In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace that he lavished on us with all wisdom and understanding. (Eph. 1:7)
My wife and I were headed out to the hot tub to enjoy the calm weather before the winter storm came in when the stack of firewood out by the fence caught my eye. So I opened the hot tub cover, sat my orange juice on the rim of the hot tub as I often do, and began to haul firewood up to the patio so we would have some during the storm. After a few minutes of hauling wood, I went to join her in the hot tub, but I totally forgot about my orange juice and knocked it into the tub. A big cloud of orange-looking pulpy stuff mushroomed about in our clear hot tub water while my wife just howled and laughed as if it were the funniest thing in the world.
“I've been waiting for 11 years for that to happen!” she exclaimed between bouts of laughter. For it has been that long, ever since we bought the hot tub, that I have been bringing my drinks out to the hot tub and she has been warning me to be careful with them. So she was right, it finally happened, and I laughed right along with her. It wasn't the end of the world, though, and it wasn't even the end of our clean water. After a few minutes, the orange cloud had dissipated as the jets pushed the water through the filtering system and the water looked clear and clean again, as if nothing bad had ever happened.
As I thought about the whole incident, it reminded me of God's grace, and how completely overwhelming and cleansing His love is for us. Whatever mistakes we make, and even our intentional sins, are washed away by His redeeming grace like a glass of orange juice in the hot tub or a cup of leftover coffee thrown overboard into the sea. His grace overwhelms our sin; his shed blood cleanses us and filters out our impurities; his love heals us and makes us whole and clean again.
Sometimes this is hard to believe for ourselves, knowing our own thoughts and actions as we do, and it's even harder to believe for others who have knowingly and intentionally hurt us or our loved ones. But God makes it clear in Ephesians 1:7 that He has “lavished His grace upon us” – filled us to overflowing, overwhelmed us, immersed us in His grace – and that He did it on purpose, with all knowledge and understanding, in a way that only He can fully comprehend and understand.
So as we begin to talk about discovering Biblical church – how to “do church” according to the patterns and instructions found in the New Testament – we have to start with an understanding of Biblical grace. God’s grace has washed away our sins – intentional and unintentional – and that includes whatever mistakes we have made in our ministries and church leadership. Whatever you have done well, give thanks to God for His gifts and grace in your life. Whatever you haven’t done well, give thanks to God for His grace that covers all of our sins and brings something good out of our mistakes and misguided efforts.
After all, whether for better or for worse, we are all products of the church environment in which we grew up and none are perfect. So as we begin to address some of the difficult challenges facing the church today and talk honestly about how we view the church and “do church,” please realize that we absolutely must extend grace to one another and ourselves as we compare our modern-day church practices to those described in the New Testament.
So as you read and think about and pray over the issues these articles bring up, don’t point fingers at other traditions nor beat yourself up for not following the clear Biblical patterns and instructions for doing church. Instead, remember the overwhelming grace of God and let His love for each and every one of us wash away our sins as we repent of doing church according to the wisdom of men and discover together how to do church according to the teachings of the New Testament.
Let’s Pray Together: Lord, you are Lord of the church as well as the Lord of my life. Come and take your rightful place as the Head of the church. Lavish us with your grace, and teach us how to love and forgive just like You did in the Gospels. Forgive us for those times when we have made church about all kinds of things other than being followers of You. Forgive us for not always following the clear commands of Scripture and the patterns for church leadership and Christian practices that are found in the New Testament. Show me where I have gone astray and lead me as I read the Bible and discover afresh how to do church the way You want it done….(continue praying as you feel led….)
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