"And though many storms and floods arise and beat against the saints, yet these things shall never be able to sweep them off the foundation and rock which they are fastened upon by faith. Even though, through unbelief and the temptations of Satan, the sight and feeling of the light and love of God may for a time be clouded and obscured from them, yet God is still the same, and they are sure to be kept by His power until their salvation is complete, they are engraved upon the palm os His hands, and their names have been written in His Book of Life from all eternity."
-1689 Confession of Faith, Article 17, Paragraph 1
I have grown up in the shadow of the church. My dad is a Southern Baptist minister and like most preacher's kids I had my days of running from God. And with my story I have seen the inside and outside of the church. From the inside I have seen that the church loves a story of redemption.
We love redemption stories. But if we are honest, we love the stories that have already happened. We love the testimony that is no longer messy, and we love people that are the same. We rally around those who's demons have long been cast out and those who can stand tall. But there are many who are not there yet.
When I am honest, I am not there yet.
If you are honest you are not there yet.
As a good Reformed Christian I love Paul. But as I was reminded by a resent sermon* I am much more like Peter. Paul's story was that he was radically against Jesus, he met Jesus, He was radically for Jesus. But the story of Peter is different. He was ever asking questions, not knowing what the Savior was saying. He was the one that first proclaimed that Jesus was the the true Messiah and in response Jesus said that on that truth He would build His Church. But before the chapter ended Jesus called Peter the devil. Peter was able to preach and see thousands come to Christ, and yet he relapsed in such a way that Paul had to call him to repentance. (Gal. 2) I love Paul, but I look like Peter.
I look like Peter. And yet I have want to look like Paul. I look like Peter, and so do you. I look like Peter, and I need the same grace. I look like Peter, and I struggle to give grace to those who look like him too.
I think if we were more honest we could all say the same. I don't intent to speak for you. But I have been in the church long enough to assume. And I assume that if you are honest you can say the same. As much as I wish that I was more like Paul, I am not. And when I am honest I see that is a blessing. When I am honest it is my sin that causes me to value grace. And yet so often, we value grace and struggle to give it.
I can often look at my sin and set a value to it. I can forgive sin that is equal to, or less than mine. But when we look at Scripture we see that to break one law is to break them all. To sin in one way is to sin in every way. For each sin is an act of treason. And thus each of us should see that the grace which covers us is the grace we should give. And that grace is more than we could ever imagine. There should be no merit system. For we are all equal at the foot of the cross. We are all guilty. And, for those of us in Christ, we are all covered with a radical amount of grace.
Last night I spent over two hours speaking to a dear friend who recently relapsed. It's not the first time he has. But it's the first time in a long time. As we spoke I began to understand something. So many people in his church, in my church, loved his story. They loved that he struggled. They loved that he had fallen and had gotten back up. They loved his scars and his stories. They loved them as long as they were past tense**. In talking to him I heard a shame I know so well. The shame that so often speaks to me. And I assume the same shame that speaks to you.
We have an enemy who is smart. It doesn't matter if it's meth, or porn, or pride, or slander, or lying, or depression, or anxiety, or fear, or (fill-in-the-blank). He will guilt us and tell us that if we were honest that people would no longer accept us. And there will be some who will not. Every church has it's fair share of people who look nothing like Jesus. People who only love a testimony when it's over and clean. When it cost nothing and is no longer dirty to touch. But honestly, those are the same type of people who were always getting pissed at Jesus for loving people like me. Loving people like my friend. Loving people like you.
But that's not my friend's story. He's only been clean a month, if that. That's not my story, I have sinned today. And honestly that's not your story either. And when we are honest, we know that's not anyone's story. For everyone has fallen short. We just try to pretend that we don't anymore.
I do not believe that the Confessions or Creeds should ever be viewed as equal to the Word of God. But I do think they are of value. Think of driving on a long bridge. The bridge is the Scripture. We stay on the Word and that keep us from going off the deep end. Without it there is nothing at all to hold us up. But on each side there is a rail. Think of the Confessions and Creeds as the rail. It is there to make sure you stay on the road.
At the start of this article I quoted the 1689 London Baptist Confession, which I hold to. It speaks of those who, even for a season, wander. And more than that it speaks of Christ who is strong enough to keep even those who do. Last night I was reminded of each time that I had, even for a season, wandered. I was reminded that there is no difference in a public relapse and a private sin. Each bear the weight of the cross.
I told my friend that his sin was a big deal. It was such a big deal that it killed God. He was nailed to a tree, He struggled to breath, He died. He died painfully and slowly. And my friend's sin caused it...
My sin caused it.
Your sin caused it.
But, He died. He could have gotten off. He could have fought back. He that held atoms together chose that a cross would hold Him and that nails would not drop Him. He died. He was the one that decided He would. For He who knew no sin became sin, so that we could become the righteousness of God. My friend deserves none of that grace, he has fallen too far. But so have I. So have you. And God doesn't seem to give a damn. For He has said that no matter the sin, His grace is sufficient for all who admit that they need it.
**I know this church and though some in the church feel this way his pastor is one of the best men I know and most of the elders are amazing men of God who give amazing grace and yet do not downplay sin.