grace is for sinners

Posted: October 9th, 2009 | Filed under: book, God, life | Tags: , | 16 Comments »

Grace is a pivotal word in Christianity. You hear it in sermons and songs. It’s written on bumper stickers and imbedded in church slogans. Yet, it’s the last thing that Christians are known for. If the world had to sum up Christians in one word, that word would be ‘judgmental’.

Wolves wearing sheep costumes have infiltrated our steeple-topped roofs. Who fell asleep? Why wasn’t someone keeping watch? More importantly, is there anyone who knows the truth so that the lie can be sifted?

Our congregations limit their biblical knowledge to what is coming from the pulpit on Sundays and propaganda that is put out there by celebrity Christians. The rebellious and revolutionary truth of the Gospel has been drowned out with opinions and superstitions. Most of my generation agree that not even Jesus would be the type of ‘Christian’ the church thinks he should be.

The general ‘believing’ population doesn’t know what the Bible actually says. It’s no wonder the culture is riddled with divisions and dissociations. Quarrels and gossip circulate like tornados in suburban cul-de-sacs. Most just want to walk away from the whole thing. The church is no longer offering spiritual meat and potatoes and that is what we’re looking for. Preachers seem to be more like motivational speakers or emotion manipulators. We’re not walking away because we’re not buying the Truth. We’re walking away because we’re not finding the Truth.

You can sit in your meeting places and discuss the problem until your pie charts turn into a membership recruitment carnival cake walk, but we’re not looking to be entertained. The old bells and whistles don’t work anymore. We live in an era when we can access the world by putting our fingertips to our iPhones. We are looking for something to satisfy the deep. We are looking for someone who knows what they’re talking about.

We know it’s not rule keeping that eases the hunger, we’ve been there and it’s not the key. Intents and purposes aside, the written and unwritten rules are more for our flesh than for our spirits. When all of our time is spent trying to adhere, we don’t take the time to get to know who God actually is. Our spirit remains hungry.

If someone is sacrificing Led Zeppelin in his iPod, dancing lessons with her best friends or the smooth taste of an expensive bottle of wine, it’s no wonder they’re so abusive to those who don’t. It would make anybody crabby to watch others ‘get away’ with behaviors you deem sinful. Therefore, you tisk and condemn. The practice of superstitious religion with the belief that you can lose your salvation by not getting the rules right is probably the thing that makes God’s enemy, Satan, most proud.

The free for all doesn’t work either. Years are going by and all of our living right experiments are coming up short on answers. However, ask anyone in the heat of their own personal ‘Get Mine Marathon’ and you won’t find the depth of satisfaction and meaning there, either. Every day brings more things to obtain. Therefore, it is absolutely impossible for a seeker-of-everything to be satisfied with ‘so far.’

Experience gives birth to knowledge and wisdom. A person knows nothing about a situation they’ve never been in. Obviously there is any number of things you would rather not experience, but still like to collect the experience’s lesson.

The Church is like a prominent family who fights to keep their good name. When an ugly occasion takes place, it is quickly whisked away and never talked about. Under rug swept. What if the tainted people under the rug knew something that the others didn’t? What if they knew the piece of the puzzle that made our faith make more sense? What an upheaval it would be if the outcasts of the religious elite were the one’s with the clarity of grace needed to preach the Gospel with the ‘X’ factor that is missing from professional Christianity. Wasn’t Jesus an outcast of the religious elite? Wasn’t he an upheaval? What if the religious ‘X’ factor wasn’t some external sparkle that everyone can coo over, but an internal searing of the soul by grace so aggressive and forgiveness so exhaustive that the recipient walks away from the spiritual brawl with a limp? What if the limp is the ‘X’ factor?

Who do you want preaching the message of Grace? The career Christian who stays in every Friday night playing Old Testament Bingo with his fourteen-year-old poorly socialized son? Or would you want to hear about grace from the ex-rock star who’s distracting tattoos testify to his length of journey? How about the alcoholic who is on his fifth try at being sober? Do you think the adulterous home-wrecker could have learned something in the fiery aftermath that could have taught her a thing or two about grace? Jesus cradles the broken sinners to his chest and his blood washes away their filth as they cry in his shirt.

