God’s Not Fair

God is not fair. Did you know that?

Wait. What? Surely God is fair! Above all things, God is fair.

Not really. God is just. That is for certain. He is a God of justice. You can bank on that. Everyone will get what they deserve. Well… sort of.

But God is not fair. Jesus tells a parable to illustrate and, you can find it in Matthew 20:1-16.

You may already know it…

A wealthy landowner needs workers and he goes to the marketplace to find some. He hires a group in the morning and puts them to work, hiring them at a standard wage. He evidently discovers he needs more workers, and so he goes back to the marketplace and hires some more at midday. He even goes back near the end of the day and hires more workers. As the day ends and it’s time for everyone to be paid, the landowner pays everyone the same amount. Those hired at the emd of the day get paid the same amount as those hired when the day began. Of course the workers hired at the beginning of the day cry bloody murder at the owner’s unfair treatment. They thought they worked more and should be paid more. Sounds fair, right?

Jesus says this is how the Kingdom of God is! Grace is above all things, unfair. It is radical. It is offensive. It makes people angry.

I remember a friend of mine talking about her alcoholic father who mistreated her mother and was a horrible, absentee dad. She had a deep-seeded, seething anger that worked its way into other aspects of her life. She told me one day that she hoped her dad never got saved. She said it just wouldn’t be fair after all he did to her mom, her brother, and herself. He deserved Hell.

She’s right. He does. We all do.

Thank God we serve a God who is not fair.

“All the persons of faith I know are sinners, doubters, uneven performers. We are secure not because we are sure of ourselves but because we trust that God is sure of us.” — Eugene Peterson

Grace Anew?

I love to read. I generally read Christian non-fiction focused on spiritual growth. There are some very popular books out there on the subject and many of the more recent books focus on discipleship and its cost.

The authors eloquently write about self-denial and carrying your Cross as the pathway of discipleship. The assert that we need to crucify self daily. They state that the way of true discipleship is radical, crazy, sold-out devotion to Jesus.

Make no mistake, I agree. Wholeheartedly. Death of self is the way to true, abundant life.

I facilitated a men’s group which studied a couple of these books. They both had DVD curricula and were well-done. The books were very inspirational and motivational. They spurred us all to more. They encouraged us to examine our relatively plush lives and get our priorities straight. We wanted more Jesus. We wanted lives like we had heard about. But after roughly 16 weeks of striving after a higher calling, we were tired and discouraged. The bar had been set so high that it was unattainable. Was this kind of sold-out devotion really possible? We had tried. We had surrendered. Now we weren’t so sure. Looking back, I may have a hint as to the reason why.

The material focused on death of self. We were concentrating of self-denial, carrying our cross, self-discipline, and counting the cost of discipleship (and the cost of non-discipleship). What these books did… what this material did… was put the focus on self. It was designed to do the opposite, but in actuality, put all the impetus on each of us.

What I have experienced recently is a new revelation of God’s love and His grace. I have a new, fresh encounter with the Cross and all that was accomplished there. I am 55 years old and have been a Christian for nearly 20 years. But I am astounded by what I have found. I am amazed by this discovery. I am totally and completely overwhelmed by it. By focusing on Jesus and His finished work on the Cross, I have found that I am completely surrendered… completely devoted… radically sold-out in a crazy way.

Death of self has taken place, but not through any curriculum or book, not through studying more or praying more or fasting (although those are all good things), and not through trying to deny myself. IT JUST HAPPENED! It was a natural byproduct of this discovery of the supernatural, finished work of Jesus. It is an automatic response to His amazing love for me (and you). I didn’t have to try to surrender. There was no striving. I am just completely, totally in love with Jesus. He’s the first person I think of when I awaken. He consumes my thought during the day. He’s who I think of as I go to bed.

The apostle Paul says:

My old self has been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me. So I live in this earthly body by trusting in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. I do not treat the grace of God as meaningless. For if keeping the law could make us right with God, then there was no need for Christ to die. (Galatians 2:20-21)

I’m not sure Christians treat the grace of God as meaningless as Paul says in verse 21. We certainly sing about it enough and talk about it enough. We read about it and we know we are saved by it. But how is it that it can become fresh and new again to me? How is it that I can be totally changed by it all over again… and seemingly more deeply and profoundly!?! Could it be that each of us need to encounter grace all over again? Could it be that we need to see afresh all that was done on the Cross and experience His grace and love anew?

The Only Equation That Matters

I’m a control-freak. I know it. I don’t like it, but I know it. I prefer to think that I like my life “structured”. It’s manageable. It’s predictable. It’s controllable that way (oops, there’s that word).

I like mathematics, too. I like equations. I didn’t do well in algebra, but I still like equations. I especially like the equal sign. I like the fact that 2a + b = c, or whatever the equation happens to be.

I like science, too. I like cause and effect. If _______ happens, then ________ happens. It helps predict how things will work. Again, it’s something I can control and manage. And I like it. Did I mention that?

I was informed several years ago that children of alcoholics like highly structured lifestyles. I am a child of an alcoholic (actually of two) and I’m living proof that is true. Experts says that because the alcoholic’s life is so unpredictable and sometimes volatile and chaotic, their children crave structure and predictability. My dad was a good provider but had a volatile temper (it’s where I get mine) and the only thing you could really predict growing up was that he would have plenty to drink. My mom loved me very much, but after my parent’s divorce, would drink herself to sleep. Again, that was one thing you COULD count on.

So fast forward to adulthood and I’m a control-freak. In some ways I like that: I’m organized, I’m prepared, and I’m a planner. In some ways I don’t like it: when things are chaotic or noisy, it drives me crazy. Really crazy.

This carries over into my spiritual life. Again, I want predictability. I crave structure. I like Bible-reading plans. In January, I just finished one. I like the “spiritual disciplines”. They are structured and are designed to help train you in righteousness. However, to me, self-discipline becomes self-righteousness. My thought process becomes: “If I pray enough (or properly) or read enough or serve enough, then I become righteous, or more righteous.” It’s cause-and-effect, right? That’s why I can be legalistic. If I do ______, then I know where I stand with God. It helps me measure. It helps me predict. Worse yet, it makes me think I know where others stand with God. It makes me measure. It makes me predict.

However, I’ve discovered something that you probably already know. At least we THINK we know it. It’s this: There’s nothing else you need to add to the shed blood of Jesus Christ to get right with God or be right with God. Nothing. He is everything you need to be righteous. He is everything you need to be holy. The spiritual disciplines of prayer, fasting, Bible reading, meditation, giving, and so forth help you know God more. They are means of growing the character of Jesus within you. They are not “Five Easy Steps to Righteousness.” They are not the things you MUST do in order to grow in Christ. Instead, they are things you feel compelled, called or drawn to do once you realize everything that Jesus has given you. There IS a difference.

It is radical. God’s grace and His love are radical. Once you experience them — REALLY experience — you will be transformed. They have the power to break every chain that binds. They have the power to set the captive free. His grace and love have the power to heal every wound. They have the power to restore and heal marriages and relationships. They bring amazing freedom. God’s grace is radical.

God’s grace is EVERYTHING. That is the Good News.

Here’s an equation to remember: JESUS + NOTHING = EVERYTHING.*

*Although I’ve never met him, I owe a debt of thanks to Pastor Tullian Tchividjian for a book entitled by that equation and for another book, One Way Love: God’s inexhaustible Grace for an Exhausted World. God has used them to set me and so many others free in so many ways. Check them out HERE or visit Liberate.org.