Yawning at Grace

Christ came at Christmas to save us from our sin. Yep. Pass the chocolate almonds.

I hate to admit this, but I’ve yawned at grace more than I’d care to admit.

When we’re convinced our sins are little, we tire of Jesus. We’ve been there, done that, bought the Sola Gratia T-shirt. Now there is a popular grace theology that interrupts at this point and says, “Hold on! There’s no condemnation. Stop talking about yourself like that. You’re not a sinner – you used to be a sinner.” According to Paul’s theology, denying and downplaying the fact that Christians are sinners is precisely what leads to yawning at grace.

If the wages of sin is death, and you and I sin daily, then we need God’s grace daily. We need to be forgiven  – not on bad days – everyday. [1] The apostle Paul spoke boldly of his identity being irreversibly in Christ – which was precisely what enabled him to have gut-wrenching honesty about his daily experience as a sinner.

The gospel frees us to be honest about our sin – without condemnation.

If my identity is in Christ, I am free to say “I am a sinner, saved by grace. Lord, have mercy.” If my identity is in being seen a good Christian, then I will describe myself as Pharisees did, not the way Paul did. [1a] The Pharisees talked about their sin in the past tense and their righteousness in the present tense. Paul talked about both in the present tense. [1A]

Not surprisingly, grace is only for those willing to stand in the line labeled “sinner”. Past-tense sinners have no need of present-tense grace.

Luther described this perplexing place of being righteous in Christ and sinful in substance using the phrase simul justus et peccator (simultaneously justified and sinner).

The standard for righteousness is Jesus. By that standard, your pastor is a sinner, day in and day out. I’m a sinner saved by grace. Day to day, my substance is sinful before God – yet day to day, my status is righteous before Him – in Christ.

In short, if both our status and our substance was righteous, we wouldn’t die. Of course all Christians will die because while Christ is righteous by nature, we are righteous by His grace. Hence His grace is amazing, because united to Him, death is not the end of our story – eternal life is.

Yawning at grace comes easy to us when we make sin about externals and polish our self righteousness. Jesus speaks to this with striking clarity:

Luke 7

41 “A certain moneylender had two debtors. One owed five hundred denarii, and the other fifty. 42 When they could not pay, he cancelled the debt of both. Now which of them will love him more? 43 Simon answered, “The one, I suppose, for whom he cancelled the larger debt.” And he said to him, “You have judged rightly.” 44 Then turning toward the woman he said to Simon, “Do you see this woman? I entered your house; you gave me no water for my feet, but she has wet my feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair. 45 You gave me no kiss, but from the time I came in she has not ceased to kiss my feet. 46 You did not anoint my head with oil, but she has anointed my feet with ointment. 47 Therefore I tell you, her sins, which are many, are forgiven—for she loved much. But he who is forgiven little, loves little.”

For starters, lets be clear that there are not two kinds of people here. Given the wages of our sin (any sin) is death and we sin daily, none of us qualify for a little forgiveness. [1b]

Jesus is saying that she understands the magnitude of her forgiveness and this is reflected in the magnitude of her love.

The grace that saves us is the power of the gospel to love Christ more than our sin. This woman (like us) found a new love. If you read Luke 7 you will not find that Jesus gives her a follow up teaching on living pure and how to do it. Why?

His love for us is what creates love for Him. Our love for Christ is what dispels the love we have for our sin.

This is the sanctifying work of the Spirit. His work is both gradual and inevitable.[2]

Are Christians sinners? Yes. We are sinful in substance.
Is our identity that we are sinners? No. We are righteous in status. [2a]

This is what is meant by grace alone, faith alone, Christ alone, to the glory of God alone. [2b] Yawning at grace happens when we look around us and we decide that based on externals we’re not that bad.

When we do this, we live by the comparison of the law instead of the compassion of grace.

We don’t hate our sin, we hate everybody else’s. We baptize our moralism and call it spiritual maturity. We judge the whores crying at Jesus feet because we refuse to admit that when we choose the love of our sin over our love for Christ, we’re the unfaithful whore. We tire of hearing about Jesus. We want something to do. We yawn at grace.

I’m not writing this figuratively. I have done this. I do this. Christ have mercy.

The Christmas season is a time when we celebrate that God wrote himself into human history. Yet,  we can yawn at this amazing grace if we forget what we’ve been forgiven from, and what we are being forgiven for – daily.

God’s law requires perfection. It hasn’t been abolished, it still stands. We wake up daily without a prayer of meeting what God requires from us. On our best day, we won’t do it. Now think on this:

Exactly how much of your past sin did Christ cover? All of it.
Exactly how much of your present sin did Christ cover? All of it.
Exactly how much of your future sin did Christ cover? All of it. [2c]

Grace was wrapped in a manger and unwrapped in an empty tomb, and when we remember that, it’s impossible to yawn at grace.

Press on,

Paul

[1] Romans 6:23
[1A] Romans 7
[1a] Luke 18:11
[1b] Romans 3:10, 6:23

[2] Galatians 5
[2a] Romans 7-8:1
[2b] Galatians , II Corinthians 12:9, Ephesians 2:8-9

[2c] Psalm 103:12,
[3] Mark 15:34

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