Through the testing of this ministry you glorify God by your obedience to the confession of the gospel of Christ and by the generosity of your sharing with them and with all others, while they long for you and pray for you because of the surpassing grace of God that he has given you.
II Corinthians 9:13-14
Dr. David Seamonds in his book Healing for Damaged Emotions suggests that the two major causes of emotional problems among Christians are failure to understand grace and live in it, and failure to give grace to others. As a pastor and chaplain of nearly 40 years I must agree with Dr. Seamonds. I see us struggling to believe that we are already accepted, already forgiven, and already put right with God. The good news about God throwing welcome home parties for prodigals seems too good to be true. But grace must be taken straight. “Grace cannot prevail…until, finally and for good, our lifelong certainty that someone is keeping score has run out of steam and collapsed.” (Robert Farrar Capon, Between Noon and Three: Romance, Law, and the Outrage of Grace)
Researchers in personality development conclude that it is very difficult to accept being loved. We can spend a lot of our lives trying to earn love, because unless it is earned we don’t think the love is for sure. Unfortunately, many Christmas sermons will be about what we must do for God, rather than what God has done for us. What we could not do, God did for us. That’s what Christmas and grace are about. God wants us to receive and join the celebration, reveling in His free and unearned love.
As a boy I heard Jesus’ dying words, “It is finished”, as though He was saying, “I’ve done my part, the rest is up to you”. But Christ has done it. He’s done it all. It is truly finished! His saving work is accomplished. “In Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them” (II Corinthians 5:19). He is the eternal Son of God who became flesh and dwelled among us, and “from his fullness we have received grace upon grace” (John 1:16).
Grace is the foundation of life with God, and with others. We can rest, we can breathe easily, knowing that we are already loved and accepted. This amazing new way of living is not about rules but about relationship, a relationship secure in Christ Jesus.
Bono is the lead singer and songwriter for the rock group U2. In an interview with French journalist Michka Assayas, Bono spoke of how believing the good news of God’s grace in Jesus Christ had radically altered his life direction:
You see, at the center of all religions is the idea of Karma. You know, what you put out comes back to you… And yet, along comes this idea called Grace to upend all that… Grace defies reason and logic. Love interrupts, if you like, the consequences of your actions, which in my case is very good news indeed, because I’ve done a lot of stupid stuff. The point of the death of Christ is that Christ took on the sins of the world, so that what we put out did not come back to us, and that our sinful nature does not reap the obvious death. That’s the point. It should keep us humbled. It’s not our own good works that get us through the gates of heaven.” (Michka Assayas, Bono in Conversation)
Great Christmas sermon! Grace does defy all reason and logic.
- Bono suggests that Karma is at the center of the world’s religions, i.e. what you put out comes back to you. Accepting Bono’s definition, would you say that grace or Karma most shapes your thinking and acting?
- What are your thoughts about Dr. Seamonds statement, “the two major causes of emotional problems among Christians are a failure to understand grace and live in it, and a failure to give grace to others”?