I had lunch with a new friend yesterday.
She and her family recently started attending our church and we are just in the early stages of getting to know each other.
At one point, she lowered her voice and her eyes and said, “I feel like a hypocrite walking into that church sometimes.”
When I asked why, she said, “Everybody there is so good. And I’m not.”
Oh honey. That is so NOT true!
Our pastor from our Florida days, the incredibly gifted Tullian Tchvidjiian (here is a link to his sermons. Do yourself a favor and go watch some of them. His sermon series on the book of Romans was life-changing!), has taught me more than any other teacher about the miracle and wonder of God’s breathtaking and scandalous grace.
Here are some of my favorite quotes from him on this subject:
“God only saves bad people because bad people are all that there are.”
“I know one thing: I am a great sinner and Jesus is a great Savior.”
“God’s message to the worn out and weary is this: ‘God’s demand: Be righteous.
God’s Diagnosis: No one is righteous.
God’s deliverance: Jesus is our righteousness.”
Once this good news grips your heart, it changes everything. It frees you from having to be perfect. It frees you from having to hold it all together.
Because Jesus was strong for you, you’re free to be weak.
Because Jesus won for you, you’re free to lose.
Because Jesus was Someone, you’re free to be no one.
Because Jesus was extraordinary, you’re free to be ordinary.
Because Jesus succeeded for you, you’re free to fail.
“Grace is unconditional acceptance given to an undeserving person by an unobligated giver. It is one way love.”
“Grace is love that seeks you out when you have nothing to give in return.”
“Jesus came to liberate us from the weight of having to make it on our own, from the demand to measure up. He came to emancipate us from the burden to get it all right, from the obligation to fix ourselves, find ourselves, and free ourselves. Jesus came to release us from the slavish need to be regarded, right, rewarded, and respected. Because Jesus came to set the captives free, life does not have to be a tireless effort to establish ourselves, justify ourselves and validate ourselves.”
When you read those words, do you sense the wind of freedom blowing into your life?!
For so many years, I lived as if all of this Christian life depended on me. I constantly felt the need to do more, to try harder, to perform, to pretend to be be something I wasn’t. And in the end, it left me feeling empty and hypocritical.
But then Jesus opened my eyes to the freeing fact of His incredible grace and I have never been the same!
He has done for me what I could never do for myself. My identity is no longer in external things: the size of my bank account, my looks, my possessions, my career. Rather my identity is in who I am in in Him. Among other things, I am unconditionally loved, fully forgiven, chosen, beloved, free. That makes all the difference.
I am no longer bound to “shoulds” and “oughts.”
I have made the choice to accept the free gift of grace that He offered me at the cross. (I just read a fabulous quote about what Jesus did at the cross for us from author Mark Batterson: “Jesus said, ‘I’ll take the blame for everything you did wrong and give you the credit for everything I did right.”).
Grace is a free gift to us but it cost Jesus everything He had to be able to give it to us.
When you live in the light of that kind of love, your life is filled with a joy that circumstances cannot touch and a liberating freedom that no one can take away.
I had no interest in playing the role of Church Lady with my new friend during our lunch. I was very honest about the fact that I am as much of a mess as anybody else. I have my own baggage and struggles and trials and heartaches. I told her that every single person she sees in church on Sunday morning is dealing with their own stuff. (As Tullian likes to say, we are all train wrecks in our own way).
There is not one person who would willingly volunteer to have all their inmost thoughts displayed up on the screen for everyone to see. None of us are perfect. That’s why we need a Savior who is perfect on our behalf.
We are all broken people living together in a broken world.
Years ago, I may have wanted to leave her with the impression that I had it all together. That is the last thing that I would ever do now. I described how I used to be. She expressed amazement and proceeded to rattle off a list of lovely words that she would use to describe me now.
I smiled wide and said honestly, “If any of those things are true, that is Jesus who you are seeing. That shows you the difference He has made in my life. I’m not the same person that I was anymore. You can’t walk with Him and stay the same. In fact, to quote Patsy Clairmont, ‘Without Jesus, I’m not even nice!!'” :)
The last thing my new friend needed was to leave that restaurant thinking how great Susan is.
She needed to walk out of there thinking, “Wow, Susan is a mess. Susan is broken. But Jesus has met her right there in that brokenness and He is making her whole. He is giving her beauty for ashes. He is bringing redemption and restoration to a life that desperately needs it. He is taking a rebel and transforming her into someone who loves like He does.”
She needed to leave that place marveling over the fact that it is the beauty of His grace alone that has the power to set her free.
Give that same gift to those who come across your path today.
Show them Jesus.
“His love for us does not depend on our loveliness. It goes one way. As far as our sin may extend, the grace of our Father extends further.”
(All quotes taken from Tullian’s book One Way Love: Inexhaustable Grace For An Exhasuted World. I highly recommend this book).