We, as Christians live under Grace. What does this mean for us? That term is thrown around a lot today. As a Wesleyan, I often talk about Prevenient Grace, Justifying Grace, and Sanctifying Grace. It's a way to try to understand Grace. The truth is there is only one Grace, but we do this to help grow our understanding of it.
It is unfortunate that so many people today do not understand Grace, and they don't feel that they can go to a "normal" church as they feel out of place, unaccepted, judged, or simply feel they cannot measure up or be "good enough."
That's a shame. As Christians we are called to grow the Kingdom, to Love God and Love Others. When a visitor feels this way it is a failure of the humans involved, not a failure of God. These folks are good people, generally with good hearts and good intentions, but it is so easy to fall into the "norm" of worship; to worry more about the place, the time, the music, the sermon, being seen, doing the stuff of church, and not coming to the true heart of worship. Are we loving God? Magnifying Him and His glory? Are we loving others by showing that we really care about them? Do we listen to them? Do we seek them out? Welcome them despite their differences? Do we offer the hand of friendship to those who are different, look different, dress different, even those who vote differently?
When I think on this, I point the finger directly at myself. Am I doing what Jesus wants me to be doing? Am I showing love through my Christian action? Am I growing the kingdom through my actions. It's so important to remember that Jesus rarely taught in the synagogues, instead he was with the people. He went where they were. This was so revolutionary, that the leaders of the Jewish Church felt threatened. Jesus wasn't doing it their way.
In Luke 5:29-32, Jesus went to eat with Levi, a Jewish Tax-Collector for the hated Romans. According to the Law, no one was worse than that. The worst kind of sinner because he profited at the cost of all other Jews. But Jesus went to eat in Levi's home. "Then Levi gave a great banquet for him in his house and there was a large crowd of tax collectors and others sitting at the table with them. The Pharisees and their scribes were complaining to his disciples, saying, 'Why do you eat and drink with tax collectors and sinners?' Jesus answered, 'Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick; I have come to call not the righteous but sinners to repentance."
We are to seek out others, spread the Good News. We can do this because we live under Grace.
To understand Grace, you have to understand Sin. Sin is anything we do that takes us out of our relationship with God. Sin can be all the big ones; murder, rape, other criminal activities, but it can also be watching football rather than attending worship, or partying rather than being with our families. We often sin against God and against others. Why is this important?
Jesus was asked what was the Greatest Commandment. In Mark 12:30, Jesus answered "The first is, Hear, O Israel: the Lord our God, the Lord is one; you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength. The second is this, You shall love your neighbor as yourself. There is no other commandment greater than these." In a nutshell, Jesus is saying Love God and Love Others. We should seek to do this in all our interactions, and most often in Worship.
So we are all guilty of sinning against God and against others. We fail all the time, daily. It is our human nature to fail and fall short of the glory of God. The Bible tells us, "No one is righteous, no not one." That was true 2000 years ago, and that is true today. So if we all fail God and each other, what can we do?
Only one thing. Accept Christ as your savior. See he died on a cross as the final sacrifice for all our sins. Our debt is paid in full. But wait, Ed, I didn't earn it. That's right, you didn't, and you can't. For nothing you can do can measure up to Christ's sacrifice on that cross. That is what we mean by Grace. It's a free gift for all humanity. All you have to do is accept it. Christ is the savior, he died so all humanity might be saved.
God is perfect and cannot look upon sin. But now, when you have accepted Christ's gift of Grace, God looks upon you and sees a sinless Christ. That is Grace!
I remember my grandparents, loving good people, but they were terrified that they were not going to be "good enough" or "prayed up enough" to be allowed into heaven. I'm sad today, because I'm sure they are in heaven, but their years of living were filled with doubt and fear of God, when what He really wanted from them was love and awe; a perfect relationship of a good and loving Father and an obedient son/daughter. They didn't understand Grace.
But they would argue, if they were here today, "I have sins. Many may be unrepented. If I'm not prayed up, I'll be doomed to a fire-filled hell." My answer to that is found in Romans 8:38: "For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord."
That's Grace. If you accept Him, you are forgiven, You become a child of the King of Everything. His sacrifice paid the price for our sins. How do we respond to Grace. We seek to worship God, to have a relationship with Him, and to Love Him with all our heart, all our strength. Then we are to love others, to care for them as we care for ourselves. That is the proper response to our Christianity. It doesn't matter where we meet to worship, or who we are with, or how we are dressed, or anything else. Are we worshipping God with our Love? Are we seeking Him in our lives? Are we loving others as Jesus loved them? Remember Grace, be thankful for it, and share it with others.
Love to all,