Sunday, April 27, 2014

You can keep your amazing grace if this is all it is!

Amazing grace, get off my back,
I can’t be good enough!
You’ve chosen me to be your child,
But man, this life is tough!

I used to be a lousy wretch,
With not a care of sin;
But since you’ve come to ransom me,
Oh how can I begin?

Church tells me how to live my life,
And how I can look good.
I must do things to measure up
To love you like I should.

I bring my tithes and go to church,
I never cut my hair;
I wear a dress, and drink no wine,
And try to never swear.

And then it happens, something gives ~
The congregations stares!
I’ve crossed the line unpardonable
I’ve let them see my cares.

They question my salvation now,
I must not be redeemed.
For I’m not living life just so,
I’m not all that I seemed.

If this is grace, I can’t hold up
Beneath this heavy weight!
I give it back, it can’t be mine –
My sin is far too great.

And now I’m lost more than before
I’ve nowhere left to turn
What’s great about this grace of yours
That’s free, and then you earn?

It’s no surprise – the world is watching Christians. We hear it all the time. Our lives our on display, and so we must portray the life of our Savior, Jesus. That’s become the goal of the institutional church in America. For years as a young Christian, I went to conferences, heard sermons and read books on how to be salt in a world bound for hell. I would “recommit” my life over and over. This time I’ll get it right – I’ll have a quiet time every morning, even though I’ve never been a morning person; I’ll tithe no matter what the checkbook says, so that I can see God’s amazing math; I’ll never decline an opportunity to serve the Lord – when the phone rings, I’ve got the word ‘Yes!’ ready on my lips. I will do all these things for two most important reasons. One, so that the world will see Jesus in me, and two, that I will live a life that pleases the Lord and shows Him gratitude for all He’s done for me.

I’ve done all those things. I’ve done them begrudgingly, despite myself, and not “with a happy heart”. And I’ve been discouraged, exhausted and overwhelmed. The world around me saw someone who was busy trying to be perfect. Yeah, I looked good on the outside, but inside I was a mess. This just didn’t feel like amazing grace! It felt like amazing work, amazing falsehood, but definitely not grace. Jesus said that His yoke is easy and His burden is light, but the burden that the church puts on its people makes Jesus seem like a liar! Is that what we want the world around us to think? We sing about being set free by amazing grace, but we live like we’re enslaved to conformity and good works.

Oh, but thankfully there is grace! There is abundant and free unmerited favor that flows from the cross of Calvary. It’s found all over the place in the Word of God. His yoke truly is easy, and His burden is light. The God of the Universe set the bar unattainably high. He purposed that no one but His Son could live His standard of perfection. And before the foundation of the world, He chose people to be His children – sinful, imperfect, wretched people whom He covered with the blood of Christ. Now there is nothing – NOTHING – that can ever change that! If I am a child of God, there is nothing I can ever do to make Him more pleased with me than He is already. He was pleased to choose me before He made the stars!

Imagine this: Billy’s mom is a multi-million dollar florist. Her business is world-wide and deals with exotic plants and flowers from every corner of the globe. She’s got access to the most beautiful flowers in the most stunning colors, right at her fingertips. Her home is filled with fresh flowers every day, her walls are covered in paintings of flowers. She is a sought after advisor to the First Lady, the Queen of England; everyone who’s anyone knows that if you want flowers, she’s your gal. Billy wakes up on Mother’s Day, and realizes he didn’t get his mom a gift, and he left his Mother’s Day class project on his desk at school. Billy loves his mom, and he just can’t disappoint her on this special day. He goes out into the backyard, and comes running in a few minutes later. His knees are dirty, he smells like sweaty little boy, but his face is all smiles. He’s got a fist full of dandelions for his mom! She loves her son. And even though she is the Florist Extraordinaire, her son brought her dandelions. She kneels down, gently puts her nose to the weeds, and with tears in her eyes tells Billy how much she loves him. He’s given her the best gift she’s ever received.

That’s God! What do we have to give Him that He hasn’t given us first? What do we have that He doesn’t already own? He certainly doesn’t need anything from us! But when we come to Him as children we touch His heart. When we treat Him as our beloved Abba, Daddy, we show Him that we understand grace. God doesn’t want our work. He wants our hearts. Anything that we could “do for God” is something God could certainly do for Himself. He doesn’t need our measly efforts to be good. He says that all our righteous acts are filthy rags! They’re dandelions in the beautiful garden of the Master Florist. Weeds that He has every right to pull up and burn! But instead He stoops down, takes our paltry expressions of love, and calls it sweet incense. It is only when we truly understand this amazing grace that a watching world will be drawn by curiosity to this Amazing God.