Regaining the Awe of God’s Grace

Jesus Storybook Bible, Excerpt
Taken from The Jesus Storybook Bible by Sally Lloyd-Jones and illustrated by Jago.

 Do you not fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation? And we indeed justly, for we are receiving the due reward of our deeds; but this man has done nothing wrong.” Luke 23:40-41

I was listening to a sermon on the radio while at work the other day. It was a passionate, grace- saturated, no frills sermon. The hitch: I was indifferent towards it. As a Christian, I am amazed at how dispassionate I can be with the gospel as well as towards my remarkable King and Savior who rescued me. Some days I feel my faith is as dynamic as those “inspirational” Christian memes: two dimensional, pixelated, and subjective—requiring the recipient to apply some vague meaning to the anonymous quote. Simply put, at times, or if I’m honest, most of the time, I feel unresponsive to the core of the gospel, which I relegate to being merely theoretical.

Just writing that last sentence makes me want to bury my face.  The Gospel is more, so much more! It has an intended meaning, purpose and demands a response (in the affirmative or negative); it really has no place for middle ground, and in our culture, that is essentially a non-starter. We’d rather bemuse ourselves with kitten videos or, depending our political sway, be riled by CNN or Fox News, Diane Rehm or Glenn Beck. I think I would rather just be reawakened and re-amazed at how shocking and insulting, gory, glorious and joy-inducing Christ and the cross really is.

Shocking and insulting because my best attempts, in light of the cross, at being something or someone are at best laughably cute, but more often pitiful and self-destructive.  Hanging there on the cross, Jesus was stretched out dying with two other condemned men. In second half of Luke 23, after the trial and hearings before Pilate and Herod, being the object of those jeering and those mourning, Jesus was lifted up with those who were justly condemned, having also become the murderer Barabbas’ substitute. Slowly, I am reminded of how helpless, pitiable and awkward Jesus became for the helpless, pitiful, sin-sick and rebellious. Physically dying stark naked on a Roman gibbet while fulfilling God’s rescue plan, to borrow from Sally Lloyd-Jones’ Jesus Storybook Bible.

One of the doomed joined the jeering crowd who ridiculed and condescended, “Are you not the Christ? Save yourself and us!” I can hear myself in that crowd and that criminal. It’s not only some spiffy figurative language when I write that; it’s a spiritual truth that all humanity is exactly like that group of scoffers. To quote Stuart Townsend:

Behold the Man upon a cross,
My sin upon His shoulders
Ashamed I hear my mocking voice,
Call out among the scoffers

Thankfully, by God’s grace, I can hear myself in the other criminal who, in his contrition, rebuked the first criminal’s pride, saying, “Do you not fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation” (v. 40). This wasn’t some deep noble ability that this dying man summoned up on his own, but only the work of God apart from any assistance of man. In God’s infinite wisdom and perfection, the broken dying man continued and uttered part of the gospel message, “And we indeed justly, for we are receiving the due reward of our deed; but this man has done nothing wrong” (v.41; cf. Romans 5:10ff).

It was my sin that left Him there
Until it was accomplished
His dying breath has brought me life
I know that it is finished

Christ and the cross is gory, glorious and joy-inducing because it is real and it changes people, and it is all done by God. Seeing my sin rightly, my impotence to save myself rightly, the cross rightly, and Christ rightly shakes me back into a right frame, one where  I can again awe at God, worshiping Him, not ascetically but practically in everyday life. My sin was put to death with Christ, and like Christ who arose, defeating death, I have risen too, being a new creature. Townsend again:

It was my sin that left Him there
Until it was accomplished
His dying breath has brought me life
I know that it is finished

I will not boast in anything
No gifts, no power, no wisdom
But I will boast in Jesus Christ
His death and resurrection

Why should I gain from His reward?
I cannot give an answer
But this I know with all my heart
His wounds have paid my ransom


 

Veldez, a blog, is layman literature which includes observations about family life, vocation, books, music, the outdoors, and life as it is. Written from the perspective of a twenty-something husband and father of five, a Christian worldview is the common thread throughout.