Christianity 201

May 10, 2016

The Bible Project: An Overview of the Book of Joel

If you haven’t already seen the fine work being done on video by The Bible Project, we couldn’t help observe that this is a perfect fit for us at Christianity 201. This overview of the writing of Joel (one of the ‘The Twelve’ or what we call the minor prophets) provides a great overview of this book.

Note: I would love to post the whole series here, but I know you come here daily for a teaching or inspirational writing that is written out in words, and some devotional websites can easily get lazy and just post videos. Still, feel free to use the comments or the contact page to let me know how this works for you. And really consider checking out The Bible Project on YouTube (link above) or subscribing to the channel.

January 18, 2015

What Grace Looks Like

John 8:3a The teachers of the law and the Pharisees brought in a woman caught in adultery.

If you’re unfamiliar with the story, read verses 2-11 by clicking here.

At the end of several of the chapters of Rick Apperson’s book Killed by the Church, Resurrected by Christ there is a section called “What I Learned on the Way to the Resurrection.” These are teachable moments gained from some rather unpleasant church experiences. To learn more about Rick and the book, visit his blog, Just a Thought.

Those caught in the act of sin need to hear and see God’s grace in action.

Who knows what was running through the woman’s mind? As she was dragged into the street where Jesus stood, the Pharisees began eagerly sharing the woman’s sin with Jesus and the people around Him. The woman had sinned. She had been caught in the act—the very act!—of adultery.

Killed by the Church Resurrected By Christ - Rick Apperson“Moses said that, according to the law, she should be stoned,” one of the Pharisees said.

“What do you say, Jesus?”

Stooping down, Jesus took His finger and began writing on the ground.

Again, He was questioned. “What do you say? Should this woman be stoned?”

Jesus stood up and, looking around, said to the scribes and Pharisees, “He who is without sin among you, let him throw a stone at her first.”

With that proclamation, Jesus returned to writing on the ground.

The crowd of accusers drifted away until no one was left. Jesus then stood again and asked the woman if there was anyone left to condemn her. When the woman replied, “No,” His response to her echoes as a lesson to us all. “I don’t condemn you either. Go and sin no more.”

I love this passage from John 8. It is one of hope and mercy, grace and truth! Note that Jesus didn’t condone her sin. He told her, in fact, to stop sinning! However, He showed her grace and mercy while also addressing those who would condemn her.

The accusations laid against her weren’t wrong, but the heart motive of her accusers was. Sadly, my motivations weren’t always pure when I confronted someone about their sin. You can also see a poor demonstration of how to treat someone caught in sin when I wrote about my church’s response to the unwed mother.

I think we struggle in the church with how to respond to those whose sin is glaringly obvious. We seem to forget Jesus died for them. His harshest words were for the religious people of the day. Pride and religiosity may be greater barriers to relationship with God than the things we tend to judge in our own minds.

Maybe we’re afraid that by demonstrating grace and mercy we will seem weak on sin. Need that be so? Jesus spoke to the heart, not to the behavior. As demonstrated in the John 8 story, He told her to sin no more, but by His act of mercy, He also demonstrated love!

There is a wonderful passage of Scripture found in Matthew 7:1–5 (NKJV).

Judge not, that you be not judged. For with what judgment you judge, you will be judged; and with the measure you use, it will be measured back to you. And why do you look at the speck in your brother’s eye, but do not consider the plank in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, “Let me remove the speck from your eye”; and look, a plank is in your own eye? Hypocrite! First remove the plank from your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.

If we would remember that we ourselves have sinned and been forgiven much, we would find it easier to extend grace to others.

So the next time you feel the need to “help” someone by pointing out their offense, swallow your spiritual pride, check your heart, and show the love of Christ! I say this recognizing that there will be times when we need to speak truth in love, showing a brother or sister their need to repent. Most often though, people know when they are sinning, and our kind words and actions can help them find their way back onto the path of righteousness. As I mentioned before, restoration and redemption should be the end goal. Our desire should be that of seeing a brother or sister restored in their relationship with the King of Kings and Lord of Lords!

