October 9, 2010

Abusing Grace -Matthew 21:12-16 by Rev. Chad Jenkins

    Are you a grace abuser? I look around today, and it seems more and more that folks are living for the moment. “If it feels good, do it!” is their battle cry. The trouble with that idea is that there is pleasure in sin for a season. Often times what feels right at the moment can have huge consequences down the road. So we compromise our solid footing in the Word and justify our sins, trying to convince ourselves that the Lord “understands.” We begin to develop a “flexible morality.” Sometimes we are faithful, and sometimes we are not.

    Please understand, I am glad to live under the grace and mercy of Christ. I am humbled that he would accept me, stained as I am, and wash me clean in the blood of Calvary. Sometimes though, I think we neglect to see the balance of grace and justice in Christ. The Gospel of John says that Jesus grew up before men “full of grace and truth.” The grace we like, but the truth hurts. If we took a poll today, I think the vast majority of us would admit that we don’t consider the justice of the Lord nearly as much as His grace. We want the Lord to take as we are, and He does, but then we don’t want Him to change us. We still want it our way.

    This is not a new thing. Paul warned the believers of his day not to use grace as a license to sin. He could see the writing on the wall. He understood human nature. We want to know just how close we can get to sin and still be saved from it. Jesus made it clear that we either stand with Him or against Him. He said that no man can serve two masters. In the world, and the church for that matter, we see the trappings of the world. “What’s in it for me?” “How do I benefit from denying myself!?!?”

    We have a clear picture in the Bible of what Jesus thought of “flexible morality.” Read Matthew 21:12-16:
12Jesus entered the temple area and drove out all who were buying and selling there. He overturned the tables of the money changers and the benches of those selling doves. 13”It is written," he said to them, "'My house will be called a house of prayer,' but you are making it a 'den of robbers.' " 14ÊThe blind and the lame came to him at the temple, and he healed them. 15But when the chief priests and the teachers of the law saw the wonderful things he did and the children shouting in the temple area, "Hosanna to the Son of David," they were indignant. 16"Do you hear what these children are saying?" they asked him. "Yes," replied Jesus, "have you never read,  "'From the lips of children and infants you have ordained praise' ?"

    Jesus had no room for idolatry in the temple. If we consider that the Bible says our bodies are “the temple of the Holy Spirit,” then it stands to reason we should not allow idolatry in our lives. His concern was that God’s people spend time in a relationship with their heavenly Father, not going through a bunch of religious motions. Certainly he didn’t care for an admission fee at the gates of the temple.

    We don’t like to see this side of Jesus. We prefer to see Him in a Renaissance painting, with wispy hair and trickle of blood on His brow. We get uncomfortable at the idea of Jesus, a masculine and sweaty carpenter, coming into our house and turning over the tables of our unfaithfulness. We want to talk about Jesus when it’s comfortable, call on Him when we have a need, and keep Him out of our business the rest of the time. That is flexible morality.

    I read a story several years ago, and have kept it and referred to it many times. It really helps me understand the arrogance of selective faith and weak morals. In 1992, in Rapid City, South Dakota, Dennis Curtis was arrested for armed robbery. Though he had broken the law of the land, Dennis apparently had his code of ethics. The police found a folded piece of paper in his pocket with a list of “rules” he had for himself:

          1)    I will not kill anyone unless I have to.

          2)    I will take cash and food stamps--no checks

          3)    I will rob only at night.

          4)    I will not wear a mask.

          5)    I will not rob mini-marts or 7-eleven stores.

          6)    If I get chased by cops on foot, I will get away. If chased by vehicle, I will not put the lives of innocent civilians on the line.

          7)    I will rob only seven months out of the year.

          8)    I will enjoy robbing from the rich to give to the poor.

`    This thief had a sense of morality, but it was flawed. When he stood before the court, he was not judged by his standards he had set for himself but by the higher law of the state. Likewise, when we stand before the Lord we will not be judged by the code of morality we have written for ourselves but by God’s perfect law.

    So, where do you stand? Are you letting the perfect law of the Lord guide you, or are you carrying around your own list of what is right and wrong?

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