For it is by grace you have been saved...

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

The Upside-down of Grace

I found a haystack in a needle
I caught an angel in a lie
I saw a hypocrite in heaven
Remove a log from both his eyes
I saw an anvil float on water
Water running up a hill
An old cheater keep his promise
And his hand’s outside the till

I saw the last get in first
I saw the best in the worst
By moving forward in reverse
And back again to love
Holy, holy love
 (from "Forward in Reverse"
on the Daniel Amos album Dig Here, Said the Angel
Music by Daniel Amos, Words by T.S. Taylor
©2013 Shape of Air Music)

I admit that I don’t always get lyrics to songs.  Sometimes the writers are just too clever, too deep, too obscure, too whatever for me.  And in the past, Terry Scott Taylor of Christian music legendary band Daniel Amos (DA) often had that effect on me. 

But these lyrics I get.  And they remind us of an often overlooked reality about the nature of grace.  Grace is a radical thing! 

Those of us blessed to live in the great nation of the United States of America need to admit that there are some curses that go along with the blessings.  Namely, because we have so many freedoms, so many opportunities, we’ve developed an “entitlement” mentality.  Now apart from the whole political discussion of what that mentality leads to, there are some theological implications as well.

In short, we kind of think we deserve our salvation.  In this land of “independence” and “freedom” and so forth, we think we’ve earned what we have, deserve what we have, etc.  And that carries over to our view of salvation.  Why wouldn’t God want to save me?  I deserve it.

But that misses the radical, upside-down nature of grace.  God saving you is like finding a haystack in a needle, or seeing water run uphill.  It goes against the natural state of things.

We love John 3:16 so much, the idea of God loving so much that He saves.  We forget the context of that verse includes the natural state of each and every one of us:  born into darkness, and loving it.  We are born into sin and love our sin.  What we deserve is the wrath of God; His justice; His righteous anger.  We deserve death, but God gives life.

Ephesians 2:5  says that God, “even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ--by grace you have been saved.  We know that verse; we think we know what it means.  But I think we overlook the real upside-down nature of it.  This is an amazing, mind blowing, radical, unnatural thing.   Life from Death.  Mercy instead of Wrath.

Not that God’s wrath is ignored.  It’s poured out instead on the very Son of God. More radical, upside-down stuff.  The perfect Son of God treated as a sinner so that sinners can be treated as the sons of God.

As the apostle Paul puts it in 2 Corinthians 5:21, “For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.”  That’s upside-down.  And the DA song includes that part as well.
I saw a shepherd king freefalling
Off a throne of mud and straw
He landed on a bed of nails
Proclaiming “Love’s the only law”
I saw a dead man who’d been buried
Walk around outside his grave
The ones we’re told are not worth saving
Are the ones now being saved

Grace.  Upside-down.  Hypocrites in heaven.  Those not worth saving being saved.  I pray we remember the radical nature of that.  I pray we don’t get caught up in the worldly “entitlement” mentality that would cause us to overlook what a truly amazing thing salvation is.  In fact, I think I’ll get down on my knees right now in prayer and praise and adoration and adulation, thanking God for this holy, holy love!

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