Category Archives: Scandalous Grace

The Kingdom of God is Unfair

We complain and throw a fit when things are unfair against us, but when things are unfair for our good we celebrate and call it “answered prayer!”  The kingdom of God is unfair, extremely unfair! But it is unfair to our benefit.

Jesus told a story about a landowner who went out early in the morning and hired workers for his vineyard. He promised them a generous wage and sent them to work. He went out again at 9am, noon, 3pm and even 5pm. Each time, he found workers who had not been hired and he sent them to his vineyard.

At the end of the day, he paid each worker the same wage. Those who started at 5pm received the same pay as those who started early in the morning. That’s not fair! Sure enough, those who had been working since dawn began to grumble. (Matthew 20:1-16)

The landowner in the story represents God and we learn something about his character. Not only is he generous, he is increasingly generous. He didn’t hire the 11th hour workers because he needed that extra push at the end of the workday. He hired them because of their need.

It isn’t fair; it is scandalous grace!

God doesn’t respond to us based on our performance and how well or how long we work in his kingdom. He responds out of love according to his grace.

The kingdom of God is unfair because of God’s increasing generosity. And yet, in some ways it is the fairest system imaginable because:

 

 

There is a place for you in God’s kingdom. Grace throws the door wide open.

 

 

This is the 5th and final part in a series
click here to read part 4 – Grace for the Lowest of the Low
click here to read part 3 – Grace in the Law
click here to read part 2 –  Grace in Creation
click here to read part 1 – Scandalous Grace

 

Grace for the Lowest of the Low

Tax collectors were despised. They collaborated with the Roman Empire, participated in the oppression of their own countrymen and lined their pockets with the surplus. But grace reaches the lowest of the low.

Levi was a tax collector so radically transformed by grace that even his name changed.  Levi became Matthew, author of the first gospel narrative. He describes his first encounter with Jesus:

As Jesus went on from there, he saw a man named Matthew sitting at the tax collector’s booth. “Follow me,” he told him, and Matthew got up and followed him. Matthew 9:9 NIV

Can you imagine the scandal? The jaws that dropped? Jesus the rabbi, a holy man, stoops to invite a traitor to join his inner circle. This is grace of enormous proportion. Matthew looked up from his crooked ledger sheet into the eyes of love, and he left his old life behind.

Years later when Matthew sits down to write the story of the Messiah, he makes some interesting choices. Matthew begins with a genealogy. It makes for tedious reading, not quite the way to grip an audience. But this is not your typical genealogy. He doesn’t just trace the lineage of Jesus to King David and the tribe of Judah he draws attention to the bad apples in the bunch.

Why would he do that? Because Matthew was about to launch an epic story of the grace he knew first hand.

Matthew includes Judah, the father of Perez and Zerah whose mother was Tamar. Now here’s a story! Tamar was the wife of Judah’s first born son, Er. When Er died Tamar was given to Judah’s second son Onan, which was the law. When Onan died, Judah decided he’d like to keep his third son alive! Tamar disguised herself as a prostitute. Judah slept with her and she became pregnant with his twins. (Genesis 38) These are Jesus’ ancestors. Shocking, isn’t it?

Matthew also skips over the most celebrated woman in Hebrew culture, Sarah and Rebecca, and goes out of his way to include Rahab and Ruth who weren’t even Hebrew.

When Matthew mentions King David, he doesn’t recount his triumphs as a warrior or the collection of psalms he penned. He shares the scandal of Solomon’s birth by Bathsheba, the wife of Uriah whom David had murdered. (2 Samuel 11)

Within the lineage of Jesus were liars, law breakers, prostitutes and murderers. Matthew includes the people professional genealogy makers would have written out of the story. Why? Because they are the point of the story!

The climax of Matthew’s genealogy is verse 21:

“She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.” Matthew 1:21 NIV

When the religious people of the day challenged Jesus for hanging out with tax collectors and sinners, Jesus said:

 “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick…For I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.” Matthew 9:12-13 NIV

Christianity is not a collection of people who think they’re good enough – it’s a collection of people who recognize their need for a Savior.

Levi was a tax collector, a sinner, but his life was transformed by grace. He became Matthew – follower of Jesus, author of the Gospel of Matthew. He revealed the true nature of scandalous grace for the lowest of the low.

 

This is the fourth post in a series
click here to read part 3 – Grace in the Law
click here to read part 2 –  Grace in Creation
click here to read part 1 – Scandalous Grace

Grace in the Law

The more we see God’s grace, the easier it is to trust him. We see God’s grace at Easter. We see grace in creation. And we see grace hidden in the law.

At first glance, it’s easy to think there would be tension between grace and the law. Most of the world’s religions ascribe to some form of earn your way theology. Do the right thing, follow the rules and you’ll be right with God. Christianity presents salvation by grace.  It’s not about what we do or don’t do; it’s about what Jesus has already done.

