Thursday, September 25, 2014

September 26, 2014

"What shall we say, then? Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase? By no means! We are those who have died to sin; how can we live in it any longer? Or don’t you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life. For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we will certainly also be united with him in a resurrection like his. For we know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body ruled by sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin because anyone who has died has been set free from sin. Now if we died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him." Romans 6:1-8
The fact that God forgives us and blesses us when we don’t deserve it, and of course, we never really deserve it, is what makes grace such a risky thing.

Author Philip Yancey, in his book "What’s So Amazing About Grace", calls these things loopholes. We all understand loopholes. Webster’s defines a loophole as a means of evading something unpleasant - a hole that provides a means of escape. 

Yancey notes that in his book he provides what he calls "a one-sided picture of grace - portraying God as a lovesick father eager to forgive, and grace as a force potent enough to break the chains that bind us. He writes: "depicting grace in such sweeping terms makes people nervous, and I concede that I have skated to the very edge of danger. I have done so because I believe the New Testament does, too."

He then proceeds to tell the story of a friend of his he called Daniel. Daniel was about to leave his wife of 15 years for another woman, someone younger and prettier. He knew the personal and moral consequences of what he was about to do. But he had a larger concern - and he asked his friend "Do you think God can forgive something as awful as I am about to do?"

What a question, huh?

Yancey pondered, "How can I dissuade my friend from committing a terrible mistake if he knows forgiveness lies just around the corner?"

C.S. Lewis quoted Augustine, who said, "God gives where he finds empty hands." Then Lewis noted that a man whose hands are full of parcels can’t receive a gift. Then Yancey wrote: "Grace must be received. Lewis explains that what I have termed grace abuse stems from a confusion of condoning and forgiving. To condone an evil is simply to ignore it, to treat it as if it were good. But forgiveness needs to be accepted, as well as offered, if it is to be complete…and a man who admits no guilt can accept no forgiveness." Ultimately, Yancey told his friend that, yes, of course, God could forgive him. But he also challenged him with these thoughts:

What we have to go through to commit sin distances us from God. We change in the very act of rebellion, and there is no guarantee we will ever come back. He said to his friend, "You ask me about forgiveness now, but will you even want it later, especially if it involves repentance?"

Consider what a tremendous risk God took by announcing forgiveness in advance. Yancey says that the scandal of grace involves a transfer of that risk to us. 

In Romans 6, Paul refers to one of the big risks of grace - to abuse grace as a license to sin.

Grace is extended to you because Jesus died to atone for your sins. Your sins and my sins condemned Jesus to death, so how could you justify abusing grace in this way when it was sin that sent Him to the cross?

The proper response to His grace is to die to sin and Paul points to baptism as the symbol of that death. Going under the baptismal waters is a public testimony that you have been cleansed from your sin and that you declare yourself dead to sin. Rising from the water symbolizes your new life in Christ.

Baptism is significant because it testifies to what God has done for you through Christ AND it testifies what you intend to do going forward. He died for you and you are dying to Him.