. It is Spirit led. 

I could literally write for days on what this book, and it’s author has meant to me. It was as if someone had tossed a life raft to me, while I was thrashing about in the midst of a raging sea, trying to keep my head above water. It was the “see”? To Byron’s counsel, “you’re not crazy”. It was God’s answer to my plea for a community that understood this message of Grace. I had no idea the friendship that would sprout from my Amazon purchase that day. In God’s sweet grace, Marci would not remain some “author” out there in the world, she would become my friend and my sister. She would be the woman who would walk with me as I spun out of my legalist framework and began understanding the gospel. She would be the friend to whisper, “it’s okay to let go of these rules you are white knuckling, remember the gospel? Remember this grace that says you are free?” She would be the friend to link arms with me and give me the courage to preach the gospel against the backdrop of legalism and it’s relentless defenders, of whom she and I used to be the foremost. She is my “twinsie” a sweet, immeasurable gift from the Lord and it’s through tears, honestly, that I’m writing this review as I recall God’s goodness through the difficult times in giving me this particular friend and how it all started with this book.

Marci trusted the Lord’s leading to step out and write a book that many publishers said no to. She kept following the Spirit’s prompting to self publish, and God used that work as part of his rescue mission of me. Later, Cruciform Press picked up her book, and published it under the new title, Grace is Free. I cannot recommend this book enough. It is full of gospel freedom to offend, challenge, and free your inner legalist. 


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One thought on “Grace is Free | Marci Preheim

  1. “The truth is, living in a fundamentalist culture, everything is about appearance, by it’s own mechanics we are enslaved to one another’s opinions because we are stuck in a system that requires us to follow one another’s rules.”

    My girlfriend and I were saying exactly this over coffee this morning, and praying for a dear sister who has been hurt badly by the ‘rules’ of others. As someone who has found the freedom from this culture in recent years, I am always delighted to hear that others are talking (out loud) about it, too!

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