Humanity, given the choice to live in union with God or by their own pride, has been a mess since the beginning. Adam and Eve were created good and decided to mess up their lives by disobeying the ONE who gave them life and everything the needed. They could choose his will or their own. Well, we know how that story turned out. Yet the same God who punished them also clothed their nakedness. Once that had eaten of the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil they knew they had done wrong and felt shame in their heretofore-innocent nakedness. We read in Genesis 3: And the Lord God made for Adam and for his wife garments of skins and clothed them. (ESV)
The God whom they rejected still showed love for humans who willfully disobeyed him. It was a gesture that told Adam and Eve that though they had walked away from God, hid from God; he still wanted to be in relation with them. That’s God’s nature and for the rest of history God would continue to love pursue people who had made a mess of their lives.
We will see that eventually the clothing of redeemed sinners would be God’s own Son. Paul expresses it this way in Galatians 3:27 For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. (ESV)
I remember a song from 1971 written by the Gaithers:
All my confusion he understood
All I had to offer him
Was brokenness and strife
But he made something beautiful out of my life.
The thesis of today’s study is that God graces our messed up lives with his transforming presence and makes something beautiful, saintly, holy creating within us a heart that yearns for love with our God. For those of us who think there is no hope for the world, or ourselves there is Good News. Jesus came to this earth for sinners like you and me and everyone else. Scripture says that God was ‘in’ Christ reconciling the world to himself (2Cor. 5:19), not counting our sins against us and giving us the responsibility of taking that message to the whole world.
I don’t know about you but daily I know I say things, think things, do things that offend God and God doesn’t hold those grievances against me. He holds me close to himself. Recall Psalm 23 how the Lord is my shepherd. I know in my spirit that no matter what my Lord will keep on guiding me and granting me rest and securing a place with him forever.
That’s what I want to write about.
The Bible is chock full of stories about messed up lives and a messed up world that God loves. Some of us live in the messes other people have made for us and some of us live in the garbage heap that we have heaped up upon ourselves. No matter. The Good News, which I admit, is hard to believe at times, is that God in Christ will not forsake us.
MY PERSONAL CONFESSION
I have believed there is a God all my life being brought up in the church but like Adam and Eve I chose to live life not intentionally obeying this God. Oh I did right things, mostly to be liked or respected or because if I didn’t do them I would feel guilty. At one point I ‘became’ a Christian, accepted Christ, as they say, was ‘born again’. I recall that as a time when I said to God I would give up all those ‘bad’ things in my life. I was all emotionally charged up but when I came ‘down to earth’ I continued to live the way I wanted to live.
Now this is not a confession about how I was lost and found. This is a confession that even now at the age of 65 I still get lost and found. Like the prodigal son I spend times away from God smelling of pig stink and then rushing home into the arms of a Father who tells me over and over and over again that he loves me, he celebrates every moment when I ‘come to my senses.’
I am like Paul who I believe makes the confession in Romans 7 where he admits that he still does that which he doesn’t want to do and that the only person who can save his pathetic life is Christ. Christ is the one who steps in at every moment to put the pieces back together and clothe us in better garments and send us on the way of God’s will.
I want to be on that way, in love with my God in spite of my screw-ups and by his grace that is exactly where I stand, in the righteousness of Christ who died that my sins would be forgiven. Yet, and this is an important ‘yet’ I know that within me is still the wanton rebellion against God. What would you call it when I am angry with someone close to me, or when I close my heart to the need of someone? How can anyone say that we don’t sin? We sin and we will continue to sin until that day when we shall see God face to face. But here’s the thing. Do I live my life under the shadow of sin or in the light of God’s righteousness?
So Jesus says to enter the way that is narrow and at the same time he tells us his burden for us is light.
He tells the church not to be lukewarm which means to depend too much on this world to the point that our comforts here outweigh the true source of our only comfort that we belong body and soul to our Lord Jesus Christ (think this is in one of the confessions). We are also told that we are only saved; made right with God now and forever by grace, grace alone…sola gratia one of the principles of the Reformed faith. And we are informed in Scripture to be perfect, to be mature, to do what Jesus says to do. So how do we put all those teachings together in a way that helps us to be encouraged and not demoralized in our Christian walk?
I would seem that a sinner in the presence of God is an incongruity as when Peter caught all those fish and said, ‘Lord go away from me for I am a sinful man.’ Or the woman with the issue of blood not wanting to be public but touched Jesus’ garment. OR the prodigal returning home not for love but for survival.
Does the church or fellowships present themselves as too clean to welcome the sinners or is the church a place where people just know that this Jesus welcomes them, that he came for us who are admitted sinners, sick folks in need of a physician?
1 Timothy 1:15 Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners—of whom I am the worst. (NIV)