Freedom by Sacrifice: The Shocking Truth of Substitutionary Grace


Our world is jaded. We carry justice around like a pet. If everything was right and fair, then we would have no problems, things would line up, just the way they are supposed to be…right?

No. It never works out that way, does it? Even when justice comes, we get that pang in our stomach. When one of my kids does something wrong, and then they have to suffer the natural consequences of it, I have mixed emotions. Wouldn’t it be nice if justice had a counterpart that let compassion in? Wouldn’t it be great if our world was a place of where justice was important, but we weren’t ruled by it?

Grace.

This is why grace is so shocking.

It’s not first nature. It’s actually what we would do second, third, or even last. It doesn’t come naturally, but we are desperately seeking it, chasing it, even when we don’t know it. That pang in your stomach when you hear of the death penalty, you have to watch your kids endure consequences, or when you really know it’s better just to hang up on the telemarketer.

Paul is about to use the language of astonishment in Galatians 1:6, but first, he reminds the Galatians, and us, that there is something bigger, that everything he is about to say and present is really held in the context of something greater:

Shocking grace.

Read Galatians 1:1-4 to connect Paul’s full introduction in one spot:

Paul, an apostle—sent not from men nor by a man, but by Jesus Christ and God the Father, who raised him from the dead— and all the brothers and sisters with me,

To the churches in Galatia:

Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ,who gave himself for our sins to rescue us from the present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father, to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen.

Grace and peace to you…made possible by God, through Christ.

Paul starts even his introduction with the full Gospel.

Jesus gave Himself….

Perhaps our world has heard it a million times, so it isn’t really shocking anymore. The Galatians may have had a similar problem, slipping into “It can’t be. There’s no way. No one does stuff like that.”

Let’s hear the freedom in the truth of this message once again:

…the Lord Jesus Christ, who gave himself…

Romans 5:6-8 reminds us just how shocking this Gospel is:

You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

If you have your Bible out, underline these words –

very rarely

might possibly

Do you hear the language of the unexpected?

Look back at Romans 5:8 – But God…

God demonstrates who He is and how He brings freedom to this world, very differently than we would expect. Paul’s message is that it’s not what we expect that we need, but rather –

truth is found where we least expect it – in grace.

Christ didn’t just die for our sins. Christ gave Himself for our sins and for our deliverance.

The NIV and NASB translations use the word rescue instead of deliver. The NRSV translation uses the very straightforward to set us free.

Deliverance – that sounds a whole lot like freedom to me.

Christ did it for us. This is substitutionary grace, meaning we couldn’t do it. When there is a substitute teacher, it’s because the regular teacher couldn’t get there. We can’t get there either. We would never get there on our own to save ourselves. We can chase freedom all we want, but we need a substitute- for us.

Christ gave Himself for you, for your family, for your neighbor, for the unborn, for the elderly, for the junior high student, for us.

The truth is freedom will never come from justice. Freedom only comes through the shock of Grace.

We may want to be free from the evil around us in this world, but God does something different. He sets grace down in the middle of it instead. We think freedom looks like deliverance from the junk of life. God says it looks like deliverance from being ruled by it.

What junk, what anxiety, what trouble of this present evil age feels like it’s ruling right now for you?

God gives us grace in the midst of it. He gives us the knowledge of for us. Sin no longer has control, because… Grace.

Where might some shocking grace seep out of your mouth and your heart because of the freedom of Christ?

Shocking grace, for you – sounds a lot like freedom to me.


Discussion Questions:

Look again at Galatians 1:2. Who does Paul say is “with” him in his writing of the letter? Why do you think this is an important detail he included? (If you can, google the NRSV translation of this verse… that one is my favorite.)

Why do you think authority is such an issue for Paul with the Galatians? Do you ever struggle with authority in any of your vocations? What grace can be found in the matter of authority?

The words deliver or rescue, and the concept of needing a substitute, insinuate our helplessness. What usefulness is there in knowing and understanding that we are helpless? What is hard about this?

 

 

 

Tending Friendship: Judgement and Hot Dogs


“Thank you for not judging me for eating a second hot dog.”

We recently met up with a friend at Coors Field for a fun night of baseball. Behind me sat two women, also enjoying the fine May weather and a win for the home team. I spent most of the night passing out snacks, because that’s what I do, as a mom. And it was stadium food after all – yum, just yum.

These women behind us knew that baseball and stadium snacks went hand-in-hand. But this one phrase caught my attention above others. It was sweet and it was tender, an expression of genuine gratitude between two young women, living in a world full of judgement and condemnation.

“Thank you for not judging me…”

Her friend was struck by the phrase too.

“I like hot dogs,” was her simple response, with a shrug of the shoulders.

It was the words left unspoken which spoke grace to her friend.

Why would I judge you? Who cares if you want two hot dogs? Even if I thought hot dogs were disgusting, it’s your life and you can eat hot dogs if you want- loads of them. Because I love you. I don’t love you because you only eat one hot dog. I think I love you more because you ate two.

This is tending friendship with non-judgement.

