My friend, Sam, sent me a text Saturday evening to read Hebrews 12. I thought, “Wait a minute, I’m in the middle of watching my Longhorns comeback on the Red Raiders. God, do I really have to read this now?” Without question the answer in my spirit was a loud “YES!” So I said to myself, “Okay this is a chapter about God’s discipline and our need to listen to Him. It’s about God being a consuming fire. What gives?” Well, I read it about five times, and each time my focus honed in on verses 14-29, while in the background, Colt McCoy was proving himself to be worthy of Longhorn legend.
Anyway, there is a lot said in the entire chapter of Hebrews 12, but the thing significant for today is the truth revealed in the last half of the chapter. There is no way in this one entry to cover all that is on my heart and mind, but I will tell you what immediately got my attention. It is all connected to sermons and articles I have read concerning the grace of God and the emerging/missional church. It starts with verse 15.
Verse 15 states, “See to it that no one misses the grace of God and that no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile many (NIV).” The reason this verse stands out is because of the blatant and bitter teaching that I believe is trying to derail the movement of the missional church. The missional church is part of an emergence that is offering grace to those who struggle with life, but it is not done through a judgmental attitude. No, it is a grace offered with love. The whole idea is about being the picture of grace and love to people living in lifestyles that do not line-up with the Truth. It is about embracing those who struggle with the many types of addictions. It is a hope for those who have been abused emotionally, spiritually or physically. It is about taking back that which belongs to God. These are only a handful of the many people who need grace engulfed by a love that is beyond our own capability.
This blatant and bitter movement, as I call it, is popping up its ugly head as it has in the past to squelch the movement of the Spirit in God’s people. Many in the old legalistic guard now have young voices speaking for them, questioning why we are not allowing Jesus to be a judge of people. Some are saying we are misusing the ministry of grace, or cheapening God’s grace. Consider this: The Grace of God is truly a counterculture to our society’s way of thinking. God wants all people to know Him and be drawn to Him. Our society is one of pretentious individualism and thought. God is for the people…even the unlovely. Did Jesus not offer grace to the scum of the earth? I was the scum of the earth. Was he not toughest on the religious leaders? I’ve been a “religious” leader and it is very difficult to remain “religious” when grace is the standard by which one must live.
Counter culture examples: What comes to mind is the lady who washed the feet of Jesus with her tears, kisses and a rare perfume (Luke 7:44-50). The significance here is that she was not the most pure of persons washing the feet of Jesus in the home of a Pharisee (mega religious dude). Jesus offered this lady something no one else could…forgiveness filled with grace. How about when the religious of the day were ready to stone the adulteress? Jesus stepped in and challenged the thinking and beliefs of the accusers. Basically he said, “Hey, if you guys really think your heart is so pure, and your life is a true picture of righteousness then go ahead and pick up the stone. Throw it at her if you have no sin in your heart.” After no one lifted a stone I can only imagine the awe of Christ’s followers and confusion in the minds of the religious teachers. More so, I can imagine the commoner being fascinated by this man called Jesus. Jesus offered a grace that did not require them to follow rules. Let me tell you it still fascinates me.
Jesus offered a loving and forgiving grace to the vagabonds and dregs of his day because He was teaching the new believers that judgment was left for the Church to impose on herself according to the standard of her Savior and Groom. Jesus spoke of a more excellent way, which Paul emphasized through his ministry. When we offer a loving grace to the outcasts, rejected and marginalized it is because we need it as much as they do. To say we are cheapening God’s grace is to view the life of Christ through stained-colored glasses. It is indicative of how rules and regulations still dominate the religious landscape of our North American Church. When will the voices of religious judgment silence themselves? When will the “bitter root” stop causing trouble by corrupting the Church? Well, the answer will come when we ALL stop in our tracks and listen to the voice of God. Hebrews 12:25 says, “Be careful that you do not refuse to listen to the One who is speaking (NLT).” My fear is that many of us are not stopping to hear God. Trust me; I have not perfected this in my life either. Yet, I know this, God continues to speak so His people might hear Him. God has not stopped fulfilling his purposes…we have, because of the comfort we take within our walls and fences.
The bottom line: God will not be ignored. He is the Creator of all life…physical and spiritual…seen and unseen. In Hebrews 12:26, God has promised He will shake the earth and heaven, which in effect will shake the foundation of all creation to reveal that which cannot be shaken…the eternal things of God. What will be revealed in you when you are shaken? Will it be the kingdom of God, which cannot be shaken or destroyed? Will it be His Grace, which is more than sufficient? I hope so, because people really need something that is life changing, grounded in truth and relevant for life in today’s world. Are you the picture of God’s Grace?