“Grace Greater Than All Our Sin”

The mother of one of my best friends growing up loved to tell a particular story about him. One day as he was going out to play she warned him not to get his pants dirty. He was wearing a new pair of white jeans. Quickly forgetting his mother’s words he proceeded to get into a game of football. When the dust had settled fear gripped his body. He looked down and both knees were grungy green and brown. Days and weeks passed and his mother had not seen those white jeans since day one. Finally when she was cleaning out his room she pulled a crumple of clothes out from under his bed. Amongst the pile was the pair of jeans, wrinkled, dirty…and with the knees cut out of them with a pair of scissors. She always laughed when she told that story.

         I wonder if you and I amuse God at our attempts of fixing the messes we make in and of our lives. We’ve all got our dirty laundry: our secrets, our fears and our failures. And most of us have tried, metaphorically speaking, taking a pair of scissors to “fix things”. But our lying, denying, blame-shifting and destroying the evidence won’t make the problem go away. Because the stain is deep, dark and embedded, not on our clothes but on our souls.

         The Bible says in Ephesians 1:7, “In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace.” And in Acts 22:16 “And now why do you delay? Arise, and be baptized, and wash away your sins, calling on his name.” The song says, “Dark is the stain that we cannot hide, What can avail to wash it away? Look! There is flowing a crimson tide, Whiter than snow you may be today.” The sin on our souls can only be washed away by the blood of Jesus when we do what he tells us to. All other attempts are scissors on grass stains.

Brad Fry

Published in: on January 5, 2011 at 2:21 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Caught

Occasionally when John 8:1-11 is being discussed, it is interesting to note some of the emphases and suppositions many make about the event. This is the record of the woman caught in adultery. Some wonder where the man is with whom the woman was committing adultery and why he isn’t being charged. Others suppose that the woman has been set up and being used as a pawn in this trap to corner Jesus. Still others portray her as an entirely sympathetic character who probably had no choice but to do what she did.

         While there may be some merit to differing degrees to some of these points, I wonder if they have been made so much that we’ve missed God’s point. What we know precisely of this woman from the text is that she was caught committing adultery. She may have been the pitiable character described above. Or, for all we know, she may have been a brazen reprobate with a calloused conscience who was cheating on her husband and neglecting her kids. She may have been a loose living home-wrecker who was having an affair with another woman’s husband. We just don’t know whether she was more deserving of sympathy or scorn. We do know this—she was caught in adultery. Then she stood before Jesus. And Jesus not only disarmed her self-righteous accusers from being able to condemn her, he himself passed over condemning her, even though he was the only one fit to do so.

         Could it be that one of the reasons some want to see the woman less culpable for her situation is that otherwise our standard for forgiveness and justice is turned on its head? If she is to be forgiven, don’t we want her to deserve it? Must not there be some extenuating circumstance that makes the grace shown her more merited? But that’s the thing about grace—it’s never merited. Grace is not just for people who’ve done annoying things. Grace is for people who’ve done abominable things.

         Make no mistake about it. Anyone who remains unrepentant in their sin before God stands condemned. But for some people, there is something that happens when you stand before Jesus and you are vulnerable, helpless and have nowhere to turn. That can strip down pride and prompt true repentance. That can break a hard heart and make it useful for the Master.

         Jesus’ parting words for the woman were, “Go, and from now on sin no more.” When she came she had been caught in adultery. When she left she was caught in grace.

 Brad Fry

Published in: on November 3, 2010 at 11:39 am  Comments (2)  
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Wrestling With God

I think one of the most puzzling passages in the Old Testament to many people has to be Genesis 32:24-32. It is the record of Jacob’s wrestling with God.

         It is the eve of Jacob’s encounter with his brother Esau, his estranged brother whom he cheated out of his birthright. He’s worried sick that Esau is going to kill him and his fears are well founded. Esau’s coming his way with 400 men. Hardly an outing for a Sunday picnic. After making preparations to appease his brother, Jacob is left alone on the other side of the river. The text tells us that “a man wrestled with him until daybreak” and apparently this “man” was God himself or at the very least an angel of God. This goes on the rest of the night until finally the “man” tells Jacob to let him go. Jacob refuses until he is blessed. Jacob’s name is changed to Israel because, and here’s the curious part, “you have striven with God and with men and have prevailed.” What? A mamma’s boy who’s scared to death of his brother winning a wrestlin’ match with Jehovah? If he so chose, God could have left a greasy spot that once was Jacob. But God doesn’t always do what he can do; he does what he wants to do. And what he wants to do is preserve Jacob, not destroy him. Jacob prevails because God is merciful, not because God is a 98-pound weakling. God is impressing upon Jacob’s mind that, regardless of the odds, the strength of your foe or the bleakness of the outlook, God is for you and he doesn’t leave you to fight your battles alone.

         With the rising of the sun Jacob sees his brother and his army coming over the horizon. What had Esau’s intentions been during the march? To hang his brother from the highest tree and leave him for buzzard food? He had vowed before that he would kill him. But if that’s so, a strange thing happened on the way to Jacob’s date with death—Esau’s heart was changed. Where there was bitterness there was now brotherly love. And Jacob prevailed over man like he had prevailed over God. Not because he was bigger, tougher or stronger. But because of God’s tender mercy.

         God doesn’t want to destroy us. He wants to save us. But sometimes we have to wrestle first.

Published in: on October 14, 2010 at 3:48 pm  Comments (1)  
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