~Killed by the Church, Resurrected by Christ pp 26-28


Read a review of the book at Thinking Out Loud

September 26, 2014

Justice, Equality, Fairness and Jesus

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NRSV Matthew 20:8 When evening came, the owner of the vineyard said to his manager, “Call the laborers and give them their pay, beginning with the last and then going to the first.’ 9 When those hired about five o’clock came, each of them received the usual daily wage. 

In first introducing today’s writer last year, I explained that some blogs consist of pastors’ sermon notes written for churches that use the Lectionary as a guide to preaching. In these churches, the Evangelical concept of a sermon series in completely foreign; instead there are three or four prescribed readings for each Sunday, usually consisting an Old Testament reading, a Psalm , a selection from the gospels, and an excerpt from an Epistle.  (These vary somewhat by tradition and some denominations send out an amended version to their ministers.)  The pastor then chooses one of the texts to form the basis of the weekend sermon.

That’s the case with the blog ForeWords written by Rich Brown.  Click the title below to read at source and discover more Lectionary based sermons.

Live the Gospel

Parable of the LaborersHeritage Day (Community of Christ)
Ordinary Time (Proper 20)
Exodus 16:2–15; Psalm 105:1–6, 37–45; Philippians 1:21–30; Matthew 20:1–16

Those of us who’ve lived our entire lives in countries where justice, equality under the law, and fairness are considered the bedrock of society tend to forget that the kingdom of God preached by Jesus is not a reflection of the world we’ve created. But then, neither are our democratically oriented cultures necessarily an imitation of the heavenly kingdom. And that’s one of the reasons why so many of us may have a tough time with Jesus’ parable at the beginning of Matthew chapter 20.

If we were to hear about a comparable tale here in the 21st century our first response might well be that those vineyard workers sure needed a strong union seeking a comprehensive collective bargaining agreement. It is, after all, patently unfair that those workers toiling all day in the field–no doubt under a hot Judean sun–got the same amount of pay as the ones brought to the fields in late afternoon who had worked only an hour or two. Matthew recounts that this is not just a 21st-century concern:

“Now when the first came, they thought they would receive more; but each of them also received the usual daily wage. And when they received it, they grumbled against the landowner, saying, ‘These last worked only one hour, and you have made them equal to us who have borne the burden of the day and the scorching heat.’” –Matt. 20:10-12 NRSV

Parables, it must always be remembered, are not literal storytelling; they are stories told to get across greater, deeper truths. And so this isn’t a story about unfair working conditions. Certainly in our own day–as in Jesus’ time–workers are exploited. We Christians should be in the forefront of those seeking an end to such abuse. This story/parable is about something quite different. It’s about the kingdom of God, which is based on grace not fairness.

The landowner in the parable (presumably a stand-in for God) made it clear that he set the rules and established the relationship with the workers. In kingdom-of-God terms, this is not a contractual arrangement; it is instead a covenant:

“Friend, I am doing you no wrong; did you not agree with me for the usual daily wage? Take what belongs to you and go; I choose to give to this last the same as I give to you. Am I not allowed to do what I choose with what belongs to me? Or are you envious because I am generous?’ So the last will be first, and the first will be last.” –vs. 13-16

Many of us Christians have an unfortunate tendency to think that God loves us more than all the rest of humanity–or at least that God places us at the front of the line for eternal blessings because we’re followers of Jesus. But we must remember that we’re not the first to be “chosen” by God. That belongs to the literal descendants of Abraham and Sarah: the Jews. Yes, that covenant is still in force. Check out what the apostle Paul has to say about that topic in Romans chapter 11.

