Photo via: Lindsay Letters
Make sure you read the Jesus Is Grace section of Jesus Is. This is compromised of Chapters 4-6!
For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God-not by works, so that no one can boast.
But we believe that through the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ we shall be saved, even as they.
And if by grace, then it cannot be based on works; if it were, grace would no longer be grace.
1. “Grace is arguably the most important concept in the Bible.”
When asked what makes Christianity unique from any other religion, C.S. Lewis said, “Oh, that’s easy. It’s grace.” It’s also one of the most difficult concepts for Christians to grasp. We can read tons of fluffy definitions of what grace means but to put it simply, Grace is God adoring every single ounce of your being no matter what you do. You can try to match Jesus’ perfect life and he is going to adore you. You can struggle daily and guess what? He is still obsessed with you. God loves us because we are his children and we have his grace because his Son died for us. Trust me, he doesn’t love us because we remember to pray before bed. Or even better, because you were forced into volunteering at an animal shelter for sorority philanthropy points. We have got to stop being vain and thinking we have anything to do with grace. Grace comes from Jesus, not from anything we could even attempt to do.
2. The Prodigal Son
When asked why Jesus hung out with “bad people” he responded with 3 parables. One, The Prodigal Son, is an incredible example of who Jesus is to us. You read this story in your book this week, but if you don’t have one here is a ridiculously short Spark Notes version:
There was a father and and two sons. One was bored and asked for his inheritance first. He took his cash, left and lived the “good life.” In terms of Dallas Texas, this son went, bought a condo in Uptown, partied at Kung Fu Thursday-Sunday and slept with every blonde off Tinder Monday-Wednesday. Gross, but true. Eventually all his friends left him and his Amex kept getting declined. [This is the Dallas version, remember ;)]. He went and worked for a local farmer and a famine swept the land. He was so hungry and miserable the food he fed the pigs seemed appealing. He decided to go back home to his father. He kept thinking of the “right words” to say and ran home and said, “I’ve sinned against you and heaven and am no longer worthy of being called your son.” The father was so happy he had come back when he saw him he ran towards him [which was nottttt normal in those days] and had a huge celebration. The older brother was ticked off. He didn’t understand how he had never messed up and yet here they were celebrating the return of the heathen. The father said, “Look, dear son, you have always stayed by me, and everything I have is yours. We had to celebrate this happy day. For your brother was dead and has come back to life. He was lost, but now he is found!”
So why did Jesus tell that little tale? Jesus is that father. Heaven rejoices when a sinner repents. Heaven throws the most lavish party when someone comes to know God. And us? We are the big brother. So obsessed with ourselves we can’t even see straight. Maybe we have a sibling, a coworker or a frenemy that we don’t understand what people think is so great about them.
This example might ring a bell. How many times have we called our mom or bff’s to say, “She is a terrible person! She is so mean! I don’t understand why God keeps allowing these good things to happen to her.”?! [guilty!]
Someone’s success, or in this story celebration, is not your failure, or God’s rejection of love to you. We are just humans and live in Me Land and it’s difficult for us to even take our eyes off of ourselves to focus on the joy Christs has for others.
Jesus told this parable to explain that he hangs out with “bad people” because he has that father’s love for them. He has it for all of us. And whether we go leave our father’s land or work diligently side-by-side we can’t lose the “worthiness of being called his son” like the Prodigal Son thought. We can’t lose it because we never had it. We are not worthy of being God’s, but the amazing thing about grace is that God doesn’t care. He is in love with us regardless and we are forever his.
3. It’s about Grace. It’s about Jesus. It’s not about us.
Go back to pages 42 & 43. On these pages Smith goes a little bit deeper as to why we can’t “earn” our grace. We must be born again through Christianity and even then we haven’t been awarded grace. I got chills when he said, “Our sonship is not based on our performance but on Jesus’s finished performance and our faith in that finished work.” Jesus dying on the cross isn’t just something we memorialize once a year. It is the birth of grace and our foundation. His action birthed this love that covers a multitude of sins.
4. The “good person” syndrome. It isn’t about the rules.
We abuse grace. Judah Smith continually covers that we don’t even understand this gift we have so we ignore it. We either can’t ever accept this gift [like the compliments we don’t take and then everyone just feels awkward] and therefore don’t get close with God, or we think, “Okay, cool. I’ll sin and then ask for forgiveness.” The feeling in your stomach when you know you shouldn’t do something and then push it back because, “It will be okay.” That’s abusing grace.
