The Flavor of Grace
For the better part of the last month we have been diving into a verse found in the book of 2nd Chronicles. The verse says “If my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land.” The hope this promise turns us toward is that God will forgive our sin and heal our land. The first part has been handled in the work of Jesus on the cross. The last part happens as we fulfill our part of the obligation.
I always hesitate to talk about our relationship with God like a contractual agreement. Nothing in the Word says God’s grace or restoration hinges on us. Everything says His work in our lives is an act of His sovereign grace and mercy. But the Word has a lot to say about our response to His grace and mercy. Today as we look at what the writer of Chronicles calls our “wicked ways” we must understand one thing. That is, salvation exists not because we are wicked but because God is good. God does not reach out because we are rebellious but because He is generous. Our sinfulness does not make God reach out to us any faster or in any more efficient ways. The way He works in us and around us is already as quick and resourceful as it can be. That said, let’s talk about the phrase “wicked ways.”
The word “way” is simply a path or a direction. It is a steady motion with one heading. “Wicked” is a little harder to define. The Chronicler is not saying that you and I are all evil incarnate. He is saying that in our heart wickedness reigns if God’s grace does not. Let me put it another way. Apart from the grace and “way” of God, our rebellious hearts will always choose the opposite way. The beauty of grace is that it interrupts our paths of destruction, offering us hope and the opportunity for another way; a better way. However, in order for us to enjoy that way, we must choose it. We will not happen upon it accidentally. God’s righteous way is not something we stumble into. God extends the invitation and we respond. Compared with God’s beautiful grace and mercy our hearts are totally wicked.
This is why the writer says we must “turn” from this wicked way. The word implies an about face. It means we recognize the way we are walking and the way God is inviting us to go are complete opposites. In his words, we cannot go our own way and experience forgiveness and healing in our land.
I hope this is not offensive, that is, I hope this doesn’t make you mad. I am not writing to incense anyone. I am writing and thinking about the billions of people around the world that are slaves to their sin; people who do not yet know Jesus and will not know Him if the Church does not speak up. I am also thinking about the billions of plans that are offered to ‘rescue’ these people from their sin. Society proposes new plans or “ways” every day, plans designed to pull people out of their sin and into a better life. Trillions of dollars are spent on solving the problems of addiction, violence, hatred, confusion and shame. Some of the smartest minds on the planet are working right now developing plans for the rescue of people plagued by guilt, lies, deception and fear. Organizations work every day at pulling people out of the darkness that binds them. All this happens and very few people make it out because very few of these plans speak the truth. That is, very few ‘plans’ say the root of the problem is our wicked heart(s) and the wicked paths the lead us down. If we do not start there we will not experience the healing we so deeply desire for our land.
As you pray for revival this week, will you begin with your own heart? Begin by asking God to keep searching your heart for lingering roots of the wickedness we were all born with. As He reveals something (and He will because we are not perfect yet!), choose now that you will submit your will to His. Choose to lay your heart down again and enjoy the fruit of grace and redemption. For many of you that fruit was first tasted years ago and you long for it still. For others it may be only days or weeks since that grace-filled fruit first crossed your lips and you enjoyed the Light of Christ. Whatever your story, remember that day and ask God to continue that work in you. We pray this way for the sake of those who have tasted and forgotten AND for the sake of those who have never tasted before.
God’s grace tastes good! Our sin tastes awful. Imagine what would happen if the Christians of Southwest AR chose to spit out our sin and take big gulps of grace…all around the same time. The results would be palpable. Can we? 1, 2, 3, Go!