Friday, April 10, 2009

Good Friday and GRACE

U2 has a song on its album "All That You Can't Leave Behind. It has ALWAYS been one of my lyrical favorites...but I especially like to listen to it and think about the words on a day like today. It's Good Friday...the Day Christ why would we call it GOOD?! Because on this day GRACE is truly revealed as GRACE.

"Grace, she takes the blame." That is what Jesus did today...He took the blame for all our wrongs. Any time there is true forgiveness, there must be an absorption of wrong. When I wrong my wife and she forgives me, she absorbs my wrongdoing against her. Whenever we forgive another, we absorb some of the wrong against us. Christ took the blame, He absorbed our wrong...on Good Friday.

"She covers the shame, removes the stain." People who say they don't believe in God need to be able to explain where shame comes from. Not sociological shame, but real, personal shame. At some point, completely apart from societal norms, we feel truly guilty and real shame at the deepest part of our being. We feel guilt and shame because we truly are guilty...real moral guilt before a Personal God who is there...and Christ, on Good Friday, by taking the blame, covers the shame and removes the stain!

Like a murderer who has the blood of his victim all over his hands, we have the stains of sin on our hands as we try to approach God...and it is a stain we KNOW in our innermost being. Christ removes the stain... ironically the stain remover is His own blood...His own blood shed on Good Friday.

"Grace, she travels outside of karma." Karma is the religious idea that we get what we deserve in life. If we do good, we receive blessing; if we do evil, bad things happen. I love what Bono says in the book "In Conversation." He says he's holding out for grace; if the principle of the universe actually were karma, he'd be in real trouble because he admits he done some really stupid have we all!

There is a deeply religious element inside every element that pulls us toward the idea of karma...this is why grace is so hard to grasp. Everything in life seems to be based on personal performance, deservedness and merit. If you want anything out of life, we're told, you need to EARN it...but Christ turned the universe "right-side-up" when He absorbed our wrongs when we had done everything in our power to forfeit any expectation of such mercy...and this happened on Good Friday.

"Grace finds beauty in everything." When we comprehend grace, we must do something with it...grace demands a response...we can simply say, "Oh, isn't that nice" and just move on. We can say, "Aw, come on, you don't really believe that stuff, do you?" (which Assayas basically says to Bono in the interview recorded in "In Conversation). Or, we can embrace it...accept it...receive it. It is there for the taking, but we need to receive it.

If we DO receive the promise of grace, Good Friday means everything! Good Friday becomes the means of the GREAT EXCHANGE...all of our sin is transferred to the Person of Christ on the cross, and all the shame, all the guilt, all the condemnation is absorbed by Him. All of the Father's anger, wrath, justice is poured out upon Him instead of us! There is no more anger of God against the person who hopes in grace! For the person who looks to the cross of Good Friday, all sins, past, present and even future, are already forgiven!

But there's more...."Grace finds beauty in everything." Christ did not merely absorb our wrong, He lived a perfectly obedient life on our behalf...that is GRACE too! He obeyed every command of God FOR us...and He then transfers His perfect standing with God TO we hope in GRACE, God sees us AS IF we had obeyed God as fully as Jesus did! This is the GIFT of righteousness that Scripture talks about. So, for the one who hopes in grace, God finds beauty in us...the beauty of Christ would that change your prayer life if you believed that? How would that change your approach toward God in worship if you REALLY believed that? That is why Good Friday is GOOD! But there's still more...

"Grace MAKES beauty out of ugly things." Two ugly things come to mind...the ugly things that still lurk deep within our lives...ugly thoughts toward ourselves and others; ugly thoughts about doing bad things; and even ugly things we still do...or we can be ugly by NOT doing beautiful things we could and should do. Secondly, there are also ugly things that HAPPEN to us in this broken world.

Grace makes us more and more beautiful on a daily basis as we look to Christ in faith. Grace CHANGES us...grace isn't merely the message of God's unconditional love...its also the message of God's transforming power! As CS Lewis said, through Christ and the Work of Good Friday, death itself is working backwards for those who hope in grace...death is being conquered by grace deep within us. We have hope of being different tomorrow than we are today because grace makes beauty out of ugly things.

But grace also makes beauty out of the ugly things that happe in our lives as well. Grace, she's always at work. "When she walks on the street, you can hear the strings." Because of the work of Christ on Good Friday, all our hurts, pains, suffering, injustices are being worked to bring about something beautiful...I write that not tritely, as some religious platitude, but as something profoundly true! Grace is at work all around us all the time...Think about it...can you imagine anything more ugly than the most beautiful Human in history tortured, mocked and crucified? Yet look what grace was doing in that ugly thing...making the most beautiful thing in the universe...grace, undeserved favor for needy, broken people filled with shame and covered with stains...THAT is why it is called GOOD FRIDAY!! Listen for the strings today!!

1 comment:

Larry Fischer said...

I am grateful for grace that is working to make my uglyless beautiful. I don't deserve any of it....and still, grace.