Building on Grace #2 – Ken Blue

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Series: Building on Grace  --  home

(Transcript from 2:12)

Grace takes time to sink in

Many of you said after last week that that particular sermon turned a corner for you – you said in one way or another that you understand grace and the presence of God in your life for the first time.

That’s interesting to me, because that’s what I’ve been saying for two years. Now that just shows me something important, something that I ought to know and need to be reminded of, and that is that everybody has their own schedule. Each person has his or her own timing as to how they learn and how God seizes more and more of their thought processes and more and more of their will.

So I don’t throw up my hands and say, “Oh, you guys, what have I been doing for two years? Haven’t you been paying attention?” Yeah, you’ve been listening, and another part of it finally clicked in. That’s great. I’ll just say it in a lot of different ways so that everybody will have a chance to hear it in language that they understand.

No silver bullet

Others of you were a bit more demonstrative. You said, “That is it! Now my life is going to totally change. I finally see it. This is the answer.”

Now what I know from my own experience and from watching people over the past twenty years is that no sermon is ever the silver bullet. No sermon is ever the key that changes your life. What a good helpful word is, is another piece to the puzzle – another step towards wholeness.

I say that to you because those of you who said, “That’s it, my life has changed” – if you discovered maybe by Tuesday or Wednesday that your life hadn’t totally radically changed, I don’t want you to feel indicted and like you missed it or you failed, or God gave it to you but it was taken away. “It was established in the heavenlies” but it didn’t reach your heart and your pocketbook and your imagination ... I don’t want you to feel indicted by that. Just be responsible with the next piece of information.

Our lives didn’t get screwed up overnight and they will not get fixed overnight. We want them to, we think they ought to, some preachers have told us that they can if we do it right, but they never do. Take my word for it – they just don’t. It’s precept upon precept, it’s getting your mind gradually straightened out, it’s getting your will lined up with your mind, and getting your heart to respond emotionally to what your will has latched onto, and it all takes time. Give yourself a break – it’s a process, it’s not magic.

The devil’s into magic, God’s into life. Look at a tree. How long does it take to grow? A big healthy strong tree takes years and years and years. A big healthy strong person takes years and years and years, and sometimes years.

So keep stringing those years together. Don’t overestimate what can happen with one sermon or one spiritual experience, but do not underestimate what can happen in a year, or two years, or five years. Keep stringing those years together, and you’ll be able to look back on a radically changed life. Just keep on being responsible for the bits and pieces that God’s grace gives you.

What I hate I do ...

Speaking of lives that were changed radically, lets’s now look at two statements from the apostle Paul which will dramatically illustrate what I’m talking about.

Romans 7:14-15: “We know that the law is spiritual; but I am unspiritual, sold as a slave to sin. I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do.”

Skip down to Romans 7:21-25: “So I find this law at work: When I want to do good, evil is right there with me. For in my inner being I delight in God’s law; but I see another law at work in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner to the law of sin at work within my members. What a wretched man (or what a wretched woman) I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord.”

As some of you will know, there is much scholarly debate as to whether this lament about being frustrated by sin is pre or post conversion for Paul. Was Paul looking back and saying “What a wretched man I am” before he was converted and received the empowering of the Holy Spirit, or is he talking about this as part of his ongoing struggle? As I said, it is a heated scholarly debate, and I have studied the arguments on both sides, and I have been on both sides myself depending on who made the best argument last.

I will simply say here for the sake of our study that Paul writes Romans 7 in the present tense – that’s very clear to see. He talks about it as if the struggle is current. So that’s how I’m going to read it.

Secondly I want to say that what he writes, whether it’s post, pre or mid conversion, does ring a bell in the heart of every Christian. This is the universal Christian experience. We all know what it is to be dogged by sin that seems to have a life of its own and drags us down despite the fact that we really do detest it. We really, honestly, from the core of our being hate certain sins. Some sins we like and we’re just kidding ourselves – we feel guilty about them but we really like them, and if we could get rid of them with a snap of our finger we wouldn’t even if we could. But there are other sins that we really do hate and detest, and we’ve decided a long time ago, “This isn’t good and I’d like to be rid of it,” but we’re not.

And we can feel what Paul talks about: “I see this dark force within me waging war against my mind, inclining me to do and to think the things that I don’t want to”.

I can do all things ...

