I Need Grace, My Church Needs Grace Too … and So Do You.

Broken Christian Stock PhotosToday I would like to just be blunt and honest. Can I say that I am a broken, weak, occasionally discouraged, and yes an even struggling person, who happens to be a pastor? Can I admit that my family, my marriage, and my heart are not always ok? Does that make you uncomfortable? Does it encourage you? Perhaps it should do both. The truth is that without admitting weakness you and I will never experience the grace we need to move forward. It’s one thing to talk about grace all day and quite another to give it, live it, and display it for everyone to see and experience. Without this admission and embracing of weakness, the strength that is Christ and Grace are kept at bay and we are left with only the barest of tastes of that glorious meal.

I’m really sick of plastic bubble christianity. Yes, I didn’t capitalize it on purpose. I think I’m finally seeing what outsiders and guests in our church sometimes (oft times?) see when the walk through the doors. There are still some that are pulling that self-righteous, hide behind my little bubble personas over them when they come to do “church”. I’m not talking about putting your best foot forward, “that thou mayest know how thou oughtest to behave thyself in mthe house of God[1]” thing. I’m talking about pretending you’re something you’re not. I’m not talking about a bad testimony or even a two-faced testimony here. I’m talking about knowing you’re a mess and knowing that God knows you’re a mess and not being able to do anything about it because you refuse to allow yourself to be real. The thing is, people that come into our church to visit, they see the bubble and instinctively know that you’re faking it. It seems obvious to everyone but you. I think I first realized this when I was a youth pastor. The teens had this B.S. detector, they didn’t care if you were perfect; they cared if you were real. Transparency is a not so new buzz-word in churches today. But the reality of it is, it isn’t new at all. Have you read the epistles of Paul? Have you seen the mess that the early church made of things? Have you read the admissions of guilt and weakness of these men? The thing is, when we finally let go of the bubble, when we finally embrace our weakness (the truth), and His grace, we can finally be filled with joy unspeakable and full of glory. Have you met anyone like that recently?

The Apostle Paul had a lot to say about weakness. First he wrote this to the church that he had founded…

1 Corinthians 2:1–5 (NKJV) And I, brethren, when I came to you, did not come with excellence of speech or of wisdom declaring to you the testimony of God. For I determined not to know anything among you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified. I was with you in weakness, in fear, and in much trembling. And my speech and my preaching were not with persuasive words of human wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, that your faith should not be in the wisdom of men but in the power of God.

Then he went on to write this to the same church, after they had some high and mighty, holier than thou, and “better” preachers and teachers throw him under the bus…

2 Corinthians 12:7–10 (NKJV) And lest I should be exalted above measure by the abundance of the revelations, a thorn in the flesh was given to me, a messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I be exalted above measure. Concerning this thing I pleaded with the Lord three times that it might depart from me. And He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. 10 Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in needs, in persecutions, in distresses, for Christ’s sake. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

Let’s not forget this awesome passage too…

Hebrews 4:14–16 (NKJV) 14 Seeing then that we have a great High Priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. 15 For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin. 16 Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need.

Now, I’m just sayin’, but these last two passages seem to be favorites of a lot of people that are blowing it, and claim them, and claim God’s forgiveness for themselves over and over, but seem so very quick to judge and criticize others. And yes, I’m judging the judgers. I get the irony, but I’ve been called and ordained by God to “convince, rebuke, exhort, with all longsuffering and teaching.”[2] Have you been? Do you have the responsibility to one day stand before the Judgment Seat of Christ and answer for not only your life, but the lives of those in your church during your leadership?

So for today, consider this… am I in a plastic bubble and have I been pretending that I am something I’m not, meanwhile, feeling free to judge those that are walking through the door looking for something real? Let’s do this thing church, let’s BE the CHURCH that God wants us to be and reach those that haven’t met Him yet, the Grace and Truth man, Jesus. Remember, with Jesus comes grace and truth… it’s time to stop running from the truth and embrace grace!

m Heb. 3. 6. Comp. Eph. 2. 21, 22. 2 Tim. 2. 20.

[1] The Holy Bible: King James Version, Electronic Edition of the 1900 Authorized Version. (Bellingham, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc., 2009), 1 Ti 3:15.

d 1 Tim. 5:20; Titus 1:13; 2:15

e 1 Tim. 4:13

[2] The New King James Version (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1982), 2 Ti 4:2.