Sunday, February 19, 2012

THE SCANDAL OF GRACE (PART 2)


How can someone take all the money, get out and waste it living like the devil and then come back home and not get even the slightest rebuke? It bothers us. It all boils down to what we expect of God.
If we expect God to be mad at the sinners, we will be mad at God and the sinners for being so happy, yet when we were trying to be good people, no one seemed to notice.
That is what happened to the brother of the guy in our story. He was the good son. He never asked for any privileges. He never left home. He was always obedient and respectful.
But he couldn’t attend his brother’s party.
It was a scandal!
Now if you were to ask me who I’d rather be, of the two sons, I’ll tell you quite frankly that I would rather be the younger one.
You see, the older son was so busy trying to please his father that he failed to receive the father’s love. His strict adherence to the rules blinded him to the fact that after the father had divided his inheritance into two on the day the younger son left, all that remained was his, and the father had remained with nothing. It was simple maths. If your father divided his property into two, and gave half to your younger brother, the other half would automatically be yours! I’ll sue my maths teacher if such mathematics is preposterous!
Unfortunately, the older son kept on working to receive what he already had. I must admit that he had a little more integrity than his younger brother since he didn’t run away from home. But he still missed the big picture.
That is how grace can get scandalous. And we can only choose one of two sides of the coin.
When you choose to allow the father’s love for you to be demonstrated, you will have people criticise you, especially well-meaning Christians. But when you listen long enough to them, you will realise that they are people who have gotten offended by God’s grace.
They are the good guys who never get anything they pray for, even when God keeps telling them, “What I have is yours.”
So when they see you simply reach out and enjoy God’s love, it doesn’t go down well with them. When they see you being blessed more and more independent of your actions, they start doubting your salvation and start saying that maybe you got stuff from the devil and not from God.
They are the kind of people who would rather work hard enough for their inheritance than receive. And here is the problem with their theology: if it is earned, it is not an inheritance! You only need to think a little with your brain to know that one is born into an inheritance and cannot earn it.
These people remind me of Martha, Jesus’ friend. Jesus paid Martha and her sister, Mary, a visit. Martha, good host that she was, went around preparing meals and trying to make Jesus’ stay at her house a comfortable one.
Mary, on the other hand, sat at the feet of Jesus and listened to him. She must have been the younger of the two sisters, and the lazier. Martha must have become overwhelmed by the amount of work she had to do, given the fact that this was first century Palestine, where there were no kitchen equipments that simplified work like food processors and mixers. So she came to Jesus and complained, "Master, don't you care that my sister has abandoned the kitchen to me? Tell her to lend me a hand." (Luke 10:40)
Jesus, ever so gentle, replied, “Martha, dear Martha, you're fussing far too much and getting yourself worked up over nothing. One thing only is essential, and Mary has chosen it — it's the main course, and won't be taken from her."
All Martha needed to do was relax and take life a little more simply.
That was how Mary was. And that is what got her into Martha’s bad books.
I am also reminded of a group of people Jesus had problems with when he was on earth. They were known as Pharisees. They always adhered to Moses’ law to the best of their abilities. So they expected this young teacher from Nazareth who had just come on the scene to be in their camp. Surely they were good enough to deserve his company.
And Jesus went and dined with the most notorious and infamous people of the day, like Zaccheus and Matthew, who later became his disciple. They were tax collectors, despised and hated for their shrewd dealings with the Romans.
To make matters worse, Jesus not only hung out with the outcasts but also broke the law. That’s right! He did not honour the Sabbath day. He was a bad influence to society and made the Pharisees look bad. No wonder he got himself killed.
There was no way the Pharisees could receive Jesus’ love. He offended them over and over again.
If you think the Pharisees’ clan died and became extinct in the first century, think again.
Today they can be anything from your pastor to your mother; from your boss to your child.
They are the people who tell you:
 “You are putting too much emphasis on God’s love.”
“You are not saying anything about obedience!!”
“Who will get the work done around here?”
“That’s cheap grace you are preaching!”
“If only you could get some ministry done instead of sitting around and telling us how loved of God you are!”
However, I challenge you today to purpose not to listen to any propaganda that is not from God. Let God shower you with his love and grace, and choose not to deserve any of it.
You never have to worry about doing any work. All the work gets done with time, because it is God who does the work himself. It is not up to you to try to work out your own salvation with fear and trembling. Yes, God expects you to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, but he doesn’t expect you to do it in your own strength or energy. “That energy is God's energy, an energy deep within you, God himself willing and working at what will give him the most pleasure.” (Philippians 2:13)

(Excerpt from my upcoming book, What if God Doesn't Really Love You? coming soon!)

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