Saturday, January 9, 2010

Sorrowful Yet Always Rejoicing

I find it spiritually enriching to hear a man of God talk about what God is teaching him and saying to him in the midst of a physical battle. Piper's comments regarding his time with cancer were a great teaching tool and now Matt Chandler is undergoing surgery, chemo and radiation for a brain tumor. On January 2nd he preached his first sermon since the diagnosis and surgery. I think it is worth a listen.

Friday, January 8, 2010


Would we ever hear this word in our daily lives if it wasn't for the Bible and Godly preaching? OK, we might hear a form of it, like when Elaine from Seinfeld says, "I like to think that I have a little grace." To which her job interviewer replies, "You can't have some grace. You either have grace or you don't."

Isn't that the truth when it comes to our relationship with God? We are either completely covered by His grace by being born again or we are completely without it. But I think so many of us, myself most certainly included, struggle with the concept of God's grace because it is so utterly foreign in the context of this world. A more fitting phrase for our society is, "You get what you deserve." You break a law, you go to prison. You don't do your job well, you get fired. You are nice to someone and what do you expect? That they be nice back to you, right?

There are causes and effects. There are consequences to our actions. The ripples in the pond extend outward and impact our lives and the lives of others. It all seems so interconnected and logical. Then we are given a concept like "grace" and we try to make sense of it given what we see and experience every day. We like the concept when we hear it...sounds good. Undeserved love. Which of us doesn't want that? Don't answer that so fast. My initial inclination was to type that everyone wants that but I don't think that's right. We all want "deserved love". That is, if we treat a person well we want them to reciprocate. I respect you so I want you to respect me. I care about you so I expect you to care about me. Makes sense to our logical brains.

But undeserved love doesn't sit well with a lot of us. Isn't this where the elder brother stumbled? The father opens his arms and prepares the fattest calf for the return of his wayward son. The elder son looks at this and says, "Ummm...excuse me here Dad. I have done everything you have asked. Where is my party? I DESERVE your love and affection. Little bro doesn't." He puts a higher value on love that he feels has been earned rather than the love freely given to his younger sibling. Do we do the same thing?

I find myself reluctant at times to ask for God's forgiveness immediately after sinning even though I have been convicted by the Spirit and am wanting to be washed clean again. Why? Yes, there is probably some Satan in there, knowing what I need most at that moment is grace and restoration and wanting to talk me out of seeking it. But it's also me getting in the way. I feel like I let God down...betrayed who am I to come to Him and ask Him to make me whole when I just chose sin over Him a moment ago? I am so cognizant of falling into "cheap grace" that I feel guilty about turning to Him after just turning away a minute earlier. Do I really mean it? It feels so...duplicitous (thinking Paul here). But I am sincere in heart. It's just that I don't feel like I DESERVE God's forgiveness.

God really talked to me about that one night because my self-introspection would usually stop there. God said, "Take that one step further. You are saying there are times where you don't feel you deserve My forgiveness. So that must mean there are times that you DO feel as though you deserve My forgiveness." Ouch...that was an eye opener. Pride slips in so easily and chokes the gift of grace. I'm a good person and did some pretty good things today so of course God will forgive me for those minor transgressions that occurred along the way. I don't actually have that thought but that line of reasoning must be in there somewhere.

So, it makes me take a step back and ask myself if I really understand God's holiness and my utter dependance on Him. I think I used to get out of balance when I was so fixated on being a miserable sinner and the clay and the wretch out of "Amazing Grace" (thank you LCMS ;) ). Now am I getting out of balance with too many thoughts being placed on being a co-heir of Christ, holy in God's sight and being glorified by God?

I am only glorified because I have been justified. That is the ultimate definition of grace. While I was still God's enemy, Christ died for me. I can spout off the verses but my prayer is that my head knowledge regarding grace would permeate my heart more deeply that I would have a new and more intimate understanding of what it means to be loved for the sake of being loved. Doesn't that just speak to you? To be loved for the sake of being loved. Unconditional love. If you have really good parents like I do you have an earthly taste of that. If you have a wonderful spouse you may have an idea. But every earthly example pales in comparison for the love God has for us.

I think one of the reasons that we struggle in allowing God to be the source of our joy, is that we just don't really get what grace means. If we did we would want to bask in it all the time. Our hearts would leap out of our chests. Our joy would be irrepressible. But we treat grace like it's only reserved for special occasions or we just don't really believe in it even though we may say we do. Or maybe...just maybe...we don't want grace because it means we are admitting that there is nothing we can do to earn God's favor, and if that is the case, than all the good things that we are doing to gain God's favor are actually being done for the wrong reason...and that is a conclusion that will turn our behavior motivations upside down.

"Not because of who I am
But because of what You've done
Not because of what I've done
But because of who you are"

I've sang it a hundred times but the meaning in those words has yet to sink in fully. "Not because of what I've done but because of who You are." Words that are indeed counter cultural.

Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding. (Prov. 3:5)