DISCLAIMER: I am not claiming any kind of fresh revelation. This is foundational Christianity. It is not a new thought, and I am sure many believers have grasped it already. My bold title is referencing the whole of Western Christianity, not your individual assembly. So read it with an understanding that I am calling the entire body of Jesus into something, not your home Church. However, if it applies to your Church, please pay attention.
I will try to keep this short, since I already punished you enough with my eight page blog the other day. But there are a few things I do want to make sure I communicate with you. This isn't a light subject. It's not something we can rush through or take lightly. It's important.
I have been in some form of ministry since I was fifteen years old. First, I was an intern at a local Church. From there, I went on to serve in several youth ministries as well as wherever else there was room for me. I have helped serve the children of codependent parents. I have been an adopt-a-block Pastor, a Prayer Champion, a Worship Leader, a Small Group Leader, a Discipleship Leader. You name it, I've been a part of it. And here is one of the fundamental things I have noticed. No matter what area of the Church you go to, or what age of people you serve, you will encounter believers who genuinely believe that they do not deserve intimacy with God
One particular young man comes to mind as I think about this. I was at a youth group camp and I had just finished preaching on the need for intimacy with God. And after I was done preaching and the kids were all dismissed, this one young buck came up to me and he said, and I quote - because I don't think I'll ever forget this particular encounter, "What do you do when every time you start to get close to God, you mess it up again?"
I remember being taken aback. It was probably one of the first times that I had ever been asked something like that, and I wasn't quite prepared for it. I remember standing there in silence for several moments, just thinking about what he had asked me. Finally, still lost for words, I just put my hand on his shoulder and I said something to him that I later realized far more Christians need to hear. Near tears, I said, "You can't mess it up. He loves you."
For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die— but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God. For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life. More than that, we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.
Romans 5:6-11 (ESV)
Without taking too much more of your time, I want to leave you with two quick thoughts:
1. God loved you when it made no sense to love you
You know who you were. You know the things you have done. The things you have allowed freedom to roam your mind. You know the depth's of your depravity. The reaches you've gone to when noone could see you. You know what you are really like in the secret places of your mind and heart. And yet, in the midst of all of that, Paul said that God loved you. He wasn't tricked into it. When you said "the sinners prayer", He wasn't fooled into thinking you would never sin again. When He released grace for you, He knew what kind of skeletons your future closet would hide from the world. He knew what your thoughts would look like. He'd already scrolled through your search history. He'd already seen your hit list. He already knew the things you'd let people pressure you into, and even worse, the things you would pressure others into.
Before God ever died for you, He had seen all of the reasons that it made no sense. For you, when you came into grace, you did so while looking at your sin in hindsight. But for God, when He offered grace, it was with perfect perspective. He saw the fullness of your depravity. He knew that not only would you be lost in sin before your introduction to Jesus, but that you would make mistakes after becoming His righteousness. He knew that you would, on occasion, fail Him. He knew that there would be seasons where you would feel so depraved, so dirty, that you'd wonder if you ever really knew Him at all. He knew... and He loved you. When it was completely unreasonable, He loved you.
“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.
John 3:16 (ESV)
2. Now that you are in Jesus, it makes sense to love you
For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.
2 Corinthians 5:21 (ESV)
Without taking the time to explain the intricacies of the law and the power of sin and death, suffice to say that prior to the Cross, God's people fought to be good enough for God, not understanding the divine set-up they were a part of. After the final act - the Cross - we became the thing that the early people of God were striving so hard for: good enough. From that moment forward, anyone who came into Christ actually became righteous. It is no longer a matter of doing what is right. We are right. Intimately. Within our very being. Our nature is righteousness. It is our very identity.
Going back to my previous point, when Jesus died on the Cross, God did not just put the sins you would commit before salvation onto Christ. He didn't just die for the mistakes you made prior to praying the "sinners prayer". For Jesus, it was all the future. Every sin you have ever committed and every sin you will ever commit, it was all the same thing: reasons not to know you. And He conquered them all. Every single mistake. Every deep, dark secret. Every failure. Every fault. Every spot and blemish.
In one fell swoop, Jesus shed His blood and set you free from the entirety of your sin and turned you into something that is not only forgiven, but absolutely worthy of the love of God. Now, it makes sense to love you. You are no longer a sinner, seeking grace. You are not a failure in need of forgiveness. You are not lost or without hope. You are forgiven. You are in God's favor. You are righteous. You are worthy of His presence. No matter what you do, or how deeply you fail, you have already been forgiven. You are not falling in and out of grace. Those mistakes have already been taken care of. So your righteousness is never in question. Ever.
Does this mean that we should continue in sin, because we have been forgiven? Of course not. Our behavior is the direct fruit of who we are. Knowing Christ means freedom. It means change. It means not only becoming something new, but demonstrating something new. I am not suggesting that sin is acceptable, but simply that our mistakes do not cost us our depth. Our mistakes do not force us to start over. We are not in a constant juggle between knowing God and seeking God all over again.
You are free. Not because He doesn't care about your choices, but because He has already judged them. They have already been paid for. You can never again be broken by sin.
Do not accept the judgement of people who have not embraced grace. Do not let anyone tell you that God will not let you draw near. Or that intimacy has a cost that has not already been paid.
You. Are. Good. Enough.