Jesus’ life purpose was to save us from our sins. He was a friend and a teacher to those in the physical sense, but he is a savior for all in a spiritual sense. You can thank him for your new car and sweet puppy, you can submit your immoral co-workers to his attention, you can even ask him to bless your food. When was the last time you laid curled up in a fetal position knowing that he had every right to make you pay up for your disgusting behavior and he didn’t? He came and laid down next to you and stayed there until you were ready to get up. Then, while the memories of what you did shook your brain and lost your hope in the vertigo of facts, he held your hair when your stomach emptied itself.

Who knows that Jesus? Us sinners. We know him like that.

Isn’t it a twist to know that a life can become a direct parallel to scripture more as a sinner being nursed back to health in the secret places than as a moral victor in a vinyl suit smelling of microphone breath slapping ‘fives’ in the church corridors?

The sinner has lost her good name. The reputation she had in the world has dissolved as fast as baker’s sugar in the hot water of public disdain. Yet, as she loses her life as a successful righteous life owner, she finds her life as the beloved lamb who is being carried on the Shepherd’s shoulders all the way home.

The busy believer has a reputation in the world to uphold and an example to set. She is impenetrable by the real life circumstances because Christians, after all, are not supposed to be affected by the pains and sufferings of the world. People assume that something is wrong with their relationship with Jesus if they are.

Where is a crying and tortured people going to turn? Will it be the one who cannot identify with pain due to the continual denial or the one who carries the knowledge of tremendous spiritual suffering in his eyes? When you just want to cry into the night, ‘It hurts!’ who is going to understand that kind of groan?

We are Christians. We are people who carry the lamp and man the lighthouses. We’re not to be examples of lives that don’t need Jesus because we’ve gotten good at keeping the rules. We are to be examples that no matter how bad it gets, there is hope and it’s only because of what Jesus did that we can be okay.

‘You’re going to make it,’ they say. How do they know? Because they bear the scars that prove they were there.

Grace is the pivotal gift in the lives of human beings. We are people who have real lives and real aspirations. As a result of our human condition, we are also bruised and scarred by inevitable failure. Grace is not the free gift reserved for those who don’t need it. ‘Grace Is For Sinners.’


16 Comments »


16 Comments on “grace is for sinners”

  1. 1 Emily said at 6:01 am on October 9th, 2009:

    Dear Serena,

    I've read a lot of your blog posts & a lot of your story. I am sorry for your awful childhood. I experienced some of the same things you did. I am sorry you made a choice to sin in your marriage. There is grace for you, if you have repented. Hallelujah! However it seems that your message is, "Lead whatever life you want & expect to screw up & sin; it is inevitable. If it feels good at the time, do it." Rules are not bad, Serena. God gave us rules for our benefit, for our protection & the protection of others. What would you say to the wife whose husband keeps committing adultery? "Well, his sin is inevitable; there is grace for him." Would you say that to your mom's boyfriends who molested you as a child? Rules are there to protect you. God said, "Thou shalt commit adultery". He said it would be better for one to have a millstone tied around his neck than someone bring harm to one of these little ones. God gave grace through Jesus, and He also said, "Go & sin no more." He also said, "Be holy as I am holy." As believers, God gave us the grace to go & sin no more. He gave us that through grace! We still can choose to sin, but it us, that new creation, who sins. You stated, "Who do you want preaching the message of Grace? The career Christian who stays in every Friday night playing Old Testament Bingo with his fourteen-year-old poorly socialized son?" Now who's being judgmental? Praise God for fathers who take the time to spend with their sons & daughters, instead of leaving their instruction up to the world!

    I don't write to condemn you, Serena. If you have repented, than God forgives your sin. But please don't encourage others to "Go & sin some more" & pass judgment on Christians who consider greatly their actions & how they affect their walk with God (what music to listen to & other things you mentioned) and how they affect others around them. What person from the world would want to be a Christian when the Christians do the same things as the sinners? Same music, same crap movies, same language, same sins & same attitudes? 2Co 6:17 "Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you"

    Like you said, "Jesus’ life purpose was to save us from our sins." And may we not live in them any more. I have tattoos & many other life scars, but by the grace of God, I am a new creation.

