Monday, November 10, 2014

The Story Before the Story: Part 3-- The Price to be Paid

Grace is free.

I'm so thankful that its free.  I'm thankful that I don't have to be good enough to find God's favor.  I'm thankful that I don't have to earn his love.  I'm thankful that He loved me so much, that He acted on my behalf-- even when I was steeped in sin-- and saved me from myself.

But Grace isn't cheap.  In order to restore a right relationship between you and God, a penalty had to be paid.  More specifically, your penalty had to be paid.  A debt was owed that you couldn't fix.

And so Jesus paid for it on your behalf.  By dying on the cross.  A cross that your own sin condemned you to carry.

Grace is freely given by God, but it wasn't free... it was paid for by Jesus.

And when we share with others about receiving this wonderful Grace bestowed upon us by a loving God, we tend to want to err on the side of it being free.  Requiring nothing of you but a repentant heart and a humble spirit.

But we leave out a very important part.  Yes we are saved by Grace alone, but a saving Grace, is never alone.

In other words, Grace changes you.  When you receive it, you are never the same.

After Jesus finishes his humility lesson with the Pharisees, and warns them about missing God's invitation into he banquet, he then begins to explain to them about this free, but not cheap grace, and how it changes you.  In particular, how it changes your priorities.

Luke 14:25-27
Now great crowds accompanied him, and he turned and said to them, "If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, even his own life, he cannot be my disciple."

Now, some enemies of the Bible have taken this as an attack on the family.  But we have to take into consideration the entire testimony of scripture.  Jesus clearly teaches that you are to honor your father and mother (see Matthew 15:4), so there must be something that the modern reader is missing.

The term here translated "hate his own..." is not meant to be taken literally, but is a Hebrew idiom expressing comparison.  In essence Jesus is saying in order to be his disciple, he (Jesus) must become your single most important priority.

The gravity of this teaching sometimes gets lost in our modern culture, where familial relationships can be strained and where selfishness seems to trump the love that we are instructed to show our fellow man.  But to a Hebrew reader, this statement would have been paradigm shifting.  In that culture, your relationship with your family would trump all other relationships.  Jesus is now asking them to do the exact opposite.  He must be first.

And in making this statement, Jesus draws us into a great tension.  As Bob Utley puts it, "Grace initiates and provides, but receivers must make a life-altering, priority choice."

Luke 14:28-33
"For which of you, desiring to build a tower, does not first sit down and count the cost, whether he has enough to complete it?  Otherwise, when he has laid a foundation and is not able to finish, all who see it begin to mock him,  saying, ‘This man began to build and was not able to finish.’  Or what king, going out to encounter another king in war, will not sit down first and deliberate whether he is able with ten thousand to meet him who comes against him with twenty thousand?  And if not, while the other is yet a great way off, he sends a delegation and asks for terms of peace.  So therefore, any one of you who does not renounce all that he has cannot be my disciple."

Essentially, when you become a follower of Jesus, it demands a shift in priorities, thinking, worldview.  Everything changes.  Perhaps it doesn't all change at once, but becoming more Christ-like is what we have been called to do.  I'm afraid that too often, well-intentioned pastors leave this part out.  As a result, we have built churches that are full of people who simply want just enough of Jesus to save them from Hell, but not enough to actually change the way they live.

Salvation is free... but it will demand your life.  You need to know the cost before you take the plunge.

I can remember when it dawned on me how cheap we had made God's grace.  I was leading in Vacation Bible School and was listening to a presenter present the ever famous ABCs of salvation.  Don't get me wrong, the ABCs are a great tool to help explain to children repentance from sin and salvation in Jesus Christ.  "A" stands for Admit.  I must admit that I'm a sinner.  This is great because unless we know our need for a savior, then the Good News isn't good news its just OK news and OK news doesn't save you.  "B" stands for Believe.  I believe that when Jesus Christ died on the cross he did so to pay my debt that I have incurred for my sins.  Then comes the letter "C."  All the curriculum makes "C" stand for Confess.  If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord then you will be saved (See Romans 10:9).  But perhaps we should begin (and I have) teaching it differently.  "C" stands for Commit.  That means that I'm committing my life to following him.  I'm making him my number 1 priority.  He is first.  He is the boss (This, in my simplistic opinion, is the modern equivalent of the word Lord... we don't live in a feudal system anymore, and it is difficult for some people to grasp the concept of Lordship).  I look to him, first.  I'm with Jesus.  He is, to put it in the songwriter's words, my all in all.

Grace is free... but make no mistake about it,  it will cost you everything-- and that's a good thing!
And this text, sets the stage for my favorite Bible lesson in all of God's word.  Luke 15.

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