Contrast that with Philippians 4:13, where Paul states victoriously, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me”. He doesn’t say “I can do some things” – the easy things – or “I can do things that I’m good at and trained to do, or I’ve worked on”. He says “I can do all things through him who gives me strength”.

Question: how did this great apostle go from Romans 7 to Philippians 4? How did he go from “The good that I want to do, I don’t” to “I do all the good I want to do, through Christ who strengthens me”? And more to the point, how do we go from Romans 7 to Philippians 4? How do we go from “I can’t quite make it” to “I can make it with power to burn!” How do we do that?

Now we know that this is possible, because we know people who have done it. The Bible very clearly teaches that it is the heritage of every Christian to live above sin. How exactly does that happen?

More specifically, how do we break the cycle that all of us are familiar with and many of us are stuck in right at this moment? The cycle of trying harder, succeeding for a while, meeting with defeat, failing and feeling guilty again. How do we break that cycle to simply doing all things through Christ who strengthens us?

The next ten minutes or so will be diagnostic.

Acceptance via behaviour

The world and many families and churches teach us that the way to be OK, the way to gain acceptance and love, is by doing what is right – depending on which group of people you want to impress. If it’s the world, the guys at the bar or the baseball game, its one set of behaviours; if it’s in the church, it’s a different set of behaviours. Family, world, business, school, church, whatever – says that there are certain things that you do around here, and if you do these things well, you’re loved and accepted. And if you don’t, of course you’re rejected.

In the church, you’re OK and you gain acceptance and love by doing things that are considered “good” – by meeting certain religious standards. That may include reading the Bible, praying, witnessing, going to services, giving money etcetera. All very good things, and all things we ought to do, But if just doing them made us OK as Christians then Jesus didn’t need to come. We just need a really good self help program.

Jesus didn’t need to come if doing the right stuff was all that we needed, number one, and number two, if just trying to do the right stuff was all we needed then we ought to be happy – but we’re not. So not only is this not Biblical, but it doesn’t work. Human performance as a means of acceptance is neither the gospel, nor does it actually work.

Why performance doesn’t work

Let’s look at why it doesn’t work. If you’ve been around here for any length of time you’ll know why it’s not the gospel, but you may have wondered, why doesn’t it work for somebody? Anybody. Why does it fail, and why do we keep on doing it?

It’s kind of like money. Why do people run after money thinking it’s going to make them happy, when we don’t know of a single person who was made happy by money? It’s like this big cosmic joke where we know what the punchline is but we keep going for it.

We know that doing more and trying harder never makes people happy Christians. But it’s like it’s the only thing we know. So we just keep doing it – except that we can’t find anybody that it’s ever worked for, but we keep doing it anyway.

It’s a cycle that I think is not only there because we preach it and because nobody knows anything else to do, but I also think that there’s some demonic energy connected to it. Because I really don’t think human beings are that stupid!

The effect of performance

Now suppose your problem is that you overeat, and you think you weigh to much. Maybe you do overeat, and maybe you in fact do weigh too much. You feel bad about it. And maybe you feel bad about it not just because you’re vain, maybe you feel bad about it because it’s bad. Maybe it’s bad behaviour. It’s not good. You are shortening your life, you’re doing things that are denying the richness and fullness of life that God gave you to do. Maybe you don’t just feel bad, but it really is bad behaviour.

The performance answer is to go on a diet, get control of your eating, exercise, whatever. This is what the world, our weight conscious society – our “slim is beautiful” society – has been preaching to us for fifty years. And billions of dollars have been made on the reducing fat industry in our culture. And I just have to tell you – if the “try harder, do more” thing would have worked, we’d be a nation of skinny people. But we’re fatter now as a nation than we’ve ever been. And that’s on the heals of a preoccupation with losing weight, and doing more and trying harder.

I have to just take this giant statistic and say, not only does this not work, but this actually makes things worse. This exacerbates your problem. That’s obviously what this says.

Trying and doing more in the church, being a better person, not only doesn’t work but it makes us worse people. That’s the actual net effect. I don’t think that the American church has been as full of sin, and what we would call the gross sins – adultery, fornication, stealing, lying, gossiping – I think we’re at an all time low ebb in the history of our country. And this is on the heels of over a hundred years of saying that the way to be a good Christian is to do more and try harder. Not only does it not work, it makes things worse.

All that guilt about fat has made us fatter. All the guilt about goodness has made us worse.

