Posts Tagged grace
There are moments in our Christian walk when we hear the rooster crow, and realize we have blown it in our attempts to follow Jesus’ Way in our interactions with others. Today I heard the rooster crow. I looked in the mirror and didn’t like what I saw.
The scary thing is how “right” I was in my own eyes at the time. Even scarier is how right I would be in most people’s eyes as well. It’s a classic example of how different the “American Way” is from the “Jesus Way.” Here’s the story.
Today I was doing business with someone, and as the customer I was very unsatisfied with the service I received. The service I requested was blundered several times, they made a mess of our place, the product they delivered was faulty and didn’t end up working. I called them to come back and fix it. I also felt that they owed me a refund for the poor service and all day hassle. He would give me a refund, but then he would not finish the job that I needed done for this weekend.
I was wronged. I demanded “justice” or “recompense.” If they want my business again they better make things right. I demand my money back. He owed me. He was in my debt.
Are you with me? Can you feel my righteous indignation? Read the rest of this entry »
Let the Lord judge the peoples.Vindicate me, Lord, according to my righteousness, according to my integrity, O Most High. Bring to an end the violence of the wicked and make the righteous secure—you, the righteous God who probes minds and hearts. My shield is God MostHigh, who saves the upright in heart. God is a righteous judge…. (Psalm 7)
This is one prayer of David that we should not pray.
We see in these verses of David a plea for God to execute justice and vindicate him according to David’s righteousness and integrity. What a dangerous prayer to pray — who among us could stand a chance if we had only our righteous standing to rely on when we came to God in prayer?
The blessed Good News of the gospel of Jesus Christ is that God, in the end, does not operate according to this kind of justice. David is operating in a theological framework (here at least) where God saves those who are “righteous” and deserving, and condemns rebels and evil doers. Is David a proto-Pharisee in this respect?
But Christians must read the Old Testament in light of the fuller revelation of God’s nature revealed in the New Testament. When we re-read this Psalm in light of God’s justice revealed in Jesus Christ on Calvary, we realize that David’s prayer doesn’t yet understand the kind of scandalous justice that God would display in through Christ on the cross.
We discover in Christ that God doesn’t just save the upright in heart, but sinners who repent. God doesn’t judge us according to our own righteousness and integrity, but rather according to Christ’s righteousness on our behalf. Thankfully, God does not give us what we deserve (which is wrath because “all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God”), but instead extends to all sinners the gift of undeserving pardon solely by His scandalous grace.
Either we must admit that God is really, in the end, not just at all (according to our typical definition), or we must redefine God’s justice in light of the cross. I just call it a scandalous justice. I just call it “saved by grace.” Below is the good news of the gospel of Jesus Christ. Remember: Jesus did not come to earth to make bad people good; but rather to make dead people alive!
“I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners” (JESUS).
“As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, 2 in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient.3 All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our flesh and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature deserving of wrath. 4 But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, 5 made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved….For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— 9 not by works, so that no one can boast. (Ephesians 2)
When evening came, Jesus was reclining at the table with the Twelve. And while they were eating, he said, “I tell you the truth, one of you will betray me.” They were very sad and began to say to him one after the other, “Surely not I, Lord?” Jesus replied, “The one who has dipped his hand into the bowl with me will betray me. The Son of Man will go just as it is written about him. But woe to that man who betrays the Son of Man! It would be better for him if he had not been born.” Then Judas, the one who would betray him, said, “Surely not I, Rabbi?” Jesus answered, “Yes, it is you.” While they were eating, Jesus took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to his disciples, saying, “Take and eat; this is my body.” Then he took the cup, gave thanks and offered it to them, saying, “Drink from it, all of you. This is my blood of thecovenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins. (Matt 26:20-28)
Nobody names their son Judas anymore. Judas has become synonymous with gross betrayal and wretched sin. As we walk closer to the events of Good Friday, I was reading this passage above and thinking about the Judas factor again.
There are many questions that swirl around in my mind whenever I think of ole Judas. Was his betrayal predestined? If so, is he really to blame? Should he instead be given some credit for “faithfully” performing his unfortunate role in the redemption story in helping Jesus accomplish what he came to earth to do? Did he “betray” Jesus or merely “hand him over” to the authorities as they had agreed? (The Greek word can mean either “betray” or “hand over.”) Did Judas repent? Will he be in Heaven? Unfortunately, the Biblical narrative isn’t interested in addressing these questions.
Instead of answering these questions today, I’m offering a couple simple reflections I had as I read the familiar story again this week. Read the rest of this entry »
What do you think?
