(no grace required)
Grace is discussed 150 times in the new testament. It’s brought up by the Apostle Paul 133 of those times. That same Paul who was a finding and killing Christians! Yet God called him to be one of the most prominent figures of the New Testament! Paul was someone who experienced the depths of grace!
“I thank Christ Jesus our Lord, who has strengthened me, because He considered me faithful, putting me into service, even though I was formerly a blasphemer and a persecutor and a violent aggressor. Yet I was shown mercy because I acted ignorantly in unbelief; and the grace of our Lord was more than abundant, with the faith and love which are found in Christ Jesus. It is a trustworthy statement, deserving full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, among whom I am foremost of all. Yet for this reason I found mercy, so that in me as the foremost, Jesus Christ might demonstrate His perfect patience as an example for those who would believe in Him for eternal life.” 1 Timothy 1:12-16 (NASB)
Grace is difficult for the carnal mind to grasp. Therefore, the natural tendency of the church is to “keep things neat and tidy” by instituting religious rules and policies. We fear grace will become “greasy” and messy and water us down. But, the truth is Jesus wasn’t afraid to get messy. In fact, when he was accused of associating too closely with the outcasts and sinners his response was to say that this was exactly the purpose of his coming. It was designed to be in the middle of the messes. Ministry is simply going to be messy because people are messy!
We have the Spirit of God inside of us; The same Spirit that moved in the chaos to create the world and everything in it. The same Spirit that moved in the chaos of death and a grave and brought resurrection life. The same Spirit that moves in the chaos of our lives and the lives around us and brings healing, truth and purpose. This is the Gospel! Our God brings life and light and direction to every area where darkness has caused chaos.
Dr. Timothy Keller made this audacious statement in his book Prodigal God, “The kind of outsiders Jesus attracted are not attracted to contemporary churches, even our most avant-garde ones. We tend to draw conservative, buttoned-down, moralistic people. The licentious and liberated or the broken and marginal avoid church. That can only mean one thing. If the preaching of our ministers and the practice of our parishioners do not have the same effect on people that Jesus had, then we must not be declaring the same message that Jesus did.”
Many people outside the church are afraid to come to church for fear of “messing it up.” The impression is that church is clean and tidy and everyone there has scrubbed their nails and washed behind their ears. What if my hands are dirty and my feet are tracking mud?
It’s kind of like the formal living room. Remember the one? Sometimes the plastic was still on the furniture. And the floor had carefully vacuumed lines. The room existed, but life happened around it – never in it.
Are we preaching the same message as Jesus? Prostitutes, tax collectors, zealots and rebels, and other sorts of outcasts were attracted to Jesus. This is a difficult measuring tool. Are people with “messy” lives attracted to me? Are they attracted to my church? If not, I may have a weak grasp of grace.
Is my life like a formal living room that I am afraid to get dirty? How do I see grace?
Next week, is grace tolerance or compromise? Or neither?