[If you’ve been reading the comments on my blog, you’ve seen some excellent ones from Patrick Badstibner. Pat offered this piece as a guest post, and I scheduled it right away!]
In 1964, The Animals recorded a song that would be a number one hit and would become a cult classic, “The House of the Rising Sun.” In the song the narrator speaks of life wasted in sin and misery. As he pleads with mothers to not let their sons go down to “The House of the Rising Sun” He points out that “many a poor boy” has lost his life there and he sadly admits “I’m one.”
In 1895 William Newell, then a Bible Teacher at Moody, reflects on a troubled youth, perhaps one that looks very similar to the one described decades later in the cult classic. As he does so, he pens his testimony to prose and that prose becomes the beautiful hymn we know today as “At Calvary.”
Two songs describing the two aspects of grace. Without the understanding of the first song and accepting that we are indeed “one” we cannot appreciate the beauty of the second song.
Confusion, Discourse, Mistakes and Life
This is where confusion lies, discourse occurs, mistakes happen and lives falter. We do not have the vocabulary to express our condition without God’s atoning grace. As a result we fail to make the gospel good enough.
It is not that we are just broken, rather as if all the kings’ horses and all the kings’ men were to look upon us they would attempt to rescue Humpty Dumpty first. We are not OK; in fact we are in need of a desperate heart transplant. The only problem is the only hearts available are all dead, like ours.
Because one of us screwed up, the rest are forever tied to the railroad tracks of condemnation with the train of eternity just seconds away. Not to mention we are hopeless, absolutely powerless to do anything to rescue ourselves, no we are indeed in desperate need of rescue, of a Savior.
For Hell is indeed real, a place of torment and forever separated from our creator wandering with thirst and lost in our own devices. Unless mercy is given, pardon is multiplied and grace is free, we will forever be lost.
In Dante’s Inferno the writer describes Hell:
“Through me you go into a city of weeping; through me you go into eternal pain; through me you go amongst the lost people”
“Ye who enter, abandon all hope.”
Dante Alighieri, Inferno
Hell is such a place that all the bad of the cross is only a tribute to the bad that exists in all of us. What Christ suffered was as undeserved, as it is deserving of by us.
Yet, because of the great love of the Father who loved his creation deeply the cross exists. The cross does not exist because there was any value in us or we have or could ever have something to offer.
We do not get, keep, sustain, maintain or receive this gift because we have confessed all of our sins. We never will and never could.
HE is shouting as He offers grace to us, not “How To’s” or “Steps To” but “IT IS FINISHED.” Yet we refuse to accept, believing in our arrogance we must still do something, crying out in our pride to let us do something.
We cannot do anything because this is not our story, but God’s. A love story and a story of redemption. As God chases his beloved, US, to redeem him to himself. Not because of what we do, could do or will do but because of what HE did.
God has won it, is doing it and will do it, because we cannot. Now he does not call us to a life of greater performance or to do more, be more, accomplish more and maybe you will earn a smile, a breadcrumb, favor, maintain your identity, gain assurance to what he has promised, maintain, balance, sustain or keep grace.
For we have His favor, He has given us the ultimate righteousness, Christ’s righteousness. There really is nothing left to do, HE needs nothing from us and we really are FREE to be who we were originally created to be, which was his instrument of glory.
It really is a worthwhile question to ponder, reflect on and answer “What are you going to do with your new found freedom?” Knowing our deep need for the ugliness of the cross and God’s great love towards us should compel us to worship God and serve others, which was Paul’s reasoning behind his plea in Romans 12:1-2.
Through our obedience we no longer say “Please approve of me” but “I Love You” to the one who calls us in spite of ourselves, HIS beloved. Then when we abuse, misuse, waste, trash his grace, rebel, disobey and just flat out blow it he responds with “I understand you’re human, I’m not; thus why I could do it and you could not. Remember you love me because I am absolutely CRAZY about you.”
That is the message of grace and where our journey begins as we learn “How To Walk In That Grace.”
“Mercy there was great, and grace was free;
Pardon there was multiplied to me;
There my burdened soul found liberty, at Calvary.”