Let’s be honest with one another. Do we really understand grace?

The trend, it seems to me, is that we are saved by grace and then it’s all up to us. That is, God does the initial work of ‘saving’ us and then we do the maintenance on our own. I suppose we might pay lip service every now and again to the work of the Spirit. I’m not persuaded that I am any closer to the truth of grace. I still try too hard to be holy not because I love God but because I really want to impress God. Really. Don’t we all want to hear God say, “Well done good and faithful servant. Enter into your master’s joy today”? Grace is someone else’s reconstruction project and not my maintenance project.

Maybe I want to hear that because I want God to be impressed at how in control I am of my situation. I’m not too particularly concerned to be dependent. I like control and being in charge. I certainly do not want to cede control to anyone. Lately I have found myself in a place where I have no control. I’m about one meal away from having to go to the local food pantry and beg. I’m about one drink away from falling off the wagon I have been on since 1991. I’m about one missed day of work away from not making the mortgage. Grace is someone else in control besides me.

I want to be close to God and yet right now I am about as far away from him as a human on earth can be from one who came near. On the other hand, I am closer to him than I have ever been. It’s oxymoronic, but true and it has nothing to do with me. I’m not so good at hiding, and God is so very good at finding. Grace is someone else finding me and not me making myself known.

I don’t understand grace. Maybe I should quit trying and just enjoy it. Or Swim in it. Or blame it. Run to it. Run from it. Eat it. Drink it. Put it in my pocket. Fly it like a kite. Grace is someone else’s idea of sustenance not mine.

I read this short essay tonight. Well, it’s not really an essay. It’s more like a blog post—a good one: short, sweet, and memorable. It’s called Refrigerator People and the Unfair Grace of God. Here’s a clip:

The One I serve is the Author of wildly beautiful, unfair grace.  He permits me to pray for people the world dismisses with a few well-placed words.  Dirtbags.  Scum of the earth.  Criminals.  Crazy people.  You know, the ones who “deserve it” when the going gets rough.  He invites me to dare to believe He’s big enough to redeem even these…and that He longs to do exactly that.  As I join Him in the conversation about them, He shows me much about their brokenness and their beauty…and much about mine as well.

The beauty of grace is that it makes life not fair.  My prayer today is that every person on my fridge and on my heart will accept the unfair grace of God, and know freedom in this life.  I long to meet them on the other side, and celebrate with them the magnitude of that grace.

Grace will always be unfair. I’m undone. We are all undone by the God of grace because none of us can stand before him, read off our list of credentials, and hope to get in with a pat on the back and a smile. But we can expect to ‘get in’ when we are nothing more before God than who we are because of God. That is, when we make no effort whatsoever to impress him aside from just accepting what he offers in the form of grace, empty vessels holding up empty hands that have been lifted up by his strength that we hope he fills (faith?). Grace is God being pleased with us because he wants to and not because he has to.

I think some Christians put way too much stock in impressing God than they do in being impressed by God. Grace is God loving us because he can, not us loving him because we can’t.

I don’t really think I understand grace. I think the minute we think we do is the minute we will probably die because how can God afford for that message to be shared with the buildings full of Christians who think they are impressing God by being in church on Sundays and putting their trinkets into the passing plates and eating stale bread and warm juice? Jesus said it best, though, didn’t he: “It’s not the well who need a doctor, but the sick.”

He also said something like, “If you were blind, you would not be guilty of sin; but now that you claim you can see, your guilt remains.” I know for a fact this verse angers people in the church more than any other verse in the Bible because there is not one of us who would dare admit that we are blind. We see all too well which is exactly why we make a wreck of the church. We see all too well which is exactly why the church, some churches anyhow, has become a museum for relics to be admired, dusted, and preserved instead of a distribution center of grace and goods; a feeding trough for the hungry and helpless; a hospital for the beaten and broken; a truck-stop for the weary and worn out. The church should be a pair binoculars or a telescope or reading glasses instead of a mirror. Grace is something we look through not something we look at.

That’s what grace does. It changes our perspective and shifts our gaze. Grace is someone else’s vision and not our own.

I know that’s what upsets people about grace: We prefer to look at ourselves. Grace demands that we do not. Grace demands–yes demands–that we cast our nets wide, and empty. Grace demands that we haul in the catch someone else has provided.