Christian activity and guilt

Now suppose that you don’t read the Bible, or suppose that you don’t pray as often as you should. You feel bad about it. Not only do you feel bad about it, but it is in fact bad behaviour. Because Christians out to pray and ought to read their Bible – they ought to be disciplined about it. I don’t have any argument about that, that it’s bad behaviour not to read the Bible and not to pray.

So you respond to this bad behaviour by finally feeling guilty enough – the guilt finally motivates you to do something about it. You make a resolve, you set a schedule to read the Bible and to pray, and God even seems to bless it. God meets you in these times of quiet and of prayerful reflection on Scripture. But finally you miss a few days, then you get down on yourself. And the more you get down on yourself the further behind you fall, and finally you collapse in a heap of defeat and self hatred.

You’re a failure, you’re not an OK Christian. And you stay in that condition until you feel bad enough, until you feel enough shame, to make you try again.

So this cycle of good intentions and trying harder, succeeding then failing then trying again, is something that many of us know about. I know about it regarding my prayer life. I know that one of my primary responsibilities as pastor is to pray for the work of God here and the work of God in this city, and to pray for you personally. And so I ideally set a time every day to do that.

Then one morning I’ll wake up and realise that because of busyness or some other excuse, I’ve gone a week and I haven’t spent any kind of real quality time, I haven’t spoken out your names to God in prayer. And I feel bad about that not just because I’ve got a tender conscience, but because that’s not good. Not just because I’m a Christian but because I’m a pastor, and as it happens I get paid well to be a pastor and I ought to be doing my job, and that’s part of my job. So I feel guilt and conviction ...

I’m a very disciplined person. I was an olympic athlete, I competed at world class in several events – you don’t do that without being disciplined. I write books, I’ve got this tremendously complex and detailed schedule, and I seem to get my work done. I’m a disciplined person.

So I employ that discipline to do this prayer thing – and it works. I’m good sometimes for months, maybe a year. And then I’ll realise a week has gone by and for whatever reason I didn’t pray. And then I look back on it and say, I just got tired of doing that. I just got tired of praying, that’s why I quit. And that makes me wonder, whose energy was I going on anyway if I got tired?

So I start the cycle all over again. Anyway, that’s been going on for twenty years.

Another example

Now suppose your problem is masturbation. You feel humiliated, you feel defiled, you feel shame because of this dark force within you that makes you do things that you hate. You not only feel bad but it’s objectively bad. You don’t have to question that. I’m not one of these people who says anything’s okay that you do in private. It isn’t, it really does do you damage. So you ought not to do it.

So you find a book in the bookstore, “10 steps to stop masturbating” and you read it, and you find some hope, and you do the techniques in the book, and for while it works. But sooner or later you run out of the energy needed to suppress the anxiety and the loneliness and the lust, and you fall back – and the cycle starts all over again.

Many of us know all to well what this cycle in various kinds of behaviour looks like.

How the cycle works

So let me explain very quickly, simply, why our responding to guilt and shame with self effort is doomed from the start. We can all agree either from observation or from personal experience that this does not work for anybody. Did you ever wonder why it doesn’t work for anybody?

In hopes that we’ll just stop it, I’m going to go into just a little bit of detail here to explain why it doesn’t work – why it is doomed.

The cycle begins with something you feel bad about. You feel guilt, you feel shame, you’re doing something you shouldn’t do or you’re not doing something that you feel you ought to do. So you reach a point where the guilt and the shame feelings build up to where they are strong enough – listen to this language – to motivate you, to spur you to action. Because you want to eliminate the pain and the shame and the guilt. You’re ready to do something about it.

So you make a resolution, you rededicate yourself, you commit yourself to the Lord’s work again, you make promises, you get prayers, you walk forward, you do whatever – you do whatever you do. And you start.

At this stage you are full of energy. You can spot the “try harder, do more, fail, feel like crap” cycle by the levels of energy you have at the various stages. At the beginning stage, after a long time of feeling guilty and ashamed, you’ve got hope – it’s like being in love, there’s an energy to it. You have hope; “I do have the energy within me, I do have the discipline”. And it’s even a little bit intoxicating when you think, “Maybe I’m going to do it right this time, God’s going to be pleased with me this time – I’m never going to have to go through that horrible cycle again this time.”

So your prayer life is consistent – maybe you even get up fifteen minutes early. You watch what you eat. You control your lust. You get bad behaviour in tow. Everything that you felt guilty about you are now the master of.

