Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Snappy Grace: Embrace the Scandal

Six years ago today, I was on my way to do a preaching in for a young adults group in a Sovereign Grace Ministries church, with my best friend in tow. 5 minutes from our destination, my car died. I didn't get to preach. In fact, as I was already moved back to college, I effectively couldn't attend that church anymore. That single incident basically removed my being an SGM pastor from possibility.

I looked for churches in walking distance or that had pickup services. Visited many churches--usually with the same best friend. Neither of us having much luck with these visits, even though we met many wonderful Christians in the process.

Then there was a flyer in the mail: "The Anglicans are Coming!" So almost a month after, we walked into the first preview service of a few that semester (weekly services began in January 2010).

I never looked back. And every time I reflected on that, it's had everything to do with grace.the wider SGM movement was so unhealthily introspective, so shy of absolution and so wary of Christian freedom, that even the very warm and welcoming congregation that I had shared three years with couldn't escape the effect of that teaching.

But when I heard the Comfortable Words in the liturgy for the first time on that September evening in Beaver Falls, I heard pardon, absolution and release after 3 years of confessing sin and being convicted constantly.

Those words?

Hear the Word of God to all who truly turn to him.

Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Matthew 11:28

God so loved the world, that he gave his only-begotten Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. John 3:16

The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners. 1 Timothy 1:15

If anyone sins, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous. He is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world. 1 John 2:1-2

I found so much proclamation of the Law in SGM, but no proclamation of forgiveness and absolution. There was years of "trying" to do what Hebrews 12 said--to lay aside every weight and sin and look to Jesus. But it is impossible to see Jesus when you are turned inward to see your sin. Someone from outside of me had to say "Look upon Him" in the same way that Moses commanded the Israelites to look at the bronze serpent on the pole. My healing and release had been there all along. And there was no amount of trying anything I could do. No amount of soul-despising groaning that could merit that grace. No amount of work that could win my freedom.

All along, I was being punished and condemned for my sins by the church and by myself. Not by Jesus. Because Jesus had different words to say to me. Words of scandal: "Get up. Stand up. Take your mat and walk. I don't care that it's the wrong day of the week. It's finished. You will be with me. Now. Forever. No ifs, ands, or buts."

That's a scandal to embrace.