So often we haphazardly apply judgement because someone’s choice is different than our own-

“I wouldn’t do that.”

“I wouldn’t eat that.”

“I wouldn’t say that.”

Of course you wouldn’t. That’s fine. I don’t eat fresh tomatoes. I don’t drive the speed limit. I don’t always make my kids pick up after themselves.

You probably do. That’s awesome, because you’re not me and I’m not you.

Friendship is where lives meet and we say “Me too!”

That same friendship is tended when we continue to meet and say, “I’m so glad we’re different!”

Our best peeps are the people who understand who we are, but also help us to be better versions of ourselves with the help of their unique insights and ideas.

This cannot happen in the midst of judgement.

We get enough of that. We scroll through Facebook or Instagram and see all the opinions people have and the ways they live differently than we do. We go to work and hear how we should do things differently. We look at our kids and pray they turn out ok, even when we make all of our finest mistakes on them.

Judgement is all around us and judgement just is. It exists. But it doesn’t have to seep in to friendship.

Friendship is a safe place. It’s a place to be honored and cared for, and to honor and care alongside. Friend is in fact one of the highest honors we can bestow on someone because it shows us that we are chosen and loved.

God chose us through His Son, Jesus Christ; despite our weirdness and despite our sins. Creating us was an act of love from our Father, but the Son chose us as friends on that cross.

Christ freed us from judgement and tells us that it is finished. If our own judgement is completely righteous in Christ, than why would our friendships be any different.

So today, grab a good friend. Sit around and laugh about what you have in common and what you see differently. Eat two hot dogs. Drink something festive, and tend to that friendship with grace – judgement free.

Tending friendship with my peeps. 😍

Set the world ablaze

Yesterday, we talked about making waves.

Today we’re going to talk about setting a blaze.

Read James 3:5-8, below:

So also the tongue is a small member, yet it boasts of great things.

How great a forest is set ablaze by such a small fire! And the tongue is a fire, a world of unrighteousness. The tongue is set among our members, staining the whole body, setting on fire the entire course of life, and set on fire by hell. For every kind of beast and bird, of reptile and sea creature, can be tamed and has been tamed by mankind,but no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison.

Notice the connecting piece between our segment yesterday and what we are studying today. One tiny verse –

So also the tongue is a small member, yet it boasts of great things.

Write that verse out somewhere if you can. What is the connection between the tongue and boasting? How does the tongue find trouble on it’s own sometimes without our help? Our friend, the tongue, needs to be steered or bridled.

James points out another reality – our tongues can also set the world ablaze. The Greek word for unrighteousness in our translation is adikias, from the root word adikia, meaning unrighteousness, but also injustice, and hurt. That hits the nail on the head. How is our tongue down right hurtful sometimes? Fires can be glorious and also destructive.

Let’s look at another passage that speaks similarly about waves and wind, selfish words, and growing out of them.

Ephesians 4:14-16:

…so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes. 15 Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, 16 from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.

We are not tossed by waves, but we are driven by the Holy Spirit and God’s Word. In Christ, we are not left to idle in a sea of doubt and chaos. We have Hope. Let us start a fire, a fire for Christ, firm in the Holy Spirit and the Word that we are given!

God’s Word says that 2 things ignite – truth and love. So we can ask ourself this question before we open our mouth…

Am I speaking truth in love?

It sounds too simple. But God knows that it’s just so easy for us to speak one without the other.

Am I speaking truth with no love?
Am I speaking love with no truth?

Brothers and sisters, if we are aiming for setting the world on fire for Christ, we are intended to speak both as one.

I fail miserably at this. Dear children, pick up your toys! Dear husband, plan a date night! So many necessary commands, that definitely speak truth. I unfortunately forget to include the love. It’s easy when we are in a conversation with a friend about their struggle with sexual sin to speak only love and care – “It’s ok! It’s no big deal!” – without the truth that they so desperately need in order to see Christ’s forgiveness and love.

Where do you have the hardest time sharing truth with love and love with truth?

We’re in this together. Reread James 3:8 and hear the comfort there…

but no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison. 

Did you find it? Don’t blink or you’ll miss it. Dear friend, you are not the first, nor will you be the last, to struggle with tongue taming. It’s a daily work of sanctification. Christ’s mercy was given to us on the cross. It works in us every day, to set fires that point to His Life, rather than death and destruction. We will daily struggle with this, but it’s a good work, a good walk with our Savior who knows boundless grace.

Work that good Grace in us today, Lord. Truth in love and love in truth – we leave it at Your feet every day. Set some fires around us in Your name, for Your glory. Amen.

 

Discussion:

What areas of your life do you struggle with your tongue the most?

What examples can you point to of speaking the truth without love?

What examples can you point to of speaking love without the truth?

 

I hope you’ll join us for Good Gifts Live at its special time today, 2pm CST, on the I Love My Shepherd Facebook page. The topic for tonight is I Am Covered. Find out more tonight, and if you can’t be with us live, catch the archive tomorrow morning right here or on the I Love My Shepherd Youtube channel.