Liv­ing ‘Un­der Grace’

The Covington News - - RELIGION - JONATHAN SCHARF COLUM­NIST Rev. Jonathan Scharf is pas­tor of Abid­ing Grace Lutheran Church in Cov­ing­ton. Wor­ship ev­ery Sun­day at 8 & 10:30 a.m. Full ser­mons and more in­for­ma­tion can be found at www.abid­ing­grace.com.

“Sin shall not be your mas­ter, be­cause you are not un­der law, but un­der grace” (Ro­mans 6:14). Nearly 2000 years ago, Paul wrote that to Chris­tians, to people he in­cluded with him­self when he said, “We were there­fore buried with him through bap­tism into death in or­der that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Fa­ther, we too may live a new life” (Ro­mans 6:4-5).

Be­cause of how God brought us into the ben­e­fits of his plan, be­cause of the res­ur­rec­tion Je­sus’ death and res­ur­rec­tion proves we will have, Paul says, that af­fects our lives now. Now sin is not our mas­ter. Now we are “not un­der law, but un­der grace.”

These are some shock­ing state­ments when you think about it. If you’ve ever bat­tled with an ad­dic­tion, if you’ve ever won­dered why on earth you said some­thing so harsh to some­one you love, if you’ve ever looked around and won­dered how you pos­si­bly ended up here, at the end of a road of bad choices and failed dreams…. you may won­der if Paul knows what he’s talk­ing about. “Sin shall NOT be your mas­ter?” Re­ally, Paul? It cer­tainly some­times looks like sin makes us do things we didn’t want to in the heat of the mo­ment, in the wave of emo­tion. Some­times it looks like sin is mas­ter.

But, no, Paul says, not for you Chris­tian. And then he tells you why. Af­ter ex­plain­ing how Je­sus de­feated sin with his pay­ment for it and his re­sis­tance against it, he re­minds us we’re liv­ing in a whole dif­fer­ent state, a state of grace. In his words: “you are not un­der law, but un­der grace.”

Let me ex­plain. In my younger life, I had so many jobs, of­ten sev­eral at a time, work­ing way too many hours to try to put my­self through school. And just about ev­ery one of those jobs re­minded me why I was go­ing to school, so that I didn’t have to do that par­tic­u­lar job ev­ery day for the rest of my life.

Any­way, I’ve worked un­der a bunch of bosses. One of the first was one of the mean­est. I’ll call her Car­rie. She man­aged through fear and threats. You’d bet­ter not be late or else. “Don’t break that dish or you’ll get yelled at and the cost taken out of your pay­check.” “Talk back and you’re fired.” Work­ing for her, you wanted to do a good job only be­cause you didn’t want to get in trou­ble. Not know­ing any bet­ter, I put up with that for sev­eral sum­mers. And I worked hard be­cause I wanted to keep my job.

By the time col­lege rolled around, I had got­ten a job at an ar­chi­tec­tural wood­work­ing place. This boss, Jack, had many more em­ploy­ees, but he knew more about me within the first week than Car­rie did in all the years I worked for her. Jack would reg­u­larly walk among the work­ers ask­ing how they were, how their fam­ily was do­ing — and he seemed to al­ways be do­ing some­thing nice for people. One friend, who was also just a sum­mer worker like me, drove one of Jack’s brand new de­liv­ery trucks un­der a bridge that was shorter than the truck and earned the nick­name “sar­dine” be­cause of the ef­fect that had on the truck. Jack never once raised his voice, but said sim­ply, “Ac­ci­dents hap­pen. You’ll know bet­ter next time, right?”

Jack’s work­ers wanted to do a good job, too, but it wasn’t be­cause we were afraid. It was be­cause we loved him and wanted things to go well for him.

Do you see the dif­fer­ence? In both sit­u­a­tions the out­come was the same. We wanted to do a good job — and did. But it was as dif­fer­ent as night and day.

In your re­la­tion­ship with God, are you work­ing for Mary or for Jack? Do you do what you do out of fear, or out of love? Are you liv­ing un­der law, or un­der grace? Now, both might end up look­ing the same — but they are not. Both might lead to you do­ing your best and be­ing a good neighbor and a good friend and a stand-up in­di­vid­ual. But – they are not the same.

Un­der grace there is peace and hope and joy. Un­der law there is un­cer­tainty, be­cause there is al­ways the won­der whether you’ve done enough. Un­der grace there is a re­la­tion­ship with God. Un­der law there is sim­ply obe­di­ence, and not usu­ally very good obe­di­ence.

So where would you rather be liv­ing? By God’s grace, through Christ’s work — God wants you liv­ing un­der grace — for­give­ness for your fail­ures, com­fort for your fears, peace amidst your stresses. You see, Je­sus al­ready lived un­der the law and ful­filled it. And only be­cause he is love — he gives that per­fect record to you who be­lieve in him, so now you are un­der grace. What a dif­fer­ence that makes!

And the sooner you un­der­stand that, the bet­ter your life is. Now, I’m not say­ing it will nec­es­sar­ily not have prob­lems or be filled with wealth and power and pres­tige. I’m say­ing it will be bet­ter be­cause, while you’re go­ing through the same things — at both jobs I had to show up ev­ery day and work hard — you’ll be go­ing through them with a dif­fer­ent at­ti­tude – with con­fi­dence and peace and hope. That’s the dif­fer­ence.

I bring all this up be­cause that’s the theme we’ll be us­ing for our “Gang­way to Gallilee” Va­ca­tion Bi­ble School June 16-20 and for our Fa­ther’s Day Wor­ship on the 22nd. All the sto­ries, games, crafts and Word will be teach­ing what it means to be liv­ing “Un­der Grace.” I hope your kids can join us for the VBS (9-noon each day) and your whole fam­ily can cel­e­brate that grace on Sun­day. You can reg­is­ter for VBS at vbs.abid­ing­grace.com.

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