  2. 2 Jen said at 6:14 am on October 9th, 2009:

    Well, Serena has never been accused of being subtle! I, for one, thank her for that! This is so helpful for people who are not finding this kind of raw and transparent message being delivered. This is not the type of message that makes everybody happy, but it does reach those who are hard to find. I hope they're finding it. I think it's refreshing.

    I don't really see the connection with the above comment as being relevant to anything Serena said.

    If you've been cheated on and you go to the blog of a woman who had an affair. It's going to be painful to hear what she has to say because of what she represents to you. You have to know that.

    Serena I'm glad you're doing what you're doing, but I'm glad it's not me! I can't handle this stuff like you seem to.

    Keep it up!

  3. 3 Dana said at 7:19 am on October 9th, 2009:

    Serena, you always cut straight to the core. Thank you for this post. I have a hard time relating to people who haven't done anything as bad as me. I have been looking for someone who loves God and who has made mistakes because I need to know how they can believe that God still loves them and then I found this blog.

    Thank you, thank you, thank you!!!!

  4. 4 Trish said at 7:36 am on October 9th, 2009:

    This is my favorite part!!

    "We are Christians. We are people who carry the lamp and man the lighthouses. We’re not to be examples of lives that don’t need Jesus because we’ve gotten good at keeping the rules. We are to be examples that no matter how bad it gets, there is hope and it’s only because of what Jesus did that we can be okay.

    ‘You’re going to make it,’ they say. How do they know? Because they bear the scars that prove they were there."

    This is the point of the post. And I love it!

  5. 5 Pastor J said at 8:10 am on October 9th, 2009:

    Serena, in our culture there are people who just cannot find a way to wrap their minds around grace and the true example of Jesus. People can say they are not condemning you but sadly only while they keep you in a cage so you can't taint the church culture. You are a breath of fresh air and you need to make sure to move forward so people can see and understand the grace of jesus. I have a feeling that Emily doesn't know a thing about you and like so many religious people do is picking a part the pieces of your story to create a way to justify her feelings. Keep at it and be blessed.

  6. 6 Sisterlisa said at 8:14 am on October 9th, 2009:

    Spectacular message Serena. You are a preacher to the religious and an encourager to us sinners.

  7. 7 Ashley said at 8:34 am on October 9th, 2009:

    Serena,

    The message of your post is very similar to my most recent blog post and the thoughts that have been roaming in my head for awhile.

    I quoted Brennan Manning, "The danger with our good works, spiritual investments, and all the rest of it is that we can construct a picture of ourselves in which we situate our self-worth. Complacency in ourselves then replaces sheer delight in God's unconditional love. Our doing becomes the very undoing of the ragamuffin gospel."

    So, the very striving to "do good" can lead to a sinful nature in itself; for we can become righteous in our own right, and not in the light of Christ's sacrifice alone. Yes, we want to "do right" because God loves us either way. Being loved transforms us, but does not perfect us on the outside. We will still fall. When we do, we can pick ourselves up, ask forgiveness — BUT we do not repent to be forgiven. We repent because we are forgiven already, and we do this out of gratitude.

    I believe convictions are personal. I also believe some are self-imposed. However, I totally agree that many people condemn those who do what they deem "sin" just because others are getting to something they are missing out on. I did this myself during my "Christian Music Only" phase. I looked down on those who listened to any secular music. Their relationship with God must not be as strong as mine! Oh how sinful to judge like that. As I have grown, I see that my zeal was actually my downfall, for I was not wise in my faith. I allowed my own righteousness to overshadow God's work in the lives of others. I was pushing so hard to do right because I was still not comfortable that Christ's sacrifice was my redemption, not my works.

    Do I still want to "do good"? Of course! My love for the Lord sparks that desire in me. Am I human and sinful? Of course! Should I spend much of my time dwelling on my sinful nature, or should I focus on the forgiveness that is already mine and continue to live this life I have been given? I choose to focus on the later and allow God to grow and change me from the inside out – not from the outside in.

