|Mercy Street Church of Christ
Grace On Tap
Last Sunday evening at our congregational meeting, someone said that one of the reasons Whitney Avenue church is unique is because we emphasize the love of God in Christ and love for one another. And praise God for it.
We are privileged to be members of the family of God in this place that acknowledges God’s love and loyalty to His children. And where we are called to reciprocate that love to God and to one another. Amen.
But if grace is so amazing, why don’t Christians show more of it?
I’ve come to see Christianity not only as ethical, that is, having a high standard of conduct, but involving a new way of seeing, having a new perspective in which to filter all things.
I see myself as a sinner who cannot justify myself by any method of self-improvement. And when I realize that, I turn to God through Christ for His way of salvation, to be reckoned righteous through the finished work of the Son.
To my amazement, I learn that God loves me despite my defects. It is by His grace that He’s made this way of salvation. By His grace, my account is paid in full. And what God has done for me, I soon realize that He’s done the same for other people, sinners just like I am, loved of God.
A grace-full Christian is one who looks at the world through “grace-tinted lenses.”
I was studying one of our lesson texts, Matthew chapter 7, where Jesus says, rather fiercely, “Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name drive out demons and perform many miracles?’ Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’
And I initially thought, “Where’s the grace in that?”
But the phrase “I never knew you” leaped out from the page. Pointedly, Jesus did not say “You never knew me,” or “You never knew the Father.” It struck me that one of our main tasks, perhaps the main task, is to make ourselves known to God. Good works are not enough – these people in the passage said; “did we not prophesy in your name?” – any relationship with God must be based on full disclosure. The masks must come off. These people were charlatans. They were insincere. They weren’t doing whatever they were doing with a pure heart and clean hands. It wasn’t that they were doing something inaccurately. That’s how I learned this passage when I was growing up. This passage was a proof-text to show that other people (presumably sincere people were doing things inaccurately), but that’s not what the passage is saying. They were motivated by inauthentic desires. They didn’t have a trust relationship with the Father through Jesus Christ….
One of my favorite Christian writers is Thomas Merton. He said, “We cannot find Him unless we know we need Him.”
For someone raised in a strong Christian environment, that awareness may not come easily. My Christian upbringing tended toward perfectionism, which tempted us all to follow the example of Ananias and Sapphira in misrepresenting ourselves spiritually. On the Lord’s Day well-scrubbed families emerged from their cars with smiles on their faces even though, as we later found out, they had been fighting abusively all week long.
As a child, I put on my best behavior on Sunday mornings, dressing up for God and for the Christians around me. It never occurred to me that church was a place to be honest. It was a horrible through to consider asking the congregation for prayers to help overcome some sinful tendency…
Now, though, as I seek to look at the world through the lends of grace, I realize that imperfection is the prerequisite for grace. Light only gets in through the cracks.
My pride still tempts me to put on the best front, to clean up appearances. C.S. Lewis said, “Grace substitutes a full, childlike and delighted acceptance of our need, a joy in total dependence. We become ‘jolly beggars.’”
We creatures, we jolly beggars, give glory to God byour dependence on Him. Our wounds and defects are the avenues by which grace might pass through. Since we are human, we are imperfect, incomplete, weak and mortal. And only by accepting our plight can we escape it, receive grace and have victory in Jesus’ name. Only then can we grow close to God in Christlikeness.
Strangely, God in Christ came – not to save the righteous – but He came to save sinners. It is the sick who need a doctor….
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