Why Grace is Amazing

I slammed my hands in frustration against the stone wall. The pain soon filling them was nothing compared to the pain that was filling my heart. The night in ministry had been flawless, up until when it had mattered most. I was out on the road with a group from my school. Our ministry: to lead the various ministries we visited in worship, and to serve them in whatever manner we could while we were present with them. That evening had gone off nearly perfectly. Musically, we had done well. The campers had seemed to respond well to the truths of the songs of praise. The camp speaker (a valued brother in Christ and encouraging man of God) had done a grand job. He had shared the account of the cross in a way that was relatable and grabbed your attention, but stayed keyed in on why Christ had to die. The teenagers, who for the majority of the week had shown that they could not have cared less about anything related to God, sat on the edge of their seats for the entirety of his message. Their ears listening intently and eyes following him as he walked around the room. We finished with another song and then went to our night activity. A cross experience. Where each camper and counselor would be able to walk around to different stations.  Each station represented something that Christ went through during His final days on earth. Sandals, to represent that He walked in the same shoes that you and I. 30 coins representing the price paid for the life of the Son of God. Rope to represent what he was tied with. A cross to represent His death. The night was moving, and an undeniable reminder of what Christ endured in the name of love and to redeem you and me, unworthy sinners. In my mind, the night of ministry had been flawless and I completely expected to see the fruits of our ministry in the anticipated conversation with the campers that night. The campers (and more importantly, God) had other intentions. I began to head back to the cabin, expecting to see the campers quiet and reflecting on the hard-hitting truth they had just seen. Instead, I was met by one of the counselors. He explained that, our boys had taken nothing seriously, and instead of going through to focus on the experience had instead gone through and tried to scare each other. They took nothing seriously, and after being caught were told to get ready for bed. After a brief conversation with the counselor I turned and headed into one of the buildings nearby to prepare myself to head to bed. Which brings us to the scene of my hands hitting the wall… In my eyes, the night of ministry had been perfect. Everything went right… We came in with good intentions and the desire to glorify God, but for some reason things didn’t work out. Why??? I slowly began to head back toward the cabin with much angst, frustration, and sadness in my heart and having no idea what in the world God was doing. And I wasn’t just angry, I was angry with God. We had done nearly everything well (which wasn’t always the case) and as far as I saw, God still wasn’t doing anything! How dare God do something like that?! I stalked back to the cabin, but after only a few steps I crossed paths with one of our campers. (For his anonymity, we’ll call him Josh) Josh hadn’t behaved like the other guys that week. He was always the odd man out. While the other boys were loud, outgoing, oft-obnoxious, and indifferent to the messages most night; Josh paid attention. He was quiet and reserved, but sat with us and would discuss things with us openly. He was quiet, but had a sweet spirit. I had completely forgotten about Josh when I had heard the report of the mischief that had taken place that evening. Josh hadn’t had anything to do with it, but found himself in the midst of a crowd that he really didn’t have much in common with. As we walked back to the cabin, I asked him what he thought of the message that evening and his experience. His response stood out to me: “it was good and meaningful, but I know He shouldn’t have done that.” I was a little surprised to hear that and asked Josh to explain a little more. Josh’s answer was this: “I know He shouldn’t have done that for me… Jesus shouldn’t have died on the cross for me. I don’t deserve that. Why would He die for me?”

Wow. In the midst of my grumbling and complaining with God, He had led me right into a conversation that youth pastors and others in ministry dream of having with teenagers. And I tried to answer Josh as best I could… And was surprised by the words coming out of my mouth… “You’re right Josh. You don’t.” In retrospect, I can’t believe I did that…But the conversation didn’t end there (Praise the Lord.) “You’re right Josh. You don’t. I don’t either. In fact, none of us do. And that’s the point.” For the next 2.5 hours, Josh and I talked about the Gospel. He had accepted Christ about 6 months earlier, but came out of a really rough situation and hadn’t fully come to grips with God’s grace. As Josh and I poured into the depths of the riches of the truths of God’s mercy, grace, and love.

