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Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Give me Grace!

We all indulge in sin once in a while - some without thinking, and at other times, it is a matter of really not paying attention to the warning signs we receive.  In the end, we might feel a little "bad" about what we did, said, or thought.  The action leads to "feelings" and we equate these "feelings" with "guilt".  In turn, we might find ourselves asking for forgiveness - first from God, and then from others if they were affected by our sinful action.  It always makes me laugh when I come across a believer, or non-believer, who somehow believe that Christianity is made up of a whole lot of people who will never sin again!  Reality check....being a Christian means we have a "covering" for our sin IF it happens, not that we are "immune" to sin's pull!

All who indulge in a sinful life are dangerously lawless, for sin is a major disruption of God’s order. Surely you know that Christ showed up in order to get rid of sin. There is no sin in him, and sin is not part of his program. No one who lives deeply in Christ makes a practice of sin. None of those who do practice sin have taken a good look at Christ. They’ve got him all backward.  (I John 3:4-6 The Message)

There is a clear difference between "indulging in a sinful life" and occasionally slipping up.  In the occasional misstep, we find ourselves responding to the urges of our bodies, the thoughts of our minds, or the pressures of a circumstance and DON'T heed the warning signs.  In "indulging in" a sinful life, we have not even made the choice to attempt to live "beyond" the sin by taking on the grace of Christ in our lives..  There is a clear difference - all dependent upon where we "stand" in Christ.

For those who have made the choice to follow Christ, John is telling us "sin is not part of the program".  In other words, it is not a "lifestyle" for us any longer.  It does not say we will NEVER sin - we just don't make a practice of it!  Now, if we are "making a practice" of something, it affects all we say and do, does it not?  In fact, we find the undertone of the "practice" in every part of our lives.  

For example, when the book "The Hunger Games" first hit the shelves, it was almost an instant success.  The trilogy took the world by storm and a huge group of "followers" got on board with the fad.  In fact, as the movie was coming out, people were making shirts, shoes, and other things to show their "support" of the opening night.  People who liked the movie quickly purchased the ringtones for their phones, bought the DVD when it was released, and now wait with bated breath for the next in the series.  It creates an undertone in their lives.

Much in the same way, when we give our hearts to Christ, embracing grace as our garment of righteousness, we find ourselves with a new "undertone" in life.  Every action is measured against the perfection of Christ - when we are found to be lacking in anyway, we come to him for more grace.  Why?  It is because we have taken a good look at Jesus and found we have a desire to embrace all he is.  John is reminding us of a very salient point:  Perspective is everything!  When we behold Christ face-to-face, we find ourselves desiring to be covered more and more with his grace - until we come to reflect his image in our lives.

I wonder just how many of us confuse "practice" and an occasional "slip-up"?  I think it may be more than we think.  In fact, I don't think so many of us would struggle with guilt and shame if this were not the case.  Instead of coming to Jesus with our occasional slip-ups, we carry a mountain of guilt.  We equate the slip-up to the "practice".  Yet, grace declares a new "practice" in our lives! In fact, grace sees the "slip-ups" long before they are done!  Most importantly, grace already provides an additional bounty of grace for the time when we will inevitably sin!  

This does not give us license to sin - we are not given permission to sin.  But...it does give us the "covering" for our occasional misdeed when it occurs. Grace is unmerited favor.  We are asked to give ourselves humbly to Christ - to live an "exchanged" life.  When we sin, we are "taking back" a little bit of ourselves, indulging in the things he asks us to lay down.  But...grace anticipates our need - extending unmerited favor!  Christ is grace - grace is Christ.  We think of grace as a thing - an object.  In reality, grace is the embrace of Christ - pulling us near his heart once again.

Maybe we need to gain a little perspective on our sinfulness.  If it is a "practiced pattern" - we need grace to break the practice.  If it is an occasional "slip-up" - we need grace to bring us back into right standing.  Either way, we all need the same thing - Christ!  Until we see fully his glory reflected in every action, every thought, and every word - we need Christ!  In other words - we need grace!  Just sayin....