I mentioned in my last blog post that I’ve been discovering joy.
And now I’m going to share why.
As a kid I was taught some weird theology by some very well meaning Christians at church and in the private school where I attended 1st thru 3rd grade.
Lesson 1: When you sin, there is a stain on your spiritual heart, even as a believer. Like, an actual spot.
One of my teachers used this idea as a way to enforce discipline in her classroom. Each kid had a representative construction paper heart on the bulletin board, and if you did something right, you’d get a happy smiley sticker on your heart, and if you did something wrong, you’d get a dark spot sticker. Some kids had all smileys, some kids had all dark spots, and some kids had a combo of both.
The subconscious lesson I picked up from all this isn’t hard to figure out: when I sinned, I had gunk on my heart until I begged God’s forgiveness (like the kids who earned dark spots for such egregious things as talking too much in class). And if I did good stuff, I would get extra points with God (like the smiley face kids). And in my mind, I kind of figured that kids who had a combo of dark spots and smileys eventually canceled out if the numbers of both were equal.
Lesson learned: Works based faith.
Lesson 2: This one Iearned in Sunday school. When you sin, as a Christian you have to ask God’s forgiveness. Until you do, you aren’t forgiven. And I remember one teacher specifically telling me that you couldn’t just pray a blanket prayer at the end of the day that said “God, please forgive me of all my sins.” You had to account for all of them specifically.
This left me wondering, of course, what would happen if I forgot something.
This also left me with the impression that every prayer needed a lot of specificity, as though God was a strict, supernatural lawyer looking for loopholes in my prayers. So I ended up praying prayers for protection at night that went something like this:
“Dear God, please protect us from burglars, murderers, airplanes crashing into the house while we sleep…etc.” I’m not exaggerating. These prayers would go on and on. Because you know, God was just waiting for a loophole so he could kill us while we slept: “You didn’t pray for protection from rabid llamas! GOTCHA! SEND IN THE RABID LLAMAS!!!”
Lesson learned: Works based faith + God is mean and wants to kill us with rabid llamas.
I was not a very happy Christian growing up. I had the distinct sense that something was wrong, but didn’t have the theological know-how or the confidence to figure out why I felt that way.
Recently, that’s begun to change as I’m learning what the grace of God really means.
The grace of God means this: Jesus paid the price for my sins once and for all on the cross. Which means that when I accepted him, I accepted that gift.
What does that mean?
It means that there are no stains on my heart and there never will be. It means that God doesn’t want to crash a plane into my house while I sleep because I forgot to pray for protection against it. It means that I don’t have to ask forgiveness for anything.
Okay, that last sentence is freaking some of you out. I have to explain here.
You know what asking forgiveness is?
It’s trying to get yourself re-saved.
If you’re a believer, you’re already saved and already forgiven for everything you’ve ever done or ever will do. When Jesus said “IT IS FINISHED,” he meant it.
Asking for forgiveness at this point is redundant.
I truly am beginning to believe that most Christians don’t believe that their salvation is sure, and on some subconscious level have a fervent belief that their actions can save or un-save them.
16 For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.
(Notice that it doesn’t say “whoever believes in him and begs for forgiveness all the time and lives under perpetual, humble guilt.”)
38 For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, 39 neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
NOTHING can separate us.
8 For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—9 not by works, so that no one can boast.
That one’s pretty straightforward.
So here’s my challenge to us (I say “us” because I still ask forgiveness all the time, and I’m going to do this with you):
When we sin, no more asking forgiveness from the Lord. Instead, here’s what we will say:
“It is finished.”
“Thank you for already forgiving me.”
Whichever you prefer.
And then we’ll stop doing whatever crap we were just doing and go do something more constructive.
I leave you with the words of Joseph Prince, from his book about grace called “Destined to Reign”:
“All records of your sins have been incinerated by the blood of Jesus when he cried out, “It is finished!” His blood has removed the sins of your entire life. When God looks at you today, he sees you covered with Jesus’ blood and completely righteous.”
“For I will be merciful to their unrighteousness, and their sins and their lawless deeds I will remember no more.”
Now, go enjoy your life. It’s okay; God’s not going to crash an airplane into your house.