So you go a week. How do you feel? You feel great. You go two weeks. How do you feel? You feel great! You go three weeks. How do you feel? You feel great!! You go six weeks. How do you feel? You feel great. You now feel wonderful. You feel good six weeks into it because of your good behaviour.

Let me ask a question. What is it called when you feel good because of your good behaviour? The victorious Christian life? No! Self-righteousness is what you feel when you feel good because of your performance. So when you feel okay because you’re finally doing everything right, you turn into a Pharisee.


Religion is this horrible, deceitful, lying, cruel hoax. It tells you that you’re not OK because you don’t perform properly, and when you perform properly it turns you into a Pharisee.

This cruelty, this hypocrisy, this awful cycle is the earmark of an idol. Anything that you put faith in to make you okay, to get esteem, to quiet the shame – anything that you do, or any power that you appeal to is your idol. That’s why religion is an idol, and that is why it can be properly termed an addiction. You are addicted to religion in order to calm the pain inside.

Some people drink alcohol. Some people take cocaine. Some people run marathons. There’s lots of ways of dealing with the shame inside. Evangelical Christians are hooked on religion by and large – that’s how they do it.

The inescapable lesson that we must learn sooner or later is that “self help goodness” is not the Christian life, and just as importantly, it doesn’t work.

On the one hand, the world’s terms of living – being obsessed with money, going to bars, looking out for number one, putting confidence in possessions etc. – this is called “living according to the flesh”.

The interesting thing is that on the other hand, being good, going to church, singing Christian songs, praying, giving money etc. may be just as much living according to the flesh – it’s just another whole different population of people you’re trying to impress. That’s the only difference. It doesn’t matter whether you do good things or bad things too much, except maybe to the Law. It doesn’t matter from God’s perspective, because if you’re doing anything to make yourself acceptable to him, it’s useless!

Now you know what Jesus was talking about when he said to the Pharisees, “You know guys, the criminals and the prostitutes are closer to the Kingdom of God than you are”. This is why he said that. You’re either all the way in or you’re all the way out of the kingdom of God, and you’re all the way in on the basis of the finished work of Jesus Christ. You’re okay because of him. You’re in or out, you’re black or white, you’re pregnant or you’re not. Right?

They thought that if you were better, you were closer to the Kingdom of God. And he said no, that actually makes you further from the Kingdom of God, because your good behaviour is harder to confront than their bad behaviour. They’re more likely to repent of their bad behaviour than you are to repent of your good behaviour. It’s easier to get the world to repent of wordly sins than it is to get the church to repent of being the church!

So Jesus said, “These criminals, these people who are obviously bad by anybody’s standards – they’re a lot closer to the kingdom of God than you guys are.”

Guilt motivation and psychology

Let’s get back to the cycle of self effort and good works, and see exactly why it fails. And it’s so simple – all of a sudden you’ll say, why didn’t I think of that before?

You go one, two, three weeks, six weeks of cranking out the good behaviours and feeling good about it. Now if you were motivated to those good behaviours by guilt and shame, what keeps you going six weeks later? Answer: nothing. Do you get it?

I couldn’t tell whether you did or not. Let me say it again. If you were motivated by guilt and shame to crank out those good behaviours – if that was the power, and you’ve been doing it for six weeks, where’s your motivation? It’s six weeks ago ... in other words, you don’t have any motivation.

Ah, how else to say this. The quality of the house, the character of the house depends a lot on the foundation you put it on. If your “being good” was founded on your guilt and shame, it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to realise that that house isn’t going to stand very long.

And guess what? Everybody knows. It doesn’t.

Now I’m going to go into a deep, dark, dirty psychological reality that you have experienced, but you may not have really gotten in touch with. This is the mechanism, this is how it happens.

You can feel yourself running out of energy. But deep down inside, in your deep mind, you remember how you got your energy. You really want to do good, and six weeks into it you can feel yourself cooling off. How did you get to this high standard of spiritual excellence? You go there by feeling really bad for a long time.

So what do you do? Your subconscious mind doesn’t have any kind of morality at all. It just functions – it’s just there to serve you. “Oh, this is how you get the payoff – this is how you get to what you want to do. Through guilt and shame. So here’s some guilt and shame.” Open the floodgates to all the lust demons, or all the football demons or whatever – all the television demons. Anything that keeps you from staying a good Christian. Open the door so that you can top up your energy level again.

