Actively bringing about much needed change in our communities and hope to the broken and disheartened.
It’s been an interesting week. Have you ever had such a weird moment in life that you’ve not really known what to do with it or how to handle it – so you sort of just roll with whatever happens to come along to see how things play out? That’s how this week has been.
Not long ago I had a friend send me a message telling me that it was refreshing to read my blog and see that someone who grew up a Christian was no longer a Christian. They asked me what “delusion” finally did it for me and caused me to turn away.
This individual probably had no idea what kind of journey that question sent me on. It scared me, real bad. Was I saying that I was no longer a Christian? Was that what was coming across? I mean – I definitely knew that I was unhappy and angry with the church and with God for not showing up when I asked him to and for the lies that I felt that I was following, but in the end I still sort of felt like I was a Christian at the end of the day. I hadn’t, in my mind, turned from God completely and started down some other path. I was merely wrestling with all I had ever known.
So I never got back to this friend. And it wasn’t because I was ignoring them. It was because I had no idea how to answer that question…until recently.
You see, when they asked me that question, what delusion caused you to stop believing, it really caused me to ask myself if I believed it was all a delusion, or if I just didn’t know the truth about God. I think the answer to that question is a both/and kind of thing. Let me explain.
I think that what I’ve believed for my entire 25 years of life was a delusion. I think I was fooled into thinking that God was up there judging every little move I made – if I had a bad thought or looked at someone with lust or whatever – God was up there telling me to pluck my eyes out, cut off my hands, do whatever it took to STOP SINNING here on earth so that I didn’t have to be sent to hell. Because heck, it’s better to live life with no eyes than to keep both your eyes and burn in hell for all eternity – right? But then I could turn around just as easily and tell people that “God is love” and that he cares about people. It’s a delusion that I tricked myself into believing for the longest time because I didn’t have anyone to tell me differently. Both this judgement, this righteous wrath, and God’s love fit into this perfect box that I had learned about and somehow I was supposed to make peace with it. Well, I’m here to tell it to the world – that’s a delusion and it’s not who God is.
So God met me in a Wegmans – which was unique. Not too many people can say that I don’t think. I mean, obviously Danny Wegman himself was inspired by the Lord to make such an awesome grocery store chain – but beyond that I can’t say for sure. In light of this most recent revelation of God in my life I’ve had the opportunity to do a little research about the new light in which I am seeing things, and I’m pretty sure it’s not mainstream thinking. Which is perfect, because Jesus didn’t think mainstream when he was around and I don’t want to be a part of the crowd that doesn’t like it when things are shook up. But God met me in a whole new way than I had ever believed was possible and it has everything to do with a new perspective on God’s grace.
When I think about grace, I think primarily about that stupid stupid stupid song Amazing Grace. Maybe some of you are offended that I called it stupid. But please, that song is the most droning, melancholy song I’ve ever heard. For something so amazing, the author of that tune should have asked Kirk Franklin for a little help – because every time I sing that melody I want to jump off a roof.
uhh MAAAAY ziiinng graaaaace, HOOOWW sweeeeet the sounnnddd
In my mind, grace was God telling the world – “Hey, you all screwed yourselves royally by not doing what I told you to do, so because of that you are all supposed to go to hell, but because I have grace I will provide a way for you to get back on track if you believe in my Son. Those of you who believe get to go to Heaven, those of you who do not get to go to Hell. Forever. (Oh and by the way, you were born into sin because Adam sinned – so even if you tried real hard you couldn’t not sin, it’s just in your nature. Sorry! K, Bye!)” And that my friends, was God’s grace. Because I mean, God didn’t HAVE to provide a way. He could have just let us all burn. But he DID provide a way, so naturally we should take him up on his offer.
The problem with this view of grace, which I’ve embellished to sound silly but in reality is what most Christians believe, is that it’s extremely selective, it’s extremely works based, and it’s extremely unloving. God, in his infinite might and power, created a path that only a few people would even have access to? So let’s just forget about the Native Americans before the western world came over here – before they knew the gospel. Because they worshipped nature and we all know that if you worship nature you might as well be worshipping Satan. So they are all in hell, right? And who’s fault is that? Christopher Columbuses fault of course – because he didn’t find America soon enough. But seriously, we believe this to be the truth. That God condemns people to hell who didn’t even have a chance to know anything about him, his son, his love, his grace, his mercy…none of it. Just hell. The end.
That my friends, is the delusion I am talking about. That’s not reality. Real grace is something totally different – and I’m about to blow your mind. Check out this verse from Romans 5:18-19 and then I’ll expound on it briefly.
“So then, as through one trespass there is condemnation for everyone, so also through one righteous act there is life-giving justification for everyone. For just as through one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners, so also through the one man’s obedience the many will be made righteous.”
So in this passage Paul is talking about how through Adam, everyone was made a sinner. Because of his sin, humanity was subsequently born into a “sin nature” – or, we were all slaves to sin. We didn’t even have a choice, it was just reality. Sin was our nature, we were inclined toward sin. So, Paul says JUST AS through the one sin, everyone was condemned, SO ALSO through one righteous act (Jesus’ death on the cross), everyone is made righteous.
Did you have a hard time following that? Well don’t be mislead. Paul says that everyone before Christ was born into sin nature. Paul then says that everyone after Christ is no longer born into sin nature, but are born into righteousness. Who? Christians? – no EVERYONE. We are no longer slaves to sin, but slaves to righteousness. Everyone on earth. Every single person. All 7 billion of us were freed from sin when Christ died 2000 years ago. Paul later goes on in Romans to say that it wasn’t even our choice to be made righteous. It was God’s choice to redeem the whole world to himself. And when Christ died each of us died with him. Our old nature. When he rose again, each of us were raised with him into a new nature – that of righteousness. People, you didn’t have a choice. You didn’t get to “accept” this gift, it was imparted on you from the day you were born.
Do you understand the ramifications of something like this? It totally abolishes the need we have to impress God with our good works. It totally takes away our own ability to somehow do enough good things to save ourselves. God did it way before you were born. Made you righteous. Romans chapter 8 says that NOTHING can separate us from his love. Not height, depth, powers or principalities, angels or demons – nothing. That includes you, yourself. God’s grace has got you covered whether you asked for it or not. Whether you believe it or not. Whether you want it or not. Covered.
Lot’s of you will have questions like: well then what about the roll of faith? What about hell? What about people who spit in God’s face? What about Adolf Hitler?
Those are all valid questions and I promise to come back and talk about those things in later posts, but for now – soak in this reality of grace. If you don’t believe me – go and read Romans chapters 4-8 and look for yourself. If I’m wrong, please by all means leave a comment telling me so, and why. But if you see that we are all indeed born into righteousness, and this not of ourselves but because of God’s gift, not “accepted” by us but rather “imparted” on us, then experience the reality of this fricken ridiculous grace gift of God. You don’t earn it. You don’t lose it. You own it. It IS you. If you realize you are a righteous person – it enables you to live a totally different life – full of joy and greatest of all, peace of mind. If you screw up, it’s ok. If you do something that doesn’t please God, it’s ok. God’s grace. It’s big stuff. Sin still happens because we don’t totally understand the freedom we have from it – that we don’t have to do it – that we have the opportunity to live a fuller life, free of the consequences of our poor actions (and no, I’m not talking about hell, I’m talking about the natural consequences we experience here on earth when we do dumb stuff). Grace frees us to live fully, to live free.
I don’t know how else to say it. Go read it for yourself. The truth will set you free.