With that in mind, then, who might those late-afternoon workers in God’s vineyard be: why, that would be us Christians. An uncomfortable thought perhaps for many of us. And it might be even more squirm-inducing if we Christians are actually the mid-day workers who were added. If that’s the case, then God may well be planning to add even more to the divine fold. But, but, but…we might protest. How unfair of God to invite those we casually term “unbelievers” (or heathens or any number of other less complimentary terms) into God’s presence. Once more: it’s not about fairness, it’s all about grace.

God, being the generous Creator God is, was, and always will be, can expand the boundaries of the so-called “chosen” for whatever reason God so desires. Among other things, that puts to shame our “Christian” tendency to point judgmental fingers at others, deciding on our own who’s in and who’s out, who’s saved and who’s damned. In fact, this could just change everything.


I really loved the idea in the 2nd last paragraph that perhaps many of us are the mid-day workers — or even late day workers — in the story. Think for a moment; how might that fit individually or corporately?

 

November 16, 2013

Prodigal Son Parable Changes the Paradigm

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The Lost Son Returns:

(NIV)Luke 15:20 So he got up and went to his father.

“But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him.

21 “The son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’

22 “But the father said to his servants, ‘Quick! Bring the best robe and put it on him. Put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. 23 Bring the fattened calf and kill it. Let’s have a feast and celebrate. 24 For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’ So they began to celebrate.

25 “Meanwhile, the older son was in the field. When he came near the house, he heard music and dancing. 26 So he called one of the servants and asked him what was going on. 27 ‘Your brother has come,’ he replied, ‘and your father has killed the fattened calf because he has him back safe and sound.’

In the new book, Let Hope In, Pete Wilson writes:

Pete Wilson - Let Hope InJesus’ audience continued to listen to him tell the story of the prodigal son, and they had been surprised so far, but now they were thinking, Well, the dad let his son make his own choice.  He was so overwhelmed when his son came home that he actually ran to him, but we know how this story is going to end.

From the Jerusalem Talmud, it is known that the Jews during the time of Jesus had a method of punishing any Jewish boy who lost the family inheritance to Gentiles.  It was called the “qetsatsah ceremony”.  Such a violator of community expectations would face the qetsatsah ceremony if he dared return to his home village.

The ceremony was simple: The villagers would bring a large jar, fill it with burned corn, and break it in front of the guilty individual.  While doing this, the community would shout, “So-and-so is cut off from his people.”  From that point on, the village would have nothing to do with them.

This was a religious ceremony designed to publicly embarrass and humiliate the person guilty of wrongdoing.  And the people listening to this story are waiting for this ending.  Sure the dad forgave the son, but the village is going to give the boy what he deserves.  They’re not going to overlook his dark past.  They’re not going to allow him to just forget where he was or who he had been.  But an amazing thing happens: the father trumps the humiliating and convicting ceremony by establishing his own.  “The father said to his servants, ‘Quick! Bring the best robe and put it on him.  Put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet.  Bring the fattened calf and kill it.   Let’s have a feast and celebrate.  For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’  So they began to celebrate” (Luke 15:22-24  NIV).

He does something his audience is not familiar with doing: wiping his son’s slate clean.  He says, “I know my son blew it.  I know he made some horrible decisions.  But this is between me and him.  He’s not an embarrassment to me.  You can come over to the house tomorrow, but instead of a ceremony of rejection, we’re participating in the joy of a restoration.”

~ Pete Wilson, Let Hope In: 4 Choices That Will Change Your Life Forever pp. 117-118 emphasis added

August 3, 2013

Two Things Jesus Never Says to the Suffering

This appeared last month at Reason for Change, the blog of Jayson Bradley; click through to read at source and check out other material there:

When I look at Jesus, I am seeing the exact representation of God’s character. Jesus, as Paul says, is the image of the invisible God (Col. 1:15). And Christ himself makes a connection between knowing him and knowing the Father (Jn 14:7).

It’s important for me to understand that not only is Jesus the perfect revelation of what it means to be fully human, his behavior also reveals so much to me about the character and concerns of God. That’s why it’s always interesting to me to think about, not only what Jesus says, but what he doesn’t say.

