Today began in the way that all good Sunday’s should begin… With a pre-church-breakfast-outing.
It really doesn’t get a lot better than that.
And I personally think that going to church with a full stomach helps you to focus on the sermon with far more zeal… 😉
The message this morning was great, and there was just so much covered.
Because we were looking at grace.
Which is one of those amazing themes that you could dive into for hours and days and weeks and never stop uncovering the deeper reality of.
It blows my mind.
The immensity of grace.
The fullness of what Jesus has done.
The love that just redeems you, and floors you and ruins you and rebuilds you… Completely.
We began this morning with the reality of our sin. The way that the penalty for sin is death. The way that sin works from the inside out as our wrong desires and attitudes are outworked in our behaviour. The way that sin affects the people around us. The way that it’s fruit is destruction. The way that it can be seen in what we do… And in what we fail to do. In what we fail to guard. Sin is utterly devastating.
Because it’s when we realise that we deserve nothing except hell, that we become all the more thankful for the outrageous gift of grace.
Over the last two weeks I’ve been really priviledged to share testimony and pray with a number of my friends. I’ve been really humbled to see three of my friends come back into a relationship with God. Just in this last week. I heard this morning that one of the churches I’m connected with in Japan saw 9 people become Christians today. Just today. These are things that just make my heart so full that I think it is going to burst out of my chest.
But each story and testimony begins with our realisation of our total and utter need for a Saviour. For grace.
It begins with our hatred for sin and our resolve for righteousness. We may still fail, and we need to keep running to God, but we are committed to walking in the way He calls us to.
I’ve been doing a lot of work with some young women recently who are struggling with this reality. We’ve been looking at sexual sin and sexual abuse. Because they have made mistakes. And they have also been the subject of someone else’s mistakes. And God’s grace is all around, but so many times we don’t recognise it. And God keeps giving us every opportunity to turn our lives around, but we have to submit to Him. I wrote a blog on this issue back in April (if you haven’t read it, actually, please do… https://beautifulsilliness.wordpress.com/2013/04/09/if-boys-will-be-boys/) because there can be both prevailing acceptance of certain sin, and judgement of certain sin that’s unhelpful to any of us moving forward into living free. Not tolerant of sin, but free from sin.
The message this morning finished by considering what a culture of honour in the church means. That we are a family of total acceptance who live lives rooted in grace. That we deal with sin, whilst embracing the sinner, and remembering that we are all guilty. That we look at people and see the gold in them that Jesus does and that our Father calls forth. It becomes who we are rather than who we are trying to be.
Again, I am reminded of the perfect example we are given in Jesus. I’ve blogged my own telling of this Bible story before, but I actually can’t think of a more appropriate one to finish with.
In Luke 7, we are told this incredible story. It’s shocking really. Shocking to the core. It’s where Jesus is anointed by a sinful woman.
She is not a reputable character. She is the subject of town gossip, and household rumours and brazen-late-night-stories. Everyone knows her for all the wrong reasons. And the thing is, it’s all true. Every word.
And she comes to Jesus, who’s at the house of a nobleman in the town, and (who knows how she even got in through the door) she kneels down in front of a room full of people who thought she was so worthless, and, avoiding their gasps and critical gazes, she falls on her knees and she pours this perfume on the feet of Jesus. Perfume of such high worth that it would have probably cost her everything. Everything.
So she is crying, and weeping, and filling the house with the fragrance of this perfume and the sound of her tears… And Simon, who owns the house is outraged. He is sitting there watching this scene in such offence. Because he is a righteous man, and he has invited Jesus to his house, and surely if Jesus had any sense or prophetic insight, he would know that this women was a harlot, devoted to sin and destined for hell, and he can’t figure out why Jesus doesn’t just send her and her perfume back to the streets where they belong. Because why would God want someone like that? And if Jesus were really God, why would he even let this sinner touch him?
But Jesus, who as God, not only knew the depth of this woman’s sin, but the detail of Simon’s thoughts, speaks in her defence. ‘A certain lender of money had two debtors: one owed him five hundred denarii and the other fifty. When they had no means of paying, he freely forgave them both. Now which will love him more?’ You can almost hear the silence that screams as time stands still, and the reality of what Jesus is saying sinks in.
All have a debt they cannot pay. All. But they who really see their need for forgiveness, who run to Jesus with the hole in their life and throw themselves at His feet, pouring out everything in complete abandon. They love much, because they are forgiven much.
I love much because I am forgiven much.
Oh Jesus, thank you for loving me, even in my mess.
And Jesus esteems this women. In the amplified version it puts His words like this, ‘Go (enter) into peace (in freedom from all the distresses experienced as the result of sin).’
That floors me.
In freedom from all the distresses experienced as a result of sin.
He doesn’t just forgive her sin. He redeems her future.
What kind of love is that? What kind of mercy? What kind of grace?
And this afternoon… Well, it’s just been one of those stunningly-crisp-winter-Highland-days that are best spent laughing outdoors with friends and people that you love… Which is what we’ve done.
There’s something about looking out at that Loch-Ness view that just brings the reality of God’s grace home in a really striking way. Because you can’t help but stand in awe of your creator when you look out on that kind of landscape. And remembering Him… It’s the most beautiful heart meditation in the world.