Friday, July 13, 2007

Crazy Grace

Baseball has a variety of ways for a team to score. One is referred to as the unearned run. An unearned run is typically the result of something the opposing team does. The team at bat benefits from the team in the field. And the unearned run COUNTS! The team at bat gets the run even though it wasn’t earned. The score is theirs! If the unearned run contributes to the win there is no asterisk. It is a win.

This is the craziness of grace: Getting to count that which we did not earn. Jesus did all the work. We get the win. He went to the cross. He earned the victory. We get the benefits of his gift. We get salvation…unearned! We just need to accept and appreciate the gift.

We need grace because we miss. Sin literally means ‘missing the mark.’ It is derived from an archer’s term. It is not hitting the bull’s eye. It doesn’t make any difference how close we might come. A miss is a miss. A swing and a miss is still a miss regardless of hard, powerful and deliberate the swing.

Grace tells us that we don’t have to hit the bull’s eye, ourselves, to win. Grace is accepting the marksmanship of Jesus. Paul reminds is in Ephesians 2:8, “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith.…”

Missing the mark is never the issue. We have, and will. The issue is how we choose to live with our inadequate marksmanship. The good news is that grace doesn’t let people get defined by their mistakes.

Grace breaks all the rules. It provides us what we do not deserve at a price we could never pay. Grace is so against the grain of our self help, independent society we continue to run on the “treadmill” of effort. Regardless of how many miles you put on the treadmill you always end where you began. This is what our effort to gain and maintain a relationship with God: It requires lots of effort that results in little progress.

Brennan Manning tells us in his book, The Ragamuffin Gospel, “How long will it be before we discover we cannot dazzle God with our accomplishments? When will we acknowledge that we need not and cannot buy God’s favor? When will we acknowledge that we don’t have it all together and happily accept the gift of grace?”

We are indeed inadequate for the task of salvation. Paul tells us that God “…saved us not because of righteous things we have done, but because of his mercy” (Titus 3:4-5). Salvation is God’s extended gift to us, not our generated deserved reward.

Does this mean we stop engaging in Bible Study, prayer, interaction with fellow believers and leaving it to grace? No! Instead, these needful activities flow out of our love relationship with God, not as a ploy to get on God’s “good side.”

Grace frees us to live out our rebirth and renewal in unbridled enthusiasm. When we realize we live under the canopy of grace we focus on winning, instead of not losing. It is living out the God’s gift so graciously given, instead of attempting to hold onto that which we could never grasp alone.

Holiness people often struggle with grace. We can’t seem to rest in the fact we CANNOT earn the gift of eternal life. Salvation is not to be earned, but enjoyed and accepted.

A man dies and goes to heaven. Of course, St. Peter meets him at the Pearly Gates. St. Peter says, “Here’s how it works! You need 100 points to make it into heaven. You tell me all the good things you have done, and I give you a certain number of points for each item. When you reach 100 points, you get in.”

“Okay,” the man says, “I was married to the same woman for 50 years and never cheated on her, even in my heart.”

“That’s wonderful,” says St. Peter, “that’s worth three points!”

“Three points?” he says. “Well, I attended church all my life and supported its ministry with my tithe and service.”

“Terrific!” says St. Peter, “that’s certainly worth a point.”

“ONE POINT! How about this: I started a soup kitchen in my city and worked in a shelter for homeless veterans.”

“Fantastic, that good for two points,” responds St. Peter.

“TWO POINTS!” The man cries, “At this rate the only way I can get into heaven is by the GRACE of GOD!”

“Come on in!” Said a smiling St. Peter.

“For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is a gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast.”

It really is that crazy!

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