Scripture records Jesus healing a lot of people. On top of that, Jesus sets many demonically oppressed individuals free. When you stop and contrast the way we interact with afflicted individuals with the way Jesus did, you see some amazing discrepancies.

Here’s two huge things Jesus never says to the suffering:

1. You’re to blame

When I think through the innumerable examples of the sick and demonized Jesus healed, I can not come up with one example where he lays blame at the feet of the afflicted. More often than not, he treats those suffering various maladies as victims.

When Jesus stands up in the synagogue and kicks off his ministry, he does so with the following words from Isaiah:

The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,
because he has anointed me
to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives
and recovering of sight to the blind,
to set at liberty those who are oppressed,
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor. (Lk 4:18–19)

Jesus came to lead a revolt against enemy forces who hold the world hostage. These forces have have subjected all of creation to the slavery of corruption. This corruption runs deep. Some of Jesus’ healings were about bringing order to that corruption, and some (exorcisms) were in direct confrontation with the enemy forces responsible for that corruption.

It does me good to see that Jesus never makes the demonized or afflicted carry the weight of guilt for their condition. He doesn’t accuse them of being punished or disciplined. Rather, he simply confronts their oppressor and sets them free.

2. It’s part of God’s plan

Maybe even more surprising is that Jesus never attributes the suffering of others to the mysterious will of God. As I said in the previous section, Jesus challenges each illness and act of demonic oppression as if their presence is a direct affront to God’s will. There is no moment where Jesus looks to the distressed and indicates that they suffer as part of God’s greater plan.

When Peter sums up Jesus ministry, he says this, “You know of Jesus of Nazareth, how God anointed Him with the Holy Spirit and with power, and how He went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil. . .” (Acts 10:38) And John sums up the works of Jesus as being “The Son of God appeared for this purpose, to destroy the works of the devil.” Oppression and sickness were always treated as malevolent manifestations of a demonic kingdom.

The significance of what Christ didn’t say about the healings he performed is staggering. And although he ultimately destroyed the works of Satan on the cross, we still live in occupied territory. We are still routing the enemy, and dealing with a creation that is under slavery to corruption.

As we partner with Christ in redeeming all of creation to himself, our prayer matters. We are at work confronting the enemy in his strongholds, where he is at work killing, stealing, and destroying (Jn 10:10). We cannot afford to be attributing the oppression of the enemy to the mysterious work of the Lord.

In Luke Jesus says sums up his confrontation with evil this way, “When a strong manfully armed, guards his own house, his possessions are undisturbed. But when someone stronger than he attacks him and overpowers him, he takes away from him all his armor on which he had relied and distributes his plunder (Lk 11:21–22).”

The strong man is Satan, and creation is the house he’s guarding. Jesus came, confronted him throughout his ministry, and overpowered him at the cross. But we are still at work because the enemy is at work with great wrath because he knows his time is short (Rev. 12:12).

Let’s attribute his nefarious work to the right source, and continue to confront him. Soon . . . soon we will be dividing up the spoils of victory.

January 6, 2012

…Then Why Do Good?

Doug Wolter posted this on his blog, and the synopsis at the end of the message is worth the price of admission; but if you have the 45 minutes, you get to watch a great message, too. It appeared on his blog under the title:

If I’m accepted in Christ, why do good?

by Doug Wolter

[Recently] I got to see Tullian Tchvidjian preach at Southern Seminary. I love his focus on the gospel of grace. Toward the end of his message he asked an interesting question: If Christ accepts me based on his righteousness and not mine, then what is my motivation to do good? In other words, if I have a great day, I’m accepted, if I have a bad day, I’m accepted. So why do good? He answered the question with a quote from Spurgeon:

When I thought God was hard, I found it easy to sin; but when I found God so kind, so good, so overflowing with compassion, I smote upon my breast to think that I could ever have rebelled against One who loved me so, and sought my good.