“What did you get on that hole?” the scorecard keeper asks. Your answer may not be as simple as just counting up your strokes. For many, this question immediately forces an ethical dilemma or sparks an internal wrestling match with one’s conscience. Do I tell him the truth– that I got “a snowman” on the short par 3 — to keep a clean conscience? Or is it better to save face and protect my ego with the guys, give a dishonest score and deal with the guilt later (when no one’s looking)? Or, better, why don’t I just try harder, screw up less and always be sure to get a respectable score every time? Like that’s possible.
Have you ever quit keeping score in the middle of a round? What’s up with that? Certainly that, too, is a defense mechanism to avoid the shame and humiliation that would come at the end of the round when you actually had to own up to your embarrassing score.
One spiritual mind exercise I occasionally engage in is to imagine Jesus along with me, taking part in a typical 21st century activity and seeing how he would act (e.g., Jesus in rush hour traffic, etc.). Play along with me for a second. What do you think it would be like golfing 18 holes at your favorite country club with Jesus (assume Jesus can get you free passes to any private dream course!)? If you’re like me, you’re already wondering if Jesus would use his divine powers and ace every hole with 500+ yard drives, whether he would walk across the water to retrieve your water ball, etc.
Yet, the issue I want to focus on in this imaginative exercise has nothing to do with Jesus’ divine swing, putting perfection and the like. Instead, I want you to ask yourself this question: What kind of scorecard keeper would Jesus be? Would Jesus be a stickler for the rules, allowing no gimmes and keeping close record of every single penalty? Remember, you’re probably not going to sneak anything by Jesus — like that secret “foot wedge” to get your ball away from that tree on # 12. Or, the classic litmus test to determine the gracious scorekeepers from the uptight, legalists:
Would Jesus allow mulligans? Read the rest of this entry »
Those of us too absorbed in our ordinary affairs will simply ignore nature’s process of procreation as pollen storms blow in and cotton-like snow accumulates on our lawns, car windshields, patio furniture and everything else. Until, that is, that pesky cotton begins landing on top your hamburgers on the grill, or you snort it up your nose on your morning jog. That’s how it caught my attention this spring.
Still, instead of literally cursing the wind, my mind began to wander to an extraordinary biblical truth or, as I call them, a “sacred analogy” hidden in this otherwise ordinary spring occurrence. Read the rest of this entry »
Pull up a slab of rock, light a candle and grab a quill, ink and a scrap of papyrus to take notes. We’re journeying together back to the year AD 58 to a Roman prison cell to listen in as Paul pens his letter to his Christian brothers and sisters in the city of Philippi. What can his letter speak to us some 2,000 years later?
“…Whether I am in chains or defending and confirming the gospel, all of you share in God’s grace with me” (Phil 1:7b).
The only survivor of a shipwreck was washed up on a small, uninhabited island. He prayed feverishly for God to rescue him, and every day he scanned the horizon for help, but none seemed forthcoming. Exhausted, he eventually managed to build a little hut out of driftwood to protect him from the elements, and to store his few possessions.
But then one day, after scavenging for food, he arrived home to find his little hut in flames, the smoke rolling up to the sky. The worst had happened; everything was lost. He was stunned with grief and anger. “God, how could you do this to me!” he cried.
Early the next day, however, he was awakened by the sound of a ship that was approaching the island. It had come to rescue him. “How did you know I was here?” asked the weary man of his rescuers. “We saw your smoke signal,” they replied.
It is easy to get discouraged when things are going bad. But we shouldn’t lose heart, because God is at work in our lives, even in the midst of pain and suffering. Remember, next time your little hut is burning to the ground it just may be a smoke signal that summons the grace of God.
When things are going our way, it is easy to give thanks to God for his amazing grace and love. We feel blessed as we enjoy God’s favor. Yet, how easily we get discouraged when life strands us on our own islands of grief and suffering. We lose sight of God’s grace and retreat to our own huts of despair. We thank God when life is good, and often blame him when our lives get shipwrecked.
The Apostle Paul always remained anchored in a deep sense of God’s continual grace regardless of the circumstances. He seemed to always be aware that the smoke of his life’s circumstances was continually summoning God’s grace. Whether in prison or freely spreading the good news of Christ, Paul was always tapped into the amazing, never-ending, unconditional grace of God.
Are you on cloud nine today, life is beautiful, and God is blessing your socks off? Celebrate God’s grace.
Is your hut burning or are you shackled by your own set of chains? Let your circumstances summon God’s grace.
“My grace is all you need, for my power is greatest when you are weak” (2 Cor 12:9).