Grace forces us into the uncomfortable position of having to consider someone else which, interestingly enough, is kind of what God did in Jesus.

And grace is unfair to a fault. Newton should have written that song: His unfair Grace, how disturbing the sound, that saves so many like me…

The ones we think deserve the most hell are the ones God invites to the wedding supper; the ones we think will most certainly be under wrath are the very ones being saved; and the ones we hope suffer the worst are the very ones God is in the process of healing the most. And we don’t like it because we know that Scripture says such people are under wrath and, thus, deserve to be. We understand not the mysteries and secrets of how the Kingdom works and grows and produces–nor why God happens to invite to and secure in his salvation the most wretched and ugly among us.

I’m not making predictions for God’s grace because I don’t understand it any more than anyone else. If I did, I would be dead. Grace is someone else seeing me as I am and not me seeing myself as I should be.

Grace is unfair because grace is the business end of God’s dealings with sinners—sinners of all kinds, and not just the ones we think God should deal with, like ourselves. I don’t deserve God’s grace any more than anyone else but I’ll gladly take what he gives.

I’m happy to let God be God. I’m happy to let God save the way God saves. I’m happy to let God save those God saves.

I’m happy that salvation is the work of Jesus, not me. I’m happy it’s about grace and nothing else.

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This entry was posted on Wednesday, September 2nd, 2009 at 10:06 am and is filed under Devotional, grace. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.
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13 Comments(+Add)

1   Rick Frueh    http://judahslion.blogspot.com/
September 2nd, 2009 at 2:30 pm

Grace is supposed to be complete and ultimate divine favor, adoption in fact, in spite of sin. But some now say yes that is so, but sin can derail grace when it is that sin that actually necessitated grace.

Man has made a mess of grace on both sides.

2   John Hughes    
September 2nd, 2009 at 2:50 pm

Excellent post Jerry.

3   Nathanael    http://www.borrowedbreath.com/
September 2nd, 2009 at 3:20 pm

Well said, brother. Well said.

When we catch even a sliver of a glimpse of the grace that is lavishly dumped on us without measure or reserve, then we should be the most gracious people in the world.

When I don’t extend grace to you, it’s because I really don’t believe (even though I tell you I do) that God’s grace completely covers me.

4   Rick Frueh    http://judahslion.blogspot.com/
September 2nd, 2009 at 3:45 pm

Grace is the highest mystery concerning the acts of Alimighty God toward us. And it is the highest paradoxical hypocrisy when we use that grace as platform to condemn.

Perhaps grace will be an eternal mystery that draws out our worship to its Author.

5   Rick Frueh    http://judahslion.blogspot.com/
September 2nd, 2009 at 3:57 pm

Ten people are hopelessly trapped in a 100′ ditch. A man comes with a 100′ rope with a basket and lowers it. One woman climbs in and is lifted to safety. The man informs the lady that she is all he is going to rescue.

The man then commands the woman to learn all she can about the hopeless condition of the other nine, and in fact, he tells her how to hollar words of judgment down to her former colleagues in hopelessness. And when those 9 people begin to talk among themselves about the possibility of someone rescuing them, the saved woman makes sure she rebukes them for their wrong rescuology.

Eventually the woman leaves with her rescuer and they both joyfully agree that those 9 got what they deserve. Their death will also be a source of rejoicing.

** If that is the grace of God then I am a Muslim.

6   iggy    http://wordofmouthministries.blogspot.com/
September 2nd, 2009 at 4:12 pm

Rick you sound like you have been reading Peter Rollings… that is the type of parable he does.

I actually just did a post on Grace last night.

Grace To You! (Not meant in the MacArthurite way by any means)

iggy

7   Rick Frueh    http://judahslion.blogspot.com/
September 2nd, 2009 at 4:56 pm

#6 – Perhaps, but I always continue with : Faith in Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross is the only way to forgiveness and eternal life. His bodily resurrection substantiated all He was and said.

That is missing in the stories of Peter Rollins.

8   iggy    http://wordofmouthministries.blogspot.com/
September 2nd, 2009 at 9:17 pm

Not so true… as I have heard Peter speak of the resurrection quite a few times… I mean did Jesus speak of the resurrection in the parable of the Good Samaritan?

