Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Tuesday's with Jesus #168

#168 "Unbelievable Grace"
October 7, 2008
"But Jesus said to them, "Only in his hometown and in his own house is a prophet without honor."
(Matthew 13: 57)
Charles Babbington of the AP has this to say this morning: "The gloves are off, the heels are on, and the presidential race is dredging up infamous events from 20, 30, even 40 years ago." I don't think I have to tell you about the nature of television ads these day. Dig up the dirt. Bury your opponent in the hole and heap some more dirt on top of him [or her]. That's the unfortunate nature of politics in the 21st century. And I hate to say it, it's the unfortunate nature of many in the church...then and now.
Christians are the recipients of God's unbelievable grace and forgiveness of their own "infamous events" of days gone by. Sadly, they are not always extended that same grace by people, believers and non-, and they often don't extend that grace to others. Folks would rather shed the light on where other folks have come from, and what they used to be, than to praise God for the transformations that have taken place in people's lives. This ought not to be so!
God's ways are not our ways. (Isaiah 55: 8-9) God will choose the foolish things of the world to confound the wise. He will choose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. He chooses the lowly things of this world and the despised things--and the things that are not--to nullify the things that are, so that no one may boast before him". (1 Corinthians 1: 27-29)
God will take a deceiver like Jacob and make him the father of the 12 tribes of Israel. God will take a show-off like Joseph and place him in a seat of power, second only to a Pharoah. God will take a stutterer like Moses and use him to lead 2 million murmuring and grumbling Israelites to the edge of the Promised Land. God will transform a young shepherd boy into a mighty King of Israel . God will forgive his sin of adultery and call him "a man after God's own heart". Amazing, isn't it? God will take Isaiah, a man of "unclean lips" and use those same lips to prophesy to a nation. Jeremiah was afraid that he was too young and inexperienced, but he was used as a prophet as well.  Matthew was a tax collector. Peter was a cursing, angry fisherman. Paul called himself "the worst of sinners" (1 Timothy 1: 15). He stood by as Stephen was stoned to death, "giving approval to his death" (see Acts 8:1). He was "breathing out murderous threats against the Lord's disciples. He went to the high priest and asked him for letters to the synagogues in Damascus, so that if he found any there who belonged to the Way, whether men or women, he might take them as prisoners to Jerusalem." (Acts 9: 1-2) 
God will use the most unlikely people to do His greatest work and Paul tells us exactly why in 1 Timothy 1: 16. "But for that very reason [being the chief and worst of sinners], I was shown mercy so that in me, the worst of sinners, Christ Jesus might display His unlimited patience as an example for those who would believe on Him and receive eternal life." REVELATION: It's not about us...It's about Christ displaying Himself in the lives of the most unlikely people. And to this Paul shouts: "Now to the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory for ever and ever. Amen."  (1 Timothy 1: 17)
There is a certain Christian recording artist who fell into temptation some years ago and was caught in adultery. His career came to an abrupt halt and he suffered rejection by many in the business, many of whom would not even play his music on Christian radio.  But over time, God has restored this man to uprightness. He has restored his once broken marriage. Because there were some Christ-like Christians who were willing to give him a chance, God is using him once again on television and through music to reach sinners with the good news of Jesus Christ. Foolish, weak, lowly, despised in the eyes of men....but used mightily by God. Watching this guy do his thing often brings tears to my eyes because he is flesh and blood, for-real, evidence and testimony to the redemptive, forgiving, restorative love of God.  
If you are the object of this kind of treatment by people who want to judge you on your past "infamous events", please know that God has forgiven you. You may be a marred pot in His hands but He will form you into another pot, shaping you as seems best to Him. (see Jeremiah 18: 4) You can join those other unlikely people and do awesome things as a new creation in Christ. Your past is your past because it's passed!! Often it's those closest to you that refuse to acknowledge the change that Christ has made in your life. Be encouraged. Jesus went through the same thing that you are. He did fabulous miracles and taught amazing sermons but all people could say was, "Where did this man get this wisdom and these miraculous powers? Isn't this the carpenter's son? Isn't his mother's name Mary, and aren't his brothers James, Joseph, Simon and Judas? Aren't all his sisters with us? Where then did this man get all these things?" And the Bible says that they took offense at him. (Matthew 13: 53-57) Folks may take offense at your new life in Christ. They may only want to remember you when...in those years B.C. But you will shine like a star in the sky, as your life displays the power and glory of God.
And if you are judging and questioning and gossiping about the "infamous events" in other peoples lives....STOP!!  For every former prostitute, every former junkie, every former adulterer, every former slanderer, every former thief,  and for each and every sinner that you see being used by God.... "Now to the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory for ever and ever. Amen." And Amen!
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