Apart From and Before God’s Grace
Apart from and before God’s grace enters into our lives, we are hard-wired to make every effort to ensure that we are in control of as much of our lives as possible. Apart from and before God’s grace, all of our time, talents and treasures are devoted to our self-centered interests.
Apart from and before God’s grace we spend our lives attempting to protect ourselves, build our fortune, secure our possessions and keep all forces that threaten our self interest under control.
Apart from and before God’s grace we continually chase the pot of religious gold at the end of the rainbow coalition of its lies, tilting at windmills, trying in vain to punch our ticket for heaven based on our efforts and deeds.
We naturally gravitate to lifestyles that promise us ways to earn more rewards, to “fix” people who do not agree with us. But this world of control is a dark and nasty and unforgiving place. A world run on the premise of control is a world of manipulation, of guilt trips and emotional blackmail—it’s world of incentives, report cards and performance reviews and carefully mandated programs based on the premise of cause and effect.
The early chapters of the book of Genesis poetically present the snake in the Garden of Eden as tempting Adam and Eve, assuring them if they ate the fruit that God prohibited, then they would be in control. Control is incredibly intoxicating. Control can turn otherwise nice, easy-going and humble people into insufferable tyrants. That promise the snake gave Adam and Eve was the beginning of Christ-less religion.
The kingdom of God’s grace is not a kingdom of gold stars and blue ribbons for good or exceptional performance, nor is it a kingdom of punishments, time-outs and demerits where God hands out penalties for failure to measure up.
On the other hand, the kingdom of religion is based on the same lie the serpent was peddling in the garden. Because the kingdom of religion is all about controlling as many people as it can seduce with its rainbow coalition of lies, the kingdom of religion promises its followers that they have the power to control life, outcomes and consequences. But the kingdom of religion (and the control it promises) is just an illusion. It’s one big fat lie!
Jesus came out of eternity, where time and space are not dimensions, and where me, myself and I do not exist as boundaries, and as God in the flesh he came into our world of self-centered control. He brought the economy his kingdom—an economy of no limits, unbounded grace and unconditional love. Jesus embodied the kingdom that is beyond all human control and manipulation. The kingdom of God is all about grace which defies human control, and Jesus brought that kingdom into a world of control and constraints.
Grace involves trust, and that means we have to let go of the hold we think we have on life. That’s a risk for us. God’s love is so vast that his love means he willingly allows for us to take advantage of his good graces. Being forgiven by God is risky for us because while on the surface it’s great to be forgiven, then when we are forgiven it means God might want us to forgive someone we don’t want to forgive.
It’s good news that God is willing to “take a chance”on you and me even though we have a long record that proves we are not a good credit risk. Jesus died for us long before we made any commitment to reciprocate his love.
Look at the world of religion today—people are being persecuted, tortured, raped, mutilated and beheaded in the name of religion. The world of religious control always wants to have the last word.
But Jesus takes the world of control and by God’s grace, turns it upside down. The cross of Christ has the final world. Jesus accepted all violence, hatred and recrimination and absorbed it—he sucked it all up, and forgave it all. Like a fire that burns itself out, all human hatred, pride and lust burned itself out on the cross—Jesus willingly accepted it and it killed him, humanly. But it did not win—he did!
Eventually, like the waves of the ocean, God’s grace will crash against the sea walls of religious institutionalism, self-centered interests and all the control mechanisms we devise to give ourselves an illusion of safety and security and grace will inevitably erode human self interest and all our control mechanisms. God’s grace will always wins.