Archives For grace

Hi, My name is Matt and I am a negative person.

Ok, so I’m not negative all the time.  But I can get frustrated and become a real party pooper when things don’t go as planned. What do I mean by negative? I mean that I point out mistakes, gossip, complain, judge, and then I try to justify it. God has really been working on me in this area. He has shown me that much of my negativity and complaining comes from pride.  When things go wrong, I often shift blame to others and feel like I could’ve done their job better myself.  The truth is that’s not the truth.  That’s the deception of pride.

So here are a few things that I’m learning about negativity:

1. A negative plus a negative DOES NOT equal a positive
The truth is that you’re never negative alone.  My negative attitude is always pulling someone else down with me.  The complaining and gossip always involves more than me.  This is the biggest problem with having a negative attitude: it’s contagious.  My conviction is that my negative attitude has damaged others and caused them to sin with me.

2. A positive plus a negative CAN equal a positive
In the same way that one negative attitude can be contagious, so can a positive attitude.  There are certain people in my life that point out when I’m being negative, and they remind me of the positive.  They can change the course of the conversation by remaining positive and not participating in the complaining or gossip.  As I learn to treat my negativity, I’m really grateful for these individuals.

3. It’s always best to cut off negativity before it starts
I’m trying to learn to always evaluate myself first when something doesn’t meet expectations. I’ve found that I can really put things into perspective by starting with the question, “What role did my actions (or lack of actions) play in this situation?” I’m learning that most often than not, the blame rests on me. When I realize the role that my actions plays, my focus turns to reconciling instead of complaining. 

I’ve got a long ways to go, but God is at work. I still fail at this each day, but I’m thankful for how He is changing me and making me new.

I have to be honest that I have not really followed the trial process for Casey Anthony.  I wasn’t tuned in to see what evidence was or was not presented in the case. Even not knowing what was really going on in the case, I was sucked into the drama of the verdict yesterday—along with the rest of the world!

What caught me was not the “not guilty” verdict but the response to the verdict.  More specifically, the American Christian response to the verdict.  I know that it is a tendency of mine to look for some type of justice and peace in a situation that I just don’t understand.  When I don’t get my way, it just feels better to believe that something like “karma” will make it right down the road.  And as the news dropped about the Casey Anthony verdict yesterday, it seemed as if the Christian response was that it’s ok that the judicial system failed because God would pour out judgment upon her.

This statement (in the wrong context) is ridiculous.

We want to proclaim God’s judgment before He’s ready to do so. We forget that the blood of Christ can cover a multitude of our (Christians) sins, and can equally do the same for those we declare “guilty” if they too will repent.  All over Facebook and twitter yesterday, it was declared by Christians and non-Christians that God would cast judgment on her for her wrong doings in the death of her daughter.

The biggest problem with such a statement is that it nullifies the option of grace. I don’t know what part she had in this ordeal if any, but regardless of that I do know that she is a sinner. Scripture tells me that we all are sinners, and we all have fallen short of God’s glory (Romans 3).  It also tells me that she will face a jealous God who will judge her for her sin unless she is pardoned (Romans 6). Scripture tells me that despite her actions, she can still receive grace by believing and calling upon Jesus Christ (Romans 10). Even if she murdered her child, her sin is no more heinous than mine. If Christ can cleanse me from all my unrighteousness then he is mighty enough and faithful to do so for all that call on His name.

This is the difficulty we have with grace.  It’s not fair. 

I’m reminded of the parable of the vineyard workers.  They each worked a different number of hours, but all received the same wage.   This is how God chooses to delve out His grace.  It is not based on our works, but on His love.  I’m a father to a young daughter, and it makes me sick to my stomach to think anyone could do harm to an innocent child. And I know that there may be a day when God casts judgment on whoever took the life of this child.  But I also must realize that it is equally possible that they will accept Jesus Christ and that He will bear that judgment for them as He has done for my sins.  As hard as it may be, I pray that she finds the latter.

I mentioned in an earlier blog that we are hosting a summer reading with our small group leaders.  We are reading D. A. Carson’s The God Who is There: Finding Your Place in God’s Story.  We haven’t started the group yet, but I decided to read ahead to try and create a reading schedule and some discussion questions.  About 40 pages into the book, God moved.

I have to admit that I struggle with grace.  I struggle with receiving it and with giving it.  I always feel like I will be judged or evaluated based on my performance.   I feel like I need to earn everything.  But that’s not grace.  Grace is unmerited favor.  Grace is an undeserved blessing.  I know this, I teach this to students, but I struggle with it. 

While reading Carson’s book, the third chapter discusses the covenants of God from the Old Testament.  The discussion turned to a practice of the ancient world that was often a part of a peace treaty between super-powers and smaller states.   It was a deal struck to keep peace and provide protection.  The smaller state would pledge allegiance and pay taxes to the super-power, who would in return provide protection.  Carson describes a process that was used to symbolize this covenant:

Sometimes one of the signs of this covenant agreement and corresponding threat was to take animals, tear them apart, and put them side by side with a kind of bloody alleyway between the two parts, and then the two parties of the covenant would walk between the divided animals so as to signify “May this be done to me if I break this covenant. May I be torn apart. May I be cut in half.”   (Carson, 51)

Genesis 15 describes a very similar process between God and Abraham.  God’s covenant with Abraham included his promise that all people on earth will be blessed through you.(Gen. 12:3)  This is God promising to do something supernatural and sovereign through Abraham’s line.  We know and understand that this is speaking towards Jesus Christ.  But what is Abraham’s responsibility in this covenant?  After all, a covenant does have two parties.  The role of Abraham was to be a people of God, fully devoted and obedient to Him.  But how in the world could we do this without making mistakes? This is where God taught me a new understanding of grace.

Back to Genesis 15 and the similar event.  God has Abraham take the animals and cut them apart.  He directs Abraham to arrange the halves opposite one another with a bloody alleyway between them.  Sound familiar?  But here is the difference.  Abraham falls into a deep sleep, God speaks to him in that sleep about how his family will fall short of their end of the covenant, and then God moved.  Literally, God moved.

“When the sun had set and darkness had fallen, a smoking firepot with a blazing torch appeared and passed between the pieces.  On that day the Lord made a covenant with Abram.”  Genesis 15:17-18

What happens here is Grace.  God passes through the bloody alleyway ALONE.  This means that only He is responsible and accountable for the terms of the covenant.  This means that Abram, and you and me, will mess up and God will still show mercy, love, favor, blessings, etc. toward his people.  I’ve heard about grace, taught grace, and definitely experienced grace.  But this illustration really helped me to visualize God’s grace.  It widened my understanding of His love.  It gave me a deeper understanding of God’s grace.

Amazing grace how sweet the sound!

That saved a wretch like me!

I once was lost, but now am found,

Was blind, but now I see.

‘Twas grace that taught my heart to fear,

And grace my fears relieved;

How precious did that grace appear,

The hour I first believed!

Through many dangers, toils and snares,

We have already come;

‘Tis grace has brought me safe thus far,

And grace will lead me home.

 

The Lord has promised good to me,

His word my hope secures;

He will my shield and portion be,

As long as life endures.

Yes, when this flesh and heart shall fail,

And mortal life shall cease;

I shall possess, within the veil,

A life of joy and peace.

The earth shall soon dissolve like snow,

The sun forbear to shine;

But God, who call’d me here below,

Will be forever mine.

–John Newton  Amazing Grace