In other words, the deeper I go into the gospel, the greater my motivation toward obedience. I encourage you to watch this message and be amazed again at God’s grace for desperate sinners like you and me.

October 28, 2011

Confronting Greed

As I write this, the “Occupy” protests are spreading around the world, and sadly, becoming more confrontational, as neighborhoods try to take back their public spaces, and police grow weary of trying to keep the peace, and the costs associated with so doing.

At the root of the protests is corporate and personal greed.  In many ways, the protests are borne out of the situation in the U.S., the other locations are merely copycat protests.  I don’t know the source of the stats which follow, but they purport to show the ratio between the take home pay of the average worker, and that of the average CEO:

At his blog, Dream Awakener, J. R. Woodward posts this classic prayer against greed in a blog item titled, Praying With Occupy Wall Street.

O Jesus, Who chose a life of poverty and obscurity; 

Grant me the grace to keep my heart detached from the transitory things of this world.

Let it be that henceforth, You are my only treasure, for You are infinitely more precious than all others possessions. My heart is too solicitous for the vain and fleeting things of earth.

Make me always mindful of Your warning words: “What does it profit a man if he gain the whole world, but suffer the loss of his own soul?”

Grant me the grace to keep Your holy example always before my eyes, that I may despise the nothingness of this world and make You the object of all my desires and affections.

Amen.

What should the Christian’s response be to the Occupy movement?  I believe the answer is rooted in Micah 6:8

No, O people, the Lord has told you what is good,
      and this is what he requires of you:
   to do what is right, to love mercy,
      and to walk humbly with your God. (NLT)

 

August 20, 2011

Commandment Keeping: Prerequisite to God’s Favor, or Fruit of Grace?

More from the book, Look to The Rock, by Alec Motyer (p.41)…

…Nevertheless, law is really and truly law.  The terrors of [Mount] Sinai were real and palpable (Ex 20: 18-21, Heb 12: 18-21).  This was no contrived display of religious fireworks designed merely to cow and awe.  The cause of the whole manifestation of fire and cloud, earthquake, thunder and lightning was simply this: that “the Lord descended in fire.” (Ex 19:18).  This is what he is like.  His holiness is not a passive attribute but an active force such as can only be symbolized by fire, a force of destruction of all that is unholy.  At Sinai this holy God came to declare His holy law.

It is at this point that the sequence of events in the great historical visual aid bears its distinctive fruit: In the Old Testament as in the whole Bible, the law of the Holy God is not a ladder of merit whereby sinners seek to come to God to win His favor and climb “into His good books;” His holy law is rather His appointed and required pattern of life for those who by redemption have been brought to Him already who already belong to Him, and are already “in His good books.”  The Law of God is the lifestyle of the redeemed.

Somewhere in the middle of reading that section, I started thinking about the difference between law and grace in terms of the “How Do You Spell Religion?” presentation which I’ve outlined here.  I see this as another way of looking at man’s attempts in more of a chronological method:

If each of the checkmarks below represents the keeping of one or several commandments and the cross represents acceptance by God, many people feel that their story should unravel something like this:

In fact, what the Bible teaches is that living “a ten commandments lifestyle” is more of the fruit of experiencing the grace of God.  The commandments were never requested of Israel’s neighbors, they were the cadence of a life lived in fellowship and communion with God.  While they are phrased in a “Don’t do this” manner, they could be interpreted — or lived out — in more of a I Cor 13 way: “Doesn’t kill, doesn’t steal…” etc.  That’s also in keeping with a “before and after” way of looking at life that incorporates life transformation.  So it looks like:

Of course, there is always the issue that most of the general population can’t name all ten commandments, and if they do, they tend to focus on the “second tablet,” the ones having to do with interpersonal relationships, and neglect the first four, having to do with our relationship with God.