See, the whole point of the Gospel is that we don’t deserve it! The whole point of the Gospel is that you and I have nothing to offer and nothing to bring!

That is why it is called AMAZING grace.

If we deserved what God gave us, it wouldn’t be mercy! It wouldn’t be love! And His sacrifice would lose what makes it beautiful, incredible, and ultimately His glory would not be shown as greatly. If we deserved to be loved, WHO CARES IF GOD LOVES US!!!! God’s glory is shown in the fact that we are dirty and undeserving.

The height of this is shown in the words of Paul in Romans 5… “Rarely will someone dies for a just person… for a good person perhaps someone might even dare to die… But God shows His love for us in this: While we were STILL sinners, Christ died for us…” In Paul’s example and explanation, for a deserving person rarely does something like that ever happen! But we! WE! Sinners. Christ died for us. That is how He is glorified. That an almighty God would do something like that! And for those that did not deserve it!!! What a love! And THIS is why grace is amazing. THIS is why His love is divine. That the Creator of the Universe would give His life, for you and I…

Jesus Owns Me

Half-way through my summer, I was sitting in a crowded dining hall of Skyview Ranch in Millersburg, Ohio; listening to teenager after teenager get up and share what God had been doing in their lives and give Him the glory. It was a beautiful thing to watch. Students showing their heart for their Savior and proclaiming their  love for Him; but one testimony captured a spot in my mind that night and it is one that I will not soon forget. Near the end of the night, a boy around the age of 15 walked up to the stage and faced the crowd.

The boy was an average height for his age, quite thin, and wearing a Cleveland Cavaliers jersey that didn’t quite fit him. He was the kind of teen that didn’t really stand out from the rest. Not really one of the cool kids, nor very athletic, and he wasn’t known for his humor. In fact, he had gone through much of the week blending in. The counselor in charge of the event, Brennan, asked him the same words he had asked every other student that evening: “what do you want to give God the glory for tonight?” This boy’s voice soon filled the room as he shared that for the first time he had accepted Christ as his Lord and Savior that week! There was a round of applause and shouts of celebration across the room as we waited for him to step down. Many kids had accepted Christ that evening, and their testimony time often ended as soon as these words were spoken. However, this boy stayed… He looked out at us and begin to speak of how incredible God’s love would be to die on a cross for him even though he could never earn this and didn’t deserve it. But then, he said something that spoke of wisdom far beyond his years or anyone else’s in the room. “My life is not my own. Jesus died for me, and I would be willing to die for Him. I’ll do anything to serve my King.” He then beat his chest a few times times, and spoke three words that have rung in my ears since he first said them: “Jesus. Owns. Me.”

Jesus owns me. WOW.

We say we believe that sure, but do we live it?

If you have grown up in a situation anything like mine you heard the Sunday school lessons a thousand times, but that doesn’t mean the truth has translated over into your way of thinking. Surrounding the church is a culture that puts individuals and the elevation of self before anything else! It’s about our opinions, our plans, our future. Our feelings. Our desires. And we as believers often fall into the trap of forgetting that we are not our own. This life is not, never was, and never will be about us. This life is not about us and our desires. For “we are not our own, having been bought with a price.” My life is no longer meant to fulfill my desires, but to live for Christ. In the words of Paul “For I have been crucified with Christ. And it is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me.” Because no man can serve 2 masters! It is impossible for us to be “living for Christ” yet still focused on our own selves. They are mutually exclusive states. One cannot be true when the other is. It is either a life for Christ and Him crucified, or a life for ourselves and our desires.

Me, the old me, the individual, was put to death alongside of Christ at the cross. What lives now? Christ, in me. His will, His desires, and His glory. And it is all you or I can do to get our huge egos and consuming pride out of the way and point everything to the One who has paid the price. To live our lives recklessly abandoned for the purpose and glory of our Lord and Savior.

Let us have this mind among ourselves: overcome by his love and the majesty of our gracious God, comprehending the Truth. “Jesus Owns Me.”