“Don’t worry. What we’re talking about today has nothing to do with Jesus.”
You might expect to hear that where you work. You wouldn’t expect to hear it from a pastor.
But that’s who I heard it from.
He was trying to be reassuring to his large audience. He knew that talk of Jesus can make folks uncomfortable. But he forgot that Jesus came to make us all uncomfortable. That’s what grace does. It shakes us. In fact, if what you refer to as grace has not shaken you, it’s not grace that you have.
If you’ve grown up in the church, you’re probably familiar with the definition of grace. Unmerited favor. Getting good things that you don’t deserve. Those are good definitions. And we like them. Well at least part of them. We like the getting part. We like the favor part. But it’s the part about favor that we do not deserve that doesn’t sit well with us. Who are you to tell me what I don’t deserve?
We like to think that we have something to offer. Perhaps God saw something good in us and that’s why he saved us. Maybe God needed us.
And then grace comes along and shows us just how wrong we are.
And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience—among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. Ephesians 2:1-3 (ESV)
Grace tells you that you are dead. It helps you to see that you are an enemy of God. It tells you that you are a slave to evil. So much for being comfortable.
Grace does even more.
Some people treat grace like a get out of sin free card. They act as if grace is God’s little gift to keep us from feeling guilty while we sin. Others ignore grace all together. “Who needs grace when you’re already perfect?” they might say.
Real grace always points us to Jesus. From the addict to the princess in the pew, we all need grace to point us to Jesus. Any comfort that we find outside of him is a house built on sinking sand. It is only when we discover our identity in Christ that we begin to know what real comfort is all about.
But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved. Ephesians 2:4-5 (ESV)
Because of grace, you have a new identity. You are no longer God’s enemy. You are his friend. You are his child.
But grace does even more.
When God’s grace has truly stirred in our hearts, it will always stir in our hands. You may think that grace cannot be seen. But you can. You see it every time a person loves another person in the name of Jesus.
For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them. Ephesians 2:10 (ESV)
The next time that you hear a preacher trying to make you feel comfortable by not talking about Jesus, get up and leave. There is no such thing as comfort apart from Jesus. And his primary instrument is grace. And that grace will always move you.
If it’s not moving you, it’s not grace.
It’s not Jesus.
It’s just empty religion.
And grace does so much more than empty religion.
It shakes you. It points you to Jesus. It does anything but make you comfortable.