    Keep it coming Serena. You make people uncomfortable and I think that is a great place to be in. It causes people to think about what they believe. It may not lead them to the same conclusions, but at least they are thinking. At least they are not swallowing something someone in an ivory tower is spilling out. At least maybe they will allow Grace to slip into their hears a little more each day.

  8. 8 Ashley said at 8:49 am on October 9th, 2009:

    Martin Luther:

    "Be a sinner and sin boldly, but believe and rejoice in Christ even more boldly for he is victorious over sin, death, and the world. As long as we are here in this world we have to sin. This life is not a dwelling place of righteousness"

    And – amen.

  9. 9 April said at 11:20 am on October 9th, 2009:

    I am a follower of Jesus Christ. I have also chosen (after conviction by the holy spirit in me.. to lay down alcohol because I depended on it for the feeling I got from it, and wanted just one more, and maybe one more… I thought I had to have a drink to fit in, to be in the cool group of girls… the holy spirit shouted at me… "lay it down for me.. lay it down for me..

    So, I laid it down. I don't miss it. I don't crave a smooth glass of whine. I just don't have any desire at all. I'd rather have a latte. I do, however have many friends who seem to take issue with my decision. I have been called a legalist. I am scoffed at, I am made fun of as if I were in high school trying to fit into the cool clique. I am drug into back and forth heated debates that I would rather not enter at all, I would rather this happen: them-"Do you want a drink? " me- "No, thanks… I don't drink, but would love a glass of sweet tea or water." them- "Okay, sounds good. be right back with it."

    Instead this happens- them- "do you want a drink? me- No thanks, not a drinker. them- "why not?" me- just a personal decision. I'll take sweet tea, though.. thanks. " them- "I don't see anything wrong with a drink… blah blah blah… silliness. It should be a non-issue. But, never is.

    This is what I don't understand. Why can't I decide what is right for me, and simply be respected for my decision? Why does it have to matter my reason? A friend told me recently that she sees herself as trashy compared to me because I don't drink. I am sorry she feels that way. I am not righteous because I don't drink alcohol. That most certainly does not make a person righteous.

    Yes, we do have the freedom in Christ to decide for ourselves. A glass of wine is okay, but to be made fun of because you have decided not to touch it… I don't get that. I have been called close-minded because of a personal decision. Wouldn't it be close-minded to treat someone as if they are wrong because they did not order a drink?

    The next time a friend asks me with a cutting sarcastic tone, "What is wrong with you, why don't you drink… you are such a puritan… I will say… "I'm in recovery, that's why"… because spiritually, it's true. I am constantly in recovery. And we'll see how far that conversation goes.

  10. 10 April said at 11:21 am on October 9th, 2009:

    ha!! just realized I said that I don't crave a smooth glass of whine… now whining I do a lot of… unfortunately.

  11. 11 Anita Tarlton said at 11:21 am on October 9th, 2009:

    Emily, I don't think Serena is "encouraging" sin at all. I believe she is a shining ray of HOPE for those of us who HAVE made mistakes in the past to know that forgiveness is THERE for the asking.

    Serena, keep shouting that message. More people need to hear you.

    Blessings,

    Anita <

  12. 12 BrotherScott said at 7:08 pm on October 9th, 2009:

    Serena, I wanted to say it's a blessing to read such honest writing. It's too bad that some of the comments don't reflect the same type of honesty, when it's obvious that God is convicting them about something, but their pride is holding them back from receiving any real healing.

  13. 13 Emily said at 7:49 am on October 10th, 2009:

    I think it's funny how you all judge me, yet don't want to be judged for whatever sin you (maybe not all of you, but some of you) seek the comfort of forgiveness for and are so happy that Serena has been writing about this subject of grace for those who have sinned greatly since professing Christ. None of you know me, but we all know some of Serena from what she's shared. This is what I based my comments on. I'm permitted to post my thoughts on Serena's blog just like you, and that is exactly what I did. I'm not prideful for pointing out some inconsistencies in this post–Serena's judgments of others who make personal decisions other than hers—or whoevers' she is referring to. It is not wrong for someone to abstain from certain things because they see it as not beneficial to their walk with God, just like April mentioned about her decision to not drink anymore. I don't have a husband who has gone out & slept with other women, however I know some who have, and it seems to me that Serena is encouraging the attitude of, "I can sin & get by with it, and that sin is inevitable for the Christian". I do not hold that belief. I believe part of Christ's redeeming work was to give us power over sin and we just have a choice to make, day by day, temptation by temptation. Sure, we can still make the wrong choices, but it is still our choice. It seems to me that the conclusion Serena has come to, because of her fall, is that we are all destined to fall, and this is the same thing people all over the United States use to excuse their sinful behavior. I could be wrong, but this is just what seems to be coming across. It is hard to determine exactly what your conclusion is, Serena, from what happened in your marriage, because you weave everything into stories & keep it going & going but we don't see the conclusion yet (well maybe it is in your book—I don't know). You do this very well & are a talented writer & draw people in, but what do you really think? Surely you are aware of people who are professing Christians who repeatedly hurt their families by their sinful choices and then say, "God still loves me. I just screwed up (again)".

    Don't you think God has a higher calling on our lives than this repetitive cycle of sinning again & again? Are you condoning the professing Christian sinning again & again & then just saying, "Well, God forgives me, I'm just a sinner."

    Like I said in my first post, of course there is grace for the sinner who repents and really has a change of heart about their sin and turns away from their sin. But God still calls us to holiness, and that should be our goal.

    "For if we sin wilfully after that we have received the knowledge of the truth, there remaineth no more sacrifice for sins" Hebrews 10:26

    I'm sure there will be nasty comments to follow, and I'm sorry for that.

    Serena, you don't have to post this (of course), but maybe you would at least listen to this for yourself. It's part of a series, so it's not a complete teaching for you, but still may be helpful. God bless you, Serena. Again, I'm sorry for what you went with as a child, and you are right, Jesus was there with you (something I sometimes have a hard time coming to terms with!)

    www dot nogreaterjoy dot org/fileadmin/template/Audio/2005-Calendar-Messages/05_Sin_No_More_7_CD dot mp3

  14. 14 Serena Woods said at 11:46 am on October 10th, 2009:

    Emily,

    Of course you have a right to post anything you want. Even when you disagree with me. When you add your thoughts in the mix, you open yourself up to be disagreed with, too. It comes with the territory. Welcome. 😉

    You're not the first to not like what I have to say or how I write and you won't be the last. I don't set out to make people like me or agree with me. I'm a real person, writing from a real place and my expressions are raw and uncut. I've been writing long before anyone was reading. I'll be writing long after they stop reading. I will continue to be me. Popularity is not by goal. Authenticity is an effective social sieve.

    My goal is to find those who are shivering in the dark being tormented by the demonic voices who are telling them that they went too far and they're lost forever. Ill-informed albeit well intentioned Christians are the worst at feeding their fear and giving the demons the words to use.

    My writing is my art, my expression of moments and thoughts and emotions. I am not trapped in the places I often write about. I write about them because others are. I write about them because it's a freedom inducing therapy.

    You will not find a conclusion because I am not dead. You will find a naked flower dancing to a song in her head when you find me. Songs change with the seasons and you can go with me on my wind powered journey or you can stop reading. It makes no difference to me.

    You took the time to write several concerns. I have addressed them in a new blog post…

    http://www.graceisforsinners.com/life/riddles-and-light/

  15. 15 Sisterlisa said at 3:34 pm on October 10th, 2009:

    Emily,

    I have been reading Serena's blog for some time now and I don't see her as “I can sin & get by with it," but I can testify that some Christians have sinned after coming to Christ, as per your statement of, "and that sin is inevitable for the Christian”

    We're not perfect people and we still make mistakes. Do we want to make them? No of course not. But when we do, Christ still loves us and comforts us while we seek Him for healing and renewal.

  16. 16 Sara Lopez said at 5:37 pm on October 10th, 2009:

    Serena- Something you said in your comment reminded me of this scripture:

    Do you think I speak this strongly in order to manipulate crowds? Or curry favor with God? Or get popular applause? If my goal was popularity, I wouldn't bother being Christ's slave. Galatians 1:10

    You're doing the right thing! I'm glad I found this blog. I've grown so much since. I have found freedom in the truth you share. I can't wait for the next one and the next one and the next one …..


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