You fall, you sin, you backslide. Some people can get back up. Some people feel bad enough within a day or two, so they’re back up. Most people need to wallow in it for a while.

Number one, they need to rest up from cranking out the good behaviours, because they’re tired of that. They need to be bad for a while in order to rest up.

But they also need their conscience to work them over, to make them miserable, to hit them, to beat them, to accuse them, so that they can build up enough resolve to go another cycle.

Rejecting religion

Some people never catch on to this. Most Christians don’t. They go their whole life in this cycle. As they get older, they just get better at covering it up. But this is their cycle.

Others who are a little bit smarter and a little bit more honest see what’s going on after about two or three rounds, and they say “Wait a minute. This isn’t going to work for me. I’m better off without this.” So they leave the church.

20 or 30 percent of people in the United States go to church. Something like 75 percent of them say that they’re born again Christians. 90 percent of them say that they’re Christians of some description or another. So there are all these people out there who claim to be Christians, who claim to believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God, the Bible is true from cover to cover – who claim all that evangelical stuff, but they’re not in the church.

What have they rejected? Have they rejected Jesus? Apparently not. What they’ve rejected is religion. They’re sick of religion. They can’t do religion, and they were smart enough that within two or three or four rounds – sometimes it took longer – to realise, “This isn’t going to work for me. I can’t make this cycle work”.

You all know people like this. What I’m telling you now is that they need to hear the good news that grace is not just this passive unmerited favour of God – grace is the power of God, the presence of God in you, enabling you to live an authentic life. I think that these people need to hear the true gospel at least once before they die.

You all know people like that. I want you to bring them here. I want to have at them!

So that’s what’s wrong. That’s why religion doesn’t work, that’s why the cycle of guilt motivation is doomed. It’s not just doomed philosophically or theologically, it’s doomed because of the way we’re wired. It’s doomed because it doesn’t work for people who were created the way we were created.

So how were we created?

Something that works – parable of the prodigal son

The easiest way to spot number one, the gospel, and two, something that works, is in a very familiar Bible story. The best known story in all the world. The story we call the parable of the prodigal son.

Now don’t everybody turn off, and don’t think that you already know this story, because if you did your lives would work. Because in this story is the truth about how you’re made, and how God is toward us. So listen to it again, maybe with a little different perspective.

A father had two sons. Both of them were good boys. They were both cranking out the good behaviours. The younger one said, “I’m tired of this cranking out the good behaviours stuff, I want to go off and be bad.” So he got his inheritance, got permission from his daddy. His daddy knew that if he didn’t want to be here then he wasn’t really here anyway, so go ahead on.

So he let him go out, and he lived like hell. He was as bad as he wanted to be, he got to do all the stuff that was in his heart. He hit a wall going really fast in the sin lane, and landed in the pig pen. He came to his senses and said, “Boy, I better repent”. What is he talking about? “I’d better do different behaviours. I better go home, and what am I going to say when I get there ...”

And he’s rehearsing this on the way home. “Father, I did bad behaviours, so I disqualified myself from being your son. I’m no longer acceptable because of my bad behaviours. Let me live as a servant and I will repay you by some good behaviours. Whaddaya say?”

As he’s rehearsing this, the father sees him a long way off. Why did the father see him a long way off? Because he’s looking for him. And the father runs to him, and the son starts out with his “repentance speech”. Incidentally, it’s not repentance at all. It has nothing to do with Biblical repentance. But anyway, we call it that.

So he starts off with his repentance speech. “Father, I’ve done some bad behaviours. I want you to forgive me, and to repay you I’ll do some good behaviours.” And the father interrupts him, and kisses and kisses him, and hugs and hugs and hugs him, and expresses his love and affection to him. That’s the first thing that he does.

The second thing that he does is that he says in effect, “You still don’t get it, do you? Your behaviour never had anything to do with whether you were my son or not. It is utterly and totally beside the point. You’re my son because you’re my son, that’s it.”

“Bring the robe, bring the ring, bring the sandals. Here is full and free restoration of your sonhood. All the symbols, all the signs, all the power – all the reality of total reinstatement and absolute acceptance and love are yours.”

“Your acceptance has nothing to do with your behaviour. Your acceptance in my heart has to do with me, not you. It has to do with my character, not your behaviour.”

You just heard how to be okay with God, and how to feel okay with God, when you sin or when you’re not doing what you ought to be doing.