Something else, that wasn’t really touched on in these chapters, that I think abuses grace is the “good person” syndrome. Maybe I hear this a lot more because I live in Texas but something that constantly is repeated, or variations of, is this little statement.
“I’m a good person. I’m a God-fearing Christian, that tries to always do the right thing.”
What the heck does paying your taxes on time [or some other variation of good deed] have to do with being a Christian? Once again, here we go focusing on ourselves and our acts and not Jesus. Judah Smith says the point is, “To become God-conscious, not me-conscious.” What if we said, “Jesus has continually consumed my heart no matter how much I have been a wretched sinner.”?
Anytime I hear that I just imagine someone saying, “Hey, sin is great! But I tried to keep it to a minimum to keep the big man upstairs happy.” If sin still has an appeal we haven’t truly tasted God. And we have continued to live a Christian life in the baby pool when we could be swimming in the ocean.
The “good person syndrome” makes it about our behavior and not our heart. Jesus doesn’t fix our behavior first and then change our heart. He changes our heart, which effects our behavior. If we focus on him, and not the good or bad deeds we do, it’s so much easier to change our habits from “sinful” to the “good deeds” we want to be able to claim.
So next time we pre plan our sin out, imagine looking at Jesus, our savior who died for us on the cross, and saying, “Hi! So I’m planning on going to this party. And I’m not too sure what is going to happen, I need to let loose. But tomorrow I will say sorry. Is that cool?” I’m not too sure many of us could say that. When we focus on not hurting him and stop making it about ourselves and our deeds, our nature changes. We may not feel so comfortable dancing with our sin. We stop defining ourselves by our sin. And we start becoming enraptured in his love.
5. Think of Jesus as your boyfriend.
That may sound silly. At church on Sunday the Pastor was joking about how single people hate when others say, “This is a blessing you are single. This means Jesus is your husband!” I cracked up at that, too and this isn’t what I mean at all. I mean it in terms of defining our sin. From the outside, I think people view Christianity as this religion that gives you grace but it’s a double-edged sword because you are told not to sin, too. It’s a religion of, “I can’t.” I can’t do this. I can’t do that. But yet I’m given grace, so honestly it doesn’t even make sense. We even center the “good person syndrome” around it. Compare that to your boyfriend. Imagine if you told people, “I’m dating so and so, but that just means I can’t flirt, kiss, date, or sleep with boy X, Y and Z.”
People would be signing you up for Dr. Phil. Scratch that. People would be signing you up for Maury. Bravo would have called to sign you 2 seasons the second after you said it.
That’s not normal to say. And people would let you know that isn’t normal. They’d wonder what your relationship was centered on and most likely go on to say you didn’t deserve your boyfriend.
Now take that and place Jesus as your boyfriend.
“I’m a Christian. Jesus died for me. But that means I can’t lie, I can’t gossip, I can’t have premarital sex and I can’t get wasted with xyz.”
That’s not abnormal to hear. People would probably agree with you. They wouldn’t question what your relationship was centered on. How have we gotten to this place?
Your relationship with your boyfriend is most likely centered on love. Your relationship with Jesus is centered on love and grace. He doesn’t want you to feel like you live a life of, “I can’t do this.” But his father made you, so his father knows exactly what will hurt you [sin]. I mean seriously why are we so vain? I don’t get it. And trust me, I’m the worst. God made us. He told us the things that will hurt us [sin] and yet we think it will be fine.
[Pretty sure that meme was made for me when sinning and thinking it would be fine. Like oh, it’s cool. Your maker doesn’t know what’s best or anything…]
But the amazing thing is that no matter how much we try to not sin or how much we sin, unlike a worldly relationship with your boyfriend, his love won’t change. You can’t earn it more or lose it like the Prodigal Son thought. He will always want you to draw near to him and be there to celebrate your return, because you are his. Forever.
1. Have you believed any wrong concepts about God’s gift of grace, forgiveness and eternal life? [Judah Smith]
2. Why do you think grace was God’s plan from the beginning? [Judah Smith]
3. Why is it so easy to fall into the “good person” syndrome trap?
I’m all for good discussion! I’m a human. I’m not perfect. So none of what I wrote was perfect, either. If you disagree with me or someone who comments below please respond with kindness! We all allow barriers in our minds to come down and see other viewpoints when our comments are coming from a place of love, not pride.
Be sure to read Jesus Is The Point for next week!