Thursday, July 24, 2008

All To Grace, How Great A Debtor...

Hello All,

It has been quite a couple of weeks around the old Sanchez home. We have come back from vacation to a torrid church schedule punctuated by Pastor Chris' vacation, which has meant a few extra duties for me. Last night, I had the opportunity to speak for our Wednesday Night service and have begun work on my message for Sunday morning. Tomorrow, I will read about 100 pages of material in preparation for Sunday. Hello iStrain, the latest product from Apple!

The occasion to teach and be taught over these last few weeks have struck a chord with me. I can't help but note the thread that is continually raising it's head over these last few weeks. Pastor Chris began it by talking about freedoms and grey areas from I Corinthians chapter 8. Then last week, Pastor Greg Opean came out to Kingsfield and delivered a masterful sermon on receiving grace. My two sermons that I have given this last week, have been about the greatness of the gospel and the grace that allows depraved humanity the honor of salvation, with the end being the magnified glory of God.

Grace, grace, grace! It seems so easy and natural to embrace the grace. People like Greg make it look so simple. (By the way, Greg Opean is by far, the most grace filled, grace committed person that I know.) But to me, it is difficult to be grace filled, and committed to grace, when things in me want to be ungracious, and unwelcoming. Sometimes, I question the limits and the scope of grace, not verbally, but mentally. I say, "God will save to the uttermost" and teach that with as much conviction as anyone else, but there are people in my life that make me question that statement and there are people in my life that I don't want that to extend to. Again, I say that I don't want to be legalistic, but I find that I want people to proverbially snap back to the grid of normalcy and Christian decency, defined by the perameters of my own experience.

Can this person say, do, play, watch, listen to, believe that? Barriers come to my mind and years of religious training flood my mind, the paradigms of true believers comfort me in my effort to define what I see. Does he/she fit that mold? If not, then not! I am a machine!

I admit freely that I mentally wrestle and have to fight back all of that junk. Being a grace filled believer is not a natural disposition for me. I feel that I have to grab a hold of it and intentionally make myself think correctly. It's hard, I think, probably for all of us.

Take this for example. Everything within me is yelling, "Quit that band...stop singing those lyrics...stop playing those tunes... get into a church...get clean...get like me" and there is the problem! I am playing the part of the Pharisee.

(If for any reason you are unable to view the hyperlink, the video documents a Pastor's journey to a Poison concert, where he meets with a newly saved guitar player and pledges to help him out spiritually. The guitar player in question seems freshly converted and is all enthusiasm.)

Even in consideration of how people can serve the Lord. Grace says let them be what God wants to make them. Legalism and my heart, want to say, "Here are the pre-fabricated models that you can choose from. Would you like this in baby blue or pink!?"

Where are the lines? Who is right? Who is wrong? What is holy and sacred? Where is piety polluted with hypocrisy? When are freedoms sinful? But the question that kills me sometimes is where is all of this coming from in my soul? Why is this a struggle for me?

Is it tradition? Is it that I have spent most of my Christian life with people who look a lot like me, think like me and act like me? Is it that I feel comfortable with lines, demarcations, schedules, boxes, anything with great definition?

Grace makes me feel like the definitions are all gone, or are at the very least, redefined and with every re-definition, with every exception, there are new lines and demarcations to accept. It's a tricky business and it forces my hand in a few major ways, like it does you.

First, it makes me see everyone in their own light. I can't see everyone in the same light, because their exposure to God and His Word will be different. Some will be older and some will be younger. Some will have situations that force their hands, others will have the freedom to choose any path. Either way, this requires relationship and great patience. I much prefer, in my heart of hearts, to see one pattern and force everyone to conform to it.

Second, it makes me feel the sting of humility over and over again. I am humbled when I don't embrace grace and I am humbled when I do. I am humbled at how arrogant I can be when I don't extend grace to others. I am humbled when I embrace grace because it shows me how unnatural a process it took to take place. Grace constantly confronts my opinions and thinking.

Argh! That's what God wants! He wants me not to think that I know it all. He wants me to lean on His grace not only for my relationship with Him, but my relationship with others and the world! If I don't lean hard on the grace, it will wrongly represent Him and His interests. I can't have that. I won't let that happen, even if I have to betray myself! Actually, it's more that I have to slay myself and my flesh!

It kills me that I am this way. I don't want to be this way. Perhaps this is unnerving to those who believe that Pastors have it all together. You might be inclined to think, "Perhaps all the years of teaching, learning and standing in front of people will help." It has because in all that time, I have learned one valuable and indeed, priceless item: I have no choice but to accept the doctrine of grace, because that is what God presents me with. There is no other option! God only shows Himself to be full of grace.

God be gracious to me a sinner! My hands are tied to the grace of my Savior, to save me from myself, to be bigger than my failings, both inward and outward. To grace I am a debtor.

Blessings...To Our Friends,
Frank Sanchez

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Great post! Thanks so much for sharing!!