Breaking the cycle

Now, how do you break the cycle? That’s the first step. You’ve been sinning or whatever, and you come back to God, you come home, and you get free love and acceptance.

Now the motivation to be good is no longer guilt and shame. Just stay there for a while, however long it takes. Stay there in your sin, in your rebellion, in your stupidity, whatever. Just stay there and be loved by him. Read this story, read other passages of the Bible, pray, let somebody pray on you. Just stay there until you feel okay on his terms. Which is free, for nothing.

Stay there until you feel that way. Don’t make any promises, don’t do anything. This is what the father did. He wouldn’t listen to any promises, he wouldn’t listen to any “I’ll try harder and do better”. He wouldn’t listen to any of it. He made him a complete, restored son again. That was the first thing that had to happen.

Now I know it’s humiliating, I know it’s embarrassing – from personal experience I know it is – but you didn’t just need to get saved once. You need a Saviour every day of your life. And it especially comes home when you feel like you need to be saved again.

It’s a bad deal! It’s hard on your ego. How do you think I feel? I’m a professional Christian. I’ve read all the books you haven’t read. I preach this stuff. How do you think I feel when I realise that my behaviours don’t get it – they don’t measure up. They’re not just bad because I feel bad about them, they’re objectively bad.

I’ve got saved 25 years ago. I came without a plea. I came full of sin and desperate for your grace and your mercy, and you just gave it to me. When do I get to outgrow that? Answer: never! You never outgrow your need for a Saviour. You need to be saved every single day, with every breath that you take. Sin is an opportunity to see that vividly again. That’s all that is. It doesn’t separate you from God.

If you thought that sin broke your fellowship with God, go back and listen to the Foundations in Grace talks. That’s not possible. You didn’t break fellowship, you just feel that.

How do you think this son felt? He felt bad. Great! He ought to.

So what does he do? He goes home. Great! That’s where you go when you feel bad. When you need to be loved, forgiven, accepted, that’s where you go. You go back home. So that’s what he does.

The next stage

That’s the first thing that he does. But it doesn’t stop there. If you want to see the next stage, turn to Hebrews 4:14-16. Get a 3x5 card and read this over about a hundred times this week.

“Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has gone through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are – yet was without sin. Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”

The King James version says “let us boldly approach the throne of grace”.

Remember that the definition of grace has to include God’s empowering. So read it again: “let us approach the throne of his empowering with confidence”.

You sin, you feel bad, you want to back into the throne room, you feel sheepish, you’ve got shame all over you. The worse you feel, the fronter to the line you get! When you feel the worst, that’s when you come most boldly. If there’s any degrees in it, that’s what it is. When you’re feeling okay, go ahead and be casual about it. But when you feel really bad, you come streaking in! You come boldly to the throne of his empowering, with total confidence.

If you don’t come confidently, the rest of this won’t make any sense to you. Come confidently so that we may receive mercy – God’s unmerited favour. “My son, my daughter, you’re forgiven. Here is the robe, the ring, the sandals ... the credit card, the keys to the house. Here is total and complete reinstatement. Mercy – unmerited favour. You don’t deserve this, but you get this.”

And not just mercy, but grace. You want power to do better next time? Here’s power. You want power? Ask for it. You want mercy? Ask for it.

This is genius. This is what rips the heart out of self-effort religion. Because you have to take it for free. You get it for nothing. You can’t even do religion if you wanted to – you can’t even slide it in as an option. This unit doesn’t come with that plug.

You come boldly, asking for forgiveness, and you sit there until you sense that that’s what you’ve got.

Look again at the cross of Christ, look again at the blood streaming from his body, look again until you’ve got it. Until you know that there isn’t anything that you can do to make it okay. Nothing! You sit there until you’ve got it.

And when you’re totally forgiven and you are in the loving embrace of a totally compassionate father, when you know that you’ve got that, then say: “Okay. I don’t want to live at this level. Give me the grace, give me the power, to live a more authentic life. I don’t want to do this any more. Not so that I don’t have to feel guilt and shame any more, because that no longer has any terror for me. I want to do this because I believe it glorifies you. I want to do this because I believe that this is authentic life. I want to do this because I want to live before I die. Give me not only mercy, but grace – in my time of need.” When? In my time of need!

And that goes right back to the motto of this church: acceptance and change. Mercy and empowerment.

You get to be accepted and loved just the way you are. But you don’t have to stay the way you are. You get power to change.

Series: Building on Grace  --  home