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Making The Grade

Oh, the memories. 

It’s mid-term exams week in area high schools, and my son, Michael, is at the dining room table.  Tomorrow’s tests are in Technology and Math. 

Now, it’s been a very long time since I have had to deal with the stress and anxiety of an academic exam.  That said, life has a way of bringing stress all its own, and like that being experienced by Michael and his classmates, the anxiety revolves around the burden we feel to earn a good grade.

It happens to me each Sunday.  Before the sermon I worry whether I will make sense.  After the sermon I wonder whether I made any sense.  Part of my anxiety comes from the desire to make sense – to bring a clear word from God to the congregation.   That’s why the first thing I ask my wife when we get in the car after worship is, “How was the sermon?  Do you think the message made any sense?”

But that’s not the only motivation.  I also want the congregation to appreciate my preparation and presentation.  Now, before anyone chides me on that I shouldn’t worry about that sort of thing, please note that every preacher I have ever known have similar sorts of feelings.  We want to be well-received by our congregation.

We all feel that way.  We all occasionally strive to “make the grade.”

Are you single and hitting the dating scene?  You want to “make the grade” with the opposite sex!

If you are married and settled down in a positive relationship, you still feel the need to “make the grade” with your spouse.  When you walk in the room you want their heart to leap, even though they have seen is all before, many times, in fact.

Do you have to make a presentation at worked next week?  You want “make the grade” with your boss and other supervisors.

Name virtually any relationship in which you are a participant and you’ve probably felt the need to “make the grade” with that person.  And much of the time, that desire produces anxiety.

What if I don’t do a good job?  What if my efforts turn out to be a disappointment?   What if my spouse doesn’t like how I look in that outfit?  What if my teacher doesn’t like my essay?  What if my boss gives me a bad performance review?  What if I do not “make the grade?”

I have some good news for you.  You don’t have to worry about “making the grace” with Almighty God.  You see God does not love you more when you do a good job, and love you less when you don’t.  God’s love is a constant certainty.  Get this!  The Bible teaches that  “…while we were still sinners Christ died for us,” (Romans 5:8). 

It’s even better than that.  The Bible also teaches that God doesn’t leave us stuck in our sins.  As John the Baptizer noted in John 1, Jesus is the “Lamb of God who TAKES AWAY the sin of the world.”

The word sin in that verse is singular.  It is not a reference to the wrong-headed deeds in which we sometimes engage.  Rather it is a reference to the generic brokenness we all share as human beings.  It is a reference to the stuff behind the wrong-headed deeds, if you will.  Jesus comes, as our stand in, takes all of that brokenness upon himself.  Then he TAKES (that) AWAY from us to the cross, leaving it there.  Then, in the resurrection, Jesus shares his life with us.  Put another way, he TAKES US away from the cross and into the triune life of God. 

Read what Paul wrote: 

For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is your  life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.” (Colossian 3:3-4)

Our old self died and now Jesus has become our life-source.  He is in us.  We are in him.  He is in the perichoresis (the Divine Dance with the Father and the Spirit).  We can never do anything to be closer to God – to be more loved by God – than we are right now.  And all of this is not of our doing anyways.  It is all by the grace of Almighty God. 

The apostle Paul put it like this in his letter to the church in Rome:

“But now, apart from law, the righteousness of God has been disclosed, and is attested by the law and the prophets. This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe” (Romans 3:21-22).

Paul is saying that the Gospel is bigger and better than simply being forgiven and shown mercy.  He is saying that we never have to worry about “making the grade” ever again because Jesus has become our life.  Or, has Paul puts it, Jesus has become our righteousness (the source of our right standing with the Trinity).

How do we experience this wonderful gift of righteousness?  Paul says it is “through faith in Jesus Christ.”  So, stop believing the lie that is so often propagated by the legalistic religious types that we have to “do something” to “make the grade” with God.  Instead, trust Jesus and find rest in the abundance of his righteousness in you.

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2 Responses to “Making The Grade”

  1. Pamela says:

    😛

    great word Bill! Ya made the grade with that one. It made perfect sense in that it makes no sense – it is truly unmerited!

  2. Bill says:

    thanks for your kind words, pam

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