It is true. As much as I have tried to avoid getting myself into another scandal, I have to confess that I am caught in another one.
I really thought I could avoid it… run from it… stay out of it. But now I find myself smack dab in the middle of it — and there is nothing I can do about it.
Some context before confession…
If you are a regular reader of this blog you know I go to a men’s small group bible study Monday nights. This group is focused on healing and accountability, especially around the issues of sexual sin and addiction. We are all pretty much there because of scandal or to avoid public (or marital) scandal.
Recently one of the men in the group was sharing about his own addiction to porn. He is married, in his fifties, 2 teenage boys, a leader in his church and successful professionally. He shared that he was concerned that if he were to die today he would not get into heaven because he has persisted in his sinful addiction and use of porn.
That is when I was moved to confess the truth about me. He already knew about the scandal at the church… what he didn’t know is that I am caught up in a never-ending and on-going scandal… a scandal of GRACE.
GRACE IS SCANDALOUS. The Gospel is scandal because the Gospel is grace.
– There is nothing I can do — either good or bad — to change how much God loves me right now. (And the same is true for you!)
– That while still a sinner… and unable to be otherwise… Christ died for me. (And for you too!)
– That on the cross, my sins have been forgiven — past, present and future. Yes, that means my future sins have already been paid for and forgiven!
– That no one is beyond the reach of God’s grace. No one! (And I promise, you are not the first).
– That there is always a second chance — at least in God’s eyes.
– That not only have I been forgiven, my sins have been wiped clean, made white as snow… and God remembers them not!
– That if I did the exact same thing tomorrow that I did in the past… God’s grace still covers me.
– There is nothing I can do to escape God’s grace. There is nothing I have done to merit it either. He owes me nothing yet gives me everything.
If you think about these things long enough you too will see that they are scandalous.
“But that means I can keep on sinning if I want to and still go to heaven,” my friend said.
“But that doesn’t make any sense.”
“I mean what is the point then? If I say I love Jesus but keep doing this crap, then do I really love him?”
“Stop it with your one word answers!”
“Seriously… I don’t get it.”
“I know you don’t. That’s the problem.”
Grace is scandal. It is amazing. It is unbelievable.
My friend asked two really good questions.
First, what if I die with unconfessed sin?
We confess our sins not so that we may be forgiven, but because we already have been! The power of grace is that it covers us even before we sin. And understanding the power and cost of grace — for it is costly… it cost Jesus his life — should lead us to want to confess and get flat on our faces before God and be transparent with him. Our confession is the result of grace, not the cause of it. And we confess not because God doesn’t know what we did (He does!) but because we need to name it, own it and then unload it. You see, grace means we don’t have to carry around shame and guilt anymore. And we don’t need to have secrets anymore either.
Second, if this is true, why should we be obedient to Jesus? Why not just keep on sinning?
Because of worship.
As forgiven followers of Jesus, our obedience is not to earn His love but because of it; it is not to warrant salvation but the outpouring of gratitude for the reality of salvation. In other words, obedience is our most foundational form or worship (see Matthew 25:31-46 and Romans 12:1-2). Because Christianity is not really about religion or rules or rituals — it is about a real, dynamic and personal relationship with God — we are not stuck in a system of religious functionality administered by religious functionaries. No! We are in a real relationship with Jesus who is indeed our friend, but also the Lord of Lords and King of Kings. And we honor him and love him and worship him with our lives! Not so that he will, but because he has. We live a responsorial life!
And that is part of the scandal!
Grace is all-sufficient.
Grace is endless and without limits.
Grace is abounds even when abused.
Grace covers your worst thoughts, deeds or proclivities.
Grace means not just that I get a second chance, but that I have been declared NOT GUILTY! There are no charges against me. They’ve been dropped. Without prejudice. Period. No double jeopardy. No probation. Not guilty! This is the theology of justification — it is amazing grace. It is scandalous and unjust and more than we can comprehend. It is unreasonable and dangerous and scary and irrational.
But it is.
And that is the scandal I find myself in today. And if you are a Christ-follower, it is your scandal too. And if you are not a Christ-follower, let me invite you to join the scandal as well — for it is as much for you as for me.
Amazing grace… how sweet the sound!