April 7, 2011

Video Devotional By Warren Wiersbe

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I thought we’d hang on to Warren Wiersbe for another day, this time looking at a couple of video devotionals at YouTube. This one is based on Psalm 30.

Here’s another one, from Psalm 33. You’ll be one of the first people to watch this…

October 17, 2010

The Most Forgiving People In The World

This list originates with the blog 5:9 and is a summary of a series of teachings done by Ken Sande at the staff devotionals of Peacemaker Ministries[HT: Thabiti at Pure Church.]

  1. The most forgiving people in the world have an exceedingly high view of God.
  2. The most forgiving people in the world trust that God is all powerful, all loving, and always working for his glory and our good, even in the midst of suffering. (Gen. 45:4-7; Acts 2:23-24; Rom. 8:28)
  3. ‎The most forgiving people in the world trust God’s promise that every sin will eventually be fully paid for, either through Christ’s atonement on the cross or through eternal judgment. (Gen. 50:19; Luke 18:6-8; Rom. 12:19)
  4. The most forgiving people in the world see their sin against God and his forgiveness of them as being infinitely great. (Matt. 18:23-25; Luke 7:47; Ps. 25:11; Eph. 1:7)
  5. The most forgiving people in the world see God as the true treasure of forgiveness and will do anything to have more of him. (Ps. 73:25)
  6. The most forgiving people in the world see others through the eyes of Christ. (Col. 1:21-22; Luke 23:34)
  7. The most forgiving people in the world depend utterly on God to cultivate the perspectives and attitudes needed to forgive. (Phil 2:13)

July 29, 2010

Andrew Murray on Psalm 51

In our family prayer time, we’ve started reading Confession and Forgiveness which Andrew Murray wrote in 1896.   He takes 33 chapters to go through Psalm 51 phrase-by-phrase.

If you’re not familiar with this Psalm, take a moment to read it now…

This is from the second chapter:

The reason then why I would have you learn to understand and take this psalm to your heart is that I think its lessons are so necessary and, indeed, indispensable.  We are taught in our [Heidelberg] Catechism that there are three elements in the spiritual life that we must know if we would live and die as saved  souls.   These three elements are:

  • how great our sin and misery are
  • how we can be delivered from them, and
  • how we should live in thankfulness to God for this deliverance.

And nowhere do we find these great lessons concerning mercy, deliverance, and thankfulness more clearly explained than in this psalm…


June 1, 2010

Down At Your Feet: No Higher Calling

Here is another one of those “lost” worship songs.   I knew the song connected to Lenny LeBlanc, but didn’t know it had been recorded by Maranatha! Music.

The actual title is “No Higher Calling,” but you may remember it as “Down At Your Feet, Oh Lord.”

Down at Your feet oh Lord
Is the most high place
In Your presence Lord
I seek Your face
I seek Your face

There is no higher calling
No greater honor
Than to bow and kneel before Your throne

I’m amazed at Your glory
Embraced by Your mercy
Oh Lord I live to worship You

Greg Gulley & Lenny LeBlanc
© 1989, 1999 Doulos Publishing (Maranatha! Music [Admin. by Music Services])

The video version here is a little more “polished” than I remember this song; I appreciate worship that is a little more “raw” than this.   But it’s a great song worthy of some updated exposure.

“I’m amazed at your glory; embraced by your mercy…”

Bonus video:  Here’s another version of No Higher Calling.

May 14, 2010

Where Sin Abounds

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I guess I’ve always looked at the verse that says, “Where sin abounds, grace abounds more” (my ‘remembered’ version of it) as applying in a collective sense.  To a nation, or a society, or some other group.

In the NLT, Romans 5:20 looks like this:

God’s law was given so that all people could see how sinful they were. But as people sinned more and more, God’s wonderful kindness became more abundant.

The phrase “as people” was something I would read in the plural sense of people.

But the principle, to be true at all, has to also be true at the micro level as well as the macro.   In my small group.  With my immediate neighbors .  Around the guys at work.   In our extended families.   In nuclear families.   In individual hearts.  In me.

