It seems quite fitting that this last segment of the book study focuses on the chapters that reveal the stories of God’s grace after the birth of Christ. Just a few days ago, we celebrated Jesus’ birth. In the midst of Christmas Eve services, gifts, family, and a celebratory meal, I wonder how many of us stopped for just a moment to reflect on the significance that this baby’s birth had in regard to God’s grace. A promise fulfilled, a Redeemer who would save, a revelation of grace that would change the world.
Jesus doesn’t command us to follow Him; instead He extends an invitation. Even better, the guest list isn’t exclusive, it’s extended to everyone. So, imagine the chatter when a not-so-well-liked guy like Matthew received an invite to follow Jesus. Not only was he probably blown away, just think what the town gossips were saying!
It’s super easy to listen to the crowd, to believe the lies, and think that you’ll never be worthy of God’s grace. We place ourselves in a self-inflicted exile, hoping that some day we’ll be “good enough” to accept such a gift. But we’ll never be good enough. We can’t. Thank goodness that’s not how God’s grace works. We don’t have to be good enough because God’s grace is always sufficient and exactly what we need. All we have to do is accept the invitation.
A New Way of Thinking
It’s easier for us to grasp the gift of grace when it’s extended to those who are good people—like when your sweet, God-fearing grandma unexpectedly cusses at the TV while she watches her favorite quarterback fumble the ball to lose a critical playoff game. Of course she’s still going to heaven—she’s lived a good, clean life. A little off-the-cuff slip of the tongue isn’t going to doom her for eternity.
However, it’s much more difficult for us to think the lying, cheating, stealing white-collar criminal who used his charming words to take your grandma’s last dime in an investment scheme will be extended the same amount of grace. After all, he’s not a good person.
The gospel challenges us to a new way of thinking. We don’t need a set of rules to tell us if we are or are not good—truth is, we all fall short in one way or another. But the birth of a tiny baby, the newborn life we just celebrated this weekend, changed history. He was born and lived to die so that we could all be invited. It’s not a decision based on what we do, don’t do; say or don’t say. It’s a decision based on faith and forgiveness. It’s one that is available to everyone because of Christ’s death on the cross.
Is it fair? No, not really. It’s actually better than fair. That’s why it’s called grace.
Think On This
In what ways can you relate to the challenges faced by Matthew, Nicodemus, or Paul? Why isn’t grace something that we can earn? How can your church communicate a message of grace to those that need to hear it in your community? Is your church a place where everyone is welcomed?