17Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, with whom there is no change or shifting shadow. (James 1:17)
You realize what this means, don’t you? All the best parts of this world are from God. There is no line between what is spiritual and what is secular. If something is good and perfect, God gets the credit. That could be an entire post in itself, but let’s talk about music for a moment. What is it about good music that cuts through the chatter in the mind and sinks to the core of the soul? That blues guitar and a voice that cries out all the universal pain and joy of the human condition, swirling around you like fireflies and the scent of a sweet summer night. Music, like scent, awakens memory and memory is not always a picture of a moment. Sometimes memory is just a feeling that you lost somewhere in the need to make a living, or the tedium of being an adult, and a certain song, a certain scent, a certain unidentifiable mood in the night touches that tender spot and you really wish you could remember how to cry.
We are so good at forgetting. By and large, we are pretty darn good at putting on our game face and trying to be the gods of our own little worlds. And we keep forgetting, we have perpetual soul amnesia when it comes to what our Daddy in heaven did. Because we are still trying to reach up, to be tall enough to grab his hand and say:
“See what I did, Dad? Look what I accomplished.”
We keep forgetting God came down, so we don’t have to try and jump up to him. And Jesus, he sat right there in the dark of that garden, and sweat the drops of blood we deserved to sweat. He heard that accusing voice that tells you what a screw up and failure you are. That nagging sensation in the back of your heart like a skipping record, that whispers “Loser.” every day. The taste of that shame, that loss, that grief, that wound that you try to ignore. We forget. He drank the cup that held every one of your broken pieces and it tore him up inside like broken glass. Are you even listening? Have you heard it so many times it’s old news?
Quit eating the pain he’s already swallowed.
Quit forgetting that you don’t have to do what’s already been done.
But you do have to believe it. And maybe that’s why Jesus said that few find this narrow way. Because we want to earn grace. So much so, that many refuse to believe that grace is really for them.
The word ‘grace’ (CHEN in Hebrew, CHARIS in Greek), as it is used in the scriptures, literally means ‘favour’, to bend or stoop in kindness to another as a superior to an inferior. It has the idea of graciousness in manner or action. In short, God’s grace is unmerited favor towards us. It is a gift that we can never earn or deserve.
What a waste it would be to have the greatest gift ever given to you and to just walk around it everyday in an attempt to construct your own ladder to heaven.
The towers of Babel we build are many and varied. Sometimes they are built of money and fame, sometimes of the false belief that we are enough, or some counterfeit god is gonna like us and give us sensual pleasures if we grovel long enough to please his selfish whims. That’s not the gospel, friend.
We try to take heaven by working for it. And I’m not dissing obedience, I’m not belittling service for God. I’m just saying: Don’t go back to Egypt because you think the food was better there. Don’t go back to the bondage of the cursed law when Jesus has set you free.
Jesus kept saying; “He who has ears, let him hear.”
And it startled me to see a similar phrase in Jeremiah 5:21
Hear this, you foolish and senseless people
Who have eyes but do not see.
Who have ears but do not hear.
Why did they not have ears and eyes to see their own hearts? Because that seems to be what is missing. It wasn’t just that their hearts were hard, but that they refused even to see their wicked condition. Like a toddler who puts his hands over his ears when you tell him he can do better, that he should love his brothers and sisters and be kind to them. Instead of hearing, he goes “La, la, la, la.” What he is saying is what everyone says who wants to ignore the law of love. In essence it’s this:
“Daddy, I like being bad.”
Seriously, this what Jeremiah and Jesus both say. Not only do we live a lie when we are totally selfish, but we say:
‘I love it this way.”
As Jeremiah 5:31 says, we love the lie. Some people seem to think that Jesus was making fun of the Pharisees because God had made them blind and deaf. Like a kid pulling wings off a fly, they think Jesus was just torturing the poor, blind souls before God threw them into hell. No, no, a thousand times, no! Jesus was blunt with them because he was attempting to wake them up! Because, not only were they blind, they blamed God for their blindness, if they saw it at all. This is the point Paul makes with the Objector in Romans nine, who says:
“Why does God still blame us?” (See Romans 3 for verses that flesh the objectors arguments out a bit:)
“If my falsehood enhances God’s truthfulness and so increases his glory, why am I still condemned as a sinner?” 8 Why not say—as some slanderously claim that we say—“Let us do evil that good may result”? Their condemnation is just!”
If you follow this all the way through, you find out that the person objecting is mad because God is using his rebellion to bring the gospel to the Gentiles. The Jews of this time had practiced deceiving themselves so much they had it down to an art. They weren’t willing to listen to anyone who told them that heaven wasn’t their birthright. That said they had to humble themselves to get right with God. And God can not give grace to someone who is not willing to bow to him. That’s not how this works. God is not a respecter of persons, but he is also not tossing the dice to see who receives grace and who doesn’t So, what is the qualification to receive charis?
All God really wants is a heart he can work with. A heart that allows itself to be molded like clay. But they were already so hard that there was no chance of molding, so God baked them harder still, so they would kill his son and then, get this-he gives them another chance! Just like he keeps doing with us. This is the compassionate character of a God who would die for even the most hardened heart. Who says that he will use even their and your sin to spread the good news to others. And then turn right back around and ask them, ask you, if they finally get it. If they finally see that all their law keeping can never do what one moment of honest evaluation of their soul state, or one moment of true humility can do. To be honest enough to say: “Hold me, Jesus, because I’m shaking like a leaf.*” To say:
“Surrender don’t come natural to me. But I’m ready now.”
Because a yielding, trusting heart was all he was looking for all along. A broken, contrite spirit he never turns away.
My earthly father recently gave me a piece of land. For free. I didn’t deserve it, I did nothing to earn it, but I certainly didn’t refuse it either. That’s grace. I honestly think a lot of people refuse grace because it looks like charity, and they know they haven’t done anything to earn it. That exactly why Israel missed it. Paul says, by trying to work for it, to earn their redemption. It can’t be done. Pride is always the problem and humility is always the answer.
Shalom and thanks for listening.