Be careful how you answer that is a trick question… and depends on how you read it and understand it.

9   iggy    http://wordofmouthministries.blogspot.com/
September 2nd, 2009 at 9:20 pm

Rick

for you…

My Confession: I deny the Resurrection
I am four days into my ‘Lessons’ tour and so far loving it. My time to date has been spent in Calvin College engaging in fascinating debates with Kevin Corcoran, Jason Clark, Jamie Smith, Lori Wilson and Michael Wittmer. Many subjects have been covered, but perhaps the most pertinent one revolved around the place and nature of belief in faith.

At one point in the proceedings someone asked if my theoretical position led me to denying the Resurrection of Christ. This question allowed me the opportunity to communicate clearly and concisely my thoughts on the subject, which I repeat here.

Without equivocation or hesitation I fully and completely admit that I deny the resurrection of Christ. This is something that anyone who knows me could tell you, and I am not afraid to say it publicly, no matter what some people may think…

I deny the resurrection of Christ every time I do not serve at the feet of the oppressed, each day that I turn my back on the poor; I deny the resurrection of Christ when I close my ears to the cries of the downtrodden and lend my support to an unjust and corrupt system.

However there are moments when I affirm that resurrection, few and far between as they are. I affirm it when I stand up for those who are forced to live on their knees, when I speak for those who have had their tongues torn out, when I cry for those who have no more tears left to shed.

10   iggy    http://wordofmouthministries.blogspot.com/
September 2nd, 2009 at 9:21 pm

Really Rick again… you and Peter Rollins write much the same… he just has that Irish accent thingy going for him.

11   Rick Frueh    http://judahslion.blogspot.com/
September 3rd, 2009 at 6:41 am

#9 – Yes, I have heard and read that before. There is no denying Rollins cares about earthly plights, however I ahve never heard him speak of the cross, or the bloood atonement, or the eternal plight of lost souls.

It all boils down to hearing what we want to hear. Does Peter Rollins believe that humanity is spiritually lost and that by faith in Jesus alone can a sinner gain eternal life?

Please direct me to a clear quote about that.

12   chris    
September 3rd, 2009 at 7:55 am

Does Peter Rollins believe that humanity is spiritually lost and that by faith in Jesus alone can a sinner gain eternal life?

Rick,

While this may bring out the boo’s from the crowd I have to ask.

What does it mean to be spiritually lost?

What does faith in Jesus look like?

What is eternal life?

These are only clarifying questions.

13   Rick Frueh    http://judahslion.blogspot.com/
September 3rd, 2009 at 9:02 am

If we, after 2000 years, still have no Biblical understanding about these issues than we have no “religion” at all, just a set of continuing discussion questions. But that aside, let me give some foundational ansqers that are simple yet profound.

What does it mean to be spiritually lost?

Sin is the agent of death, and without forgiveness the soul that sins is dead. Paul address us as those who were dead in our tresspasses and sins. He who has the Son has life, but he who does not have the Son is dead and damnation abides upon his head.

What does faith in Jesus look like?

Only God knows the heart, so it is possible that a person can be kind, compassionate, loving, concerned about others, and yet be dead in his sins. Faith is the substance that cannot be seen, only its results. I would suggest that the best evidence we can “see” is when a sinner proclaims with his mouth the Lord Jesus as the exclusive way to salvation and exhibits some form of outward change which he attributes directly to his faith in the Savior Jesus.

What is eternal life?

Although some rightly point out the incomplete essence of the word “heaven” to describe a dwellingplace after death, I will use it as common understanding. There are two distinct places in eternity. One where those who die in Christ will live forever, and one where those outside of Christ will die forever.

I ams ure my explanations are simplistic and incomplete, but those explanations are what seem missing from the teachings of men like Rollins. His theology seems to suggest a continuing push toward global brotherhood centered on acts of kindness and justice. I have yet to hear him mention the blood sacrifice of Jesus, or the cross itself, or a clear unpacking of what it means to be saved and how to be born again.

I am not quibbling over minor issues of women preachers, or eschatology, or even important issues like inerrancy and the Trinity. The issue of eternal redemption is the most important issue throught the history of mankind.