I read a story a few years ago about a long tenured nurse who had spent several years being severely burned out in her job. She was paid very well, but the long hours, the emotional strain of constantly being around much suffering, and on top of that the added pressure of state and federal regulations incorporated into her job responsibilities were mentally, physically and emotionally taking a toll on her. In short, she was done. She couldn’t take it anymore. She was shutting down. She reached the point where she dreaded coming to work. She would drive to work and cry in her car because she was trapped in this never ending cycle of a burnt out existence of what she had to do in order to make a living. A crushing sense of oppression consumed her as she parked and began walking up to this large building that had become a looming, evil prison. The time clock where she punched in her time of arrival and time of departure became a symbol of the excruciating trap she felt herself locked into with no way of escape.
Then…one day…a miracle occurred.
She received a new patient. At first, this was a patient like any other. After a few days, her demeanor changed. Something was different. She felt invigorated preparing at home to go to work. She stopped crying in her car. She walked up to this large building where she worked and no longer feared it. She punched in her time on the clock without a thought or care in the world. What was different inside her mind, body, soul and spirit? Just a few days ago, the embodiment of her existence was consumed by dread, fear, oppression, anxiety, anger, sadness and hopelessness.
What happened? She fell in love with her patient. Love did what love always does. It empowered her. It renewed her. It recreated her. When love entered the arena she stopped looking at the time clock. She became a selfless giver. This is the whole embodiment of love and grace and giving.
A few thousand years ago, the embodiment of love that existed in heaven before time began came to this earth. This pure love no longer existed in the Kingdom of Heaven alone, but now began its existence on the earth. This existence is permanent and is known as the good news or The Gospel of Grace. The “true” gospel is the Gospel of Grace. There is no body of good news other than the Gospel of Grace. Grace, love and giving are all one in the same and now exist in us if we believe. This Grace can’t be earned. It can only be received and is TOTALLY dependent on our ability to receive. Yes, the embodiment of grace, love and giving…Jesus…now lives in us if we believe.
The fullness of grace is hard for us to understand. It has been that way for centuries. Here is a brief synopsis of what many churches believe and teach today (or make subtle references to) as to what it means to be a child of God.
- Jesus died and took our sins away.
- We ask Jesus to come into our hearts. (This is not mentioned anywhere in scripture…sorry.)
- We make…yes…(WE…MAKE)…it’s up to us to MAKE Jesus the Lord of our lives. (This is not found anywhere in scripture either…sorry.)
- Now we are saved.
- Now that we are saved, God “disciplines” those whom He loves. (In other words, God creates suffering in our lives to teach us to love to Him and others more. This is supposed to make us more graceful and better givers when actually the word discipline in this passage of scripture does not mean or refer to suffering at all. The word discipline means “to educate” or “teach”.)
Now, let me ask you a rhetorical question. The five things mentioned above? Is this what the disciples were so passionate about? Is this what they suffered and died for? Really? Two of the things mentioned above aren’t even mentioned in scripture and one is taken out of context so badly that many people are afraid of God and wonder, “What is He going to do to me next?” So, the only thing that is left is that the disciples were passionate about the fact that Jesus’ sacrifice meant that there is now no longer a need for animal sacrifices? Really?
Christians do believe that Jesus died and took away our sins. But, if you don’t mind me saying? As wonderful as Jesus’ sacrifice was? You do realize he was resurrected too don’t you? This is the other part of the Gospel we seem to struggle with. What does His resurrection mean? Below is a brief synopsis, if I may, of the good news, the gospel, the arrival of GRACE !!!!
- Jesus died. God no longer looks at or focuses on sin. Sin is no longer an issue. Bang, boom…sin is gone! A flying horse doesn’t exist…sin doesn’t either! (More on this in number three below.) Also, Jesus did all the work so not only does God not look at sin, He no longer looks at our works either.
- Jesus was raised from the dead. He is alive and well! And,
I repeat, (emphasis on AND)…the faith that we have that Jesus died and took our sins upon him? If we use that faith and also believe that the living Jesus is now living inside of us? And not only is He living inside of us, but He is making us like He is! Yes, it is Jesus living inside of us that is making us givers and lovers and “Jesus like”. BUT WAIT! THAT’S NOT ALL!
Are ready for this?
If we believe? HE HAS TO make us like Him. That’s the whole basis of this good news. We believe, He Has To make us more Christ-like.
- Now that we believe, and now that the resurrected Son of God is living inside of us and making us more like Him, God now begins educating and teaching us. We still have a sin nature, but God is no longer focused on making us suffer for something that Christ’s death took away. God knows that we still have this sin nature, but while He is educating and teaching us, He actually is more focused on protecting us from the consequences of sin and teaching us how to be more Kingdom focused. And please keep this in mind. The consequences of sin are not God’s wrath. God does not punish you for sinning! Nor is He trying to get you to stop sinning. Grace doesn’t work that way.
Now, when we pray? Should we ask God to deliver us from sin? Should we ask God to forgive us of our sin? Would God’s answer be, “You need to make yourself attend church more, read My Word daily, you need to have a quiet time and spend time with Me every day. You need to discipline yourself to memorize scripture and keep it in your heart. You need to force yourself to be more giving and give more and more of your time and money to the church.”
Listen, if we live our lives as if the Kingdom of God and the good news of Grace is based on forcing ourselves to practice religious activities and spiritual disciplines, then God’s answer according to the “true” good news would have to be, “If you want to live that way, go ahead, it won’t get you very far.” The latin word for “religion” is “religare”. Religare means to capture or recapture, tie or retie, bind or rebind. Does that sound like freedom? In other words, using religious activities in an attempt to be more Christ-like is a terrible sin like any other and enslaves you just like any sin would.
So, back to the question. Should you ask God to forgive you of sin? Should you ask God to deliver you from sin? The answer to both is no. God is not “sin” focused. In God’s eyes sin will never enter the picture again.
So, if we don’t have to ask God to forgive us or deliver us from sin, what should we do? Remember, Christ is living in you now and His work is making you like He is. All you have to do is believe. In your prayers, always be thankful for what Christ is doing inside of you. Be thankful that His work is removing that sin nature from you and that He is guiding and teaching you to be Kingdom focused. Ask God to help you always be Kingdom focused. When you do these things, the things that we call spiritual disciplines become no discipline at all. Why? Because now you can fall in love with God without a care in the world about a looming cloud of judgement or punishment hanging over you. Just like the nurse. She fell in love and was invigorated and empowered. So go ahead. Live in Grace. The whole nature of Grace is that it gives and keeps giving. Take this gift because not only do you need it, people around you need it from you. So go ahead. Fall in love with Jesus. Don’t look at yourself as a sinner saved by Grace, but rather, know that you are a son or daughter of the Beloved sitting with Him at the throne of Grace with His full approval. Go ahead! He likes you being there!
Believe…rest in the fact that according to the Gospel of love and grace, He is living inside you and working His work inside you. Why? Because when you believe? He Has To. (He loves to have to!) Wow! Isn’t that good news?