In the place where sin is most evident, or working its hardest; grace is already at work, too.    Theologians have an image or picture of the “triumph” of the grace of God.   The verse in The Message reads,

When it’s sin versus grace, grace wins hands down. All sin can do is threaten us with death, and that’s the end of it. Grace, because God is putting everything together again through the Messiah, invites us into life—a life that goes on and on and on, world without end.

God’s “putting everything together again” sounds like redemption; not a twelve-step kind of personal redemption, but a redemption of sin itself of the sinful nature.  Where my sin is plentiful, His grace is already engaged.

In a 2007 blog post, author and pastor Mark Batterson wrote:

I don’t want to underestimate my sinfulness because all that does is cheapen the grace of God! But more importantly, I don’t want to underestimate the grace of God. We need to be reminded over and over again that the grace of God is so much bigger than our biggest failure!

Here’s how the normally-humorous author Jon Acuff describes it at his blog, Stuff Christians Like:

There was a guy in the Bible who was the worst. He was such a failure. He lied once and got an entire village murdered as a result. A priest and his family were killed because of his lies. He committed adultery. He cheated. He trusted in his own strength instead of the Lord’s. And when he did, when he failed, thousands and thousands of people died as a result. His family suffered from incest and murder and his hands were so covered with wrongfully shed blood that eventually God wouldn’t let him do something really important.

Now imagine if that person was a commenter on Stuff Christians Like. Imagine if they confessed to homicide and adultery and a laundry list of other sins. I mean there have been some crazy comments on this site, but no one has ever said, “I saw this girl online and thought she was really hot, so I slept with her, got her pregnant and then arranged on craigslist for her husband to be killed.” But this guy, the guy in the Bible, he could have left that comment. And if he did, would you or me or the writer of that email instantly think, “He didn’t take grace too far?” No, we’d be horrified. We’d be terrified.

So how is he referred to in the Bible? Here is what God says about him:

“I have found David son of Jesse a man after my own heart,”

What? Are you kidding God? David, the murderer? The adulterer? That can’t be right.

Surely David himself knows what a mess he’s made. Aren’t we all our worst critics? David knows that there is blood on his hands. How does he describe himself in Psalm 26?

“Vindicate me, O LORD, for I have led a blameless life; I have trusted in the LORD without wavering.”

No. No. No. David hasn’t led a blameless life. He hasn’t trusted in the Lord without wavering. He ran away and got people killed by trying to cover up his tracks when he was afraid. How can David say these things? How can God say these things?

Because grace is scandalous.

Grace does not make sense to our tiny human brains. We can’t control it. We can’t draw boundaries and borders on it. And when we try I think it breaks God’s heart.

I think we insult the cross when we act as if we can “out sin” it.

I think we wound our father when we think we can “out filth” his love.

I think we hurt our Christ when we believe that we have found the end of his grace.

I know, I know, I know that it is possible to mistreat the Lord. To blasphemy his name with our actions and our attitudes. David certainly did and he paid the consequences. I don’t think we get discipline or grace. I think we get both. I think discipline is a by product of grace and in my own life I have received large amounts of it.

But above that, I think God understood the grand risk when he offered us grace. A book called True Faced called it the New Testament Gamble. I think God knew the risk that we’d misunderstand grace and try to take advantage of it. I think he knew we’d try to find the limits of it with our sinfulness. Which is why he made it limitless, which is why he made grace infinite and never ending.

I don’t know what you’ve done. I don’t know your life or the bumps or bruises. Maybe you actually have murdered more people than David. I don’t know. But I do know, as many readers pointed out on this post, we serve a God who accepts our repentance and confession. We serve a God who when offered a chance to reveal himself to Moses, chose one thing to show, the most important thing, his goodness.

We serve a God who “rises to show us compassion.”

A God who delights in you.

A God who sent his son to the cross not to show the end of his grace, but rather the beginning.

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