But, let’s admit it, the Bible has its share of rules.  What do we do with all the “thou shalts” and “thou shalt nots”? What is the role of the law?

The law is not the standard by which God chooses to show his love. Nothing could be further from the truth. God’s law is only a subtext in the bigger story of God’s grace.

When we look at the most well known laws in the Bible, the Ten Commandments, we see that God is good. He is just.  And he values relationship.

The first four commandments address our relationship with God. Exodus 20:1-11

1. You shall have no other gods before me – God places a trusting relationship as top priority.
2. You shall not make an idol – This law keeps us from reducing God to some cheap, fickle imitation.
3. You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain – God doesn’t want us to abuse his name or manipulate others in his namesake.
4. Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy – God values a rest, recreation and spiritual rejuvenation.

The next six commandments address our relationships with others Exodus 20:12-17

5. Honor your father and your mother – This is where we learn the importance of honor.
6. You shall not murder – Respect life.
7. You shall not commit adultery – Live faithfully.
8. You shall not steal – Work industriously and don’t take what belongs to another.
9. You shall not lie – Be truthful.
10. You shall not covet – Life generously.

Jesus said you could sum up the whole law with just two thoughts – love God and love each other. Matthew 22:36-40

Through the law we see God’s grace revealed. We see his passion for us to receive his love and trust him with our lives. We see the heart he has for us to live in love-based relationships with each other.

 

This is the third post in a series
click here to read part 2 –  Grace in Creation
click here to read part 1 – Scandalous Grace

Grace in Creation

We have a problem. It’s called sin. It comes in many sizes and causes all kinds of havoc. Stacked on top of sin we have another problem, our ability. We do the best we can (sometimes) but even our best efforts fall short. Into this struggle with our sin and our ability, God introduces grace.

Grace is for pardon AND grace is for power.
By grace our sins are forgiven and by grace we have God’s ability empowering our daily lives.

The more we see grace the easier it is to trust God, and that’s our part of the equation.

God’s part is grace. Our part is trust.

Sometimes people read the Bible and come to the conclusion that grace appeared on the scene when Jesus arrived on the planet. But that’s not true. Grace has been the basis of our relationship with our Creator, God from the very beginning.

In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters. And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light. God saw that the light was good… Genesis 1:1-4 NIV

Over and over in the creation story we see this phrase – God saw that it was good. It’s a little silly to think God was patting himself on the back for doing such a good job. Why did God declare each phase of his creation good? Because it was good for us!

He created a world filled with goodness and then gave it to us! We did nothing to deserve the beautiful, pristine abundance of creation. That’s only grace.

Unfortunately for all of us, Adam and Eve blew it. Sin soiled the splendor of God’s good work. But even still, grace follows sin closely and right there in the middle of the world’s biggest mess God promises redemption through the sacrifice of his son.

“…And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspringand hers; he will crush your head, and you will strike his heel.” Genesis 3:15

We see grace in creation and we see grace was God’s plan from the beginning.

This is the second post in a series click here to read part 1 – Scandalous Grace

Scandalous Grace

The reckless, relentless pursuit of God’s love is legendary. It is life transforming. It is breath-taking. And it is scandalous.

God told the story of his love through the prophet Hosea.

The Lord began to speak through Hosea. He said to him, “Go. Marry a woman who is unfaithful. Have children with her. Do this because the people of the land are like that kind of wife. They have not been faithful to me.” Hosea 1:2

God looks at us in our sin and brokenness and tells us we are worthy of love.  He moves in close despite knowing he will feel the sting of betrayal when we inevitably turn our backs on him and pursue other passions. But his love is greater than our sin.

Then the LORD said to me, “Go and love your wife again, even though she commits adultery with another lover. This will illustrate that the LORD still loves Israel, even though the people have turned to other gods and love to worship them.” Hosea 3:1

God told the story of his grace through the thief on the cross.

Jesus was crucified between two criminals. They knew they were getting what they deserved. One of the criminals mocked Jesus, the other defended him and turned in desperation to ask the unthinkable.

Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.Luke 23:42

A criminal crucified for his crimes asked for grace just moments before his death.

If the kingdom of God is about being good and doing right, this man didn’t stand a chance. He would not be able to say he was sorry or make restitution for the wrong he had done. He would never be a productive member of society. There was nothing he could do to help himself. There was only grace.

Jesus turned to the man, and answered.

I tell you the truth, today you will be with me in paradise Luke 23:43

Shocking isn’t it? Scandalous to say the least.

This scandalous grace is more than an idea – it became a person. He walked among us.He turned the world upside down and offered a love we could never earn.

You don’t have to do anything to earn God’s grace. He gives it freely and all you have to do is receive it.

We will be diving deeper into this unfathomable grace during our church wide small group series Scandalous Grace. Will you join us?

Sign up to host a group.

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Pick up supplies in the lobby during any service and start a group with your own family.

Let’s explore this scandalous grace together!