Sunday, November 2, 2008

Real Life, Real Grace

That was the title of Adam's sermon this morning. Now, if you don't want to hear about sermons, this would be the time to click a button somewhere on your computer :)

When Adam speaks about grace, he speaks from his heart. There's an erroneous notion out there, that defines grace as the absence of discipline, the absence of punishment, the absence of consequences. We see this at school, often. A students breaks an important rule. Some assert that he needs to feel the consequences of that act. Others are shocked; "We must give him grace," they argue. They cannot conceive of GRACE as anything other than a hug, and "let's just forget all about it."

Adam talked about Peter. Peter, whom Jesus told that he was about to hand over to Satan, so that Satan could "sift him like wheat" -- i.e. put him through the temptation ringer and see what his faith was made of. A similar sifting happened to Job. Jesus doesn't tell Peter, "But I won't let Satan do that to you!" No, Jesus tells Peter that he will go through it. And the only help he offers Peter? To pray for him. (That, BTW, is pretty good help, from Jesus.) He also tells Peter that he will repent of his failure, and that when he does, the purpose of the whole situation will be evident: Peter will be in a position to edify his Christian brothers.

Is this grace, from Jesus? You bet.

Peter's failure is painful to see. He denies Christ 3 times, and the 3rd time, Jesus's and Peter's eyes meet as Peter is doing it. He agonizes over his failure of faith. He is humiliated, especially after his arrogant assertions of faithfulness to his Lord. Forgive and forget? Is that grace? God does forgive. But forget? Peter's failure is recorded in Scripture for all to read...for 2000 years (and counting).

Is that grace? Yes.

Later, Jesus approaches Peter, after this horrible event. Does he put his arm around him and say, "Hey guy. No big deal. Let's just forget about the whole thing." Hardly. Jesus asks that biting, digging question: "Do you love me." After denying me, do you love me? After deserting me, do you love me? Jesus almost seems to rub Peter's nose in it, but all for Peter's good. He asks his question 3 times, one for each denial. What a painful reminder! Scripture even notes that Peter winced as Jesus asked it the third time.

Was that grace? Indeed, it was exactly grace.

This is the grace we get in real life. Pain, loss, failure, agony, fear. Sometimes it is our own sin; sometimes trial comes unbidden. We need real grace, tough grace, for real, tough life. Jesus's grace to Peter was grace that made a man of him, enabled him to live a stronger life after Jesus's departure. Jesus's grace did not leave Peter, content in his sin. It demanded he renounce his sin, and use his sin -- and Jesus's grace -- to edify others.

Our painful trials are only of value if they can be redeemed. Only God can redeem; that's his job. He is into metamorphosis. Our failures can be resurrected from the stink of death and used to encourage others, who later go through trials of their own.

When Adam stands and preaches these things, he's speaking from his own experience, and people listening know it. That's power - that's grace. I don't think Adam would trade any trial he's experienced, if it meant losing that grace. That kind of grace is God's insignia, his handprint of ownership, on one's person. It is a most precious possession.

1 comment:

  1. I believe this is one of the purposes of suffering, so that we will have the opportunity to look someone in the eye as they go through the same thing, and be able to say with authority, "I know, I've been exactly where you are, and this is what God did for me."

    Great message, great post.

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