Repentance and Grace

Life Notes—August 25, 2011

“Then Jesus told his disciples, ‘If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.  For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will find it.  For what will it profit them if they gain the whole world but forfeit their life?  Or what will they give in return for their life?’”  Matthew 16:24-26

My 9th grade English teacher, Mr. McKinney, was an intimidating man.  A typical first impression was of a gruff, demanding, humorless man who hated kids, especially 9th graders.  Everything with Mr. McKinney was either 100% right or 100% wrong.  Each day we had a writing assignment to do on the blackboard, in front of the class.  At the end of each assignment we had to write, “I have checked this.”  We would receive either an “A” for perfect work, or an “F” for a misspelled word, incorrect punctuation or any other grammatical sin that proved we had, in fact, not checked our work.  After the first eleven days of class I had received eleven consecutive F’s.  Before school on the 12th day I trembled in to see Mr. McKinney, confessing that without his help I would flunk 9th grade English.  In that moment, after I humbling myself and admitting my need, he transformed into a kind and caring figure, more like a loving grandfather than the teacher from Hell.  He led me through each failed assignment, coached me through my mistakes, had me sign “I have checked this,” and changed every F to an A.  I had been redeemed! 

In the passage above, Jesus gives his disciples some confounding and very ‘black and white’ instructions as he prepares them for his impending death.  Those who want to follow Jesus must deny themselves.  Those who want to save their life must lose it.  There is no compromise in those lines, just as there was no compromise with Mr. McKinney.  He wanted committed students.  Jesus wants committed followers. 

I confess, I can be a lazy Christian.  I try to follow Christ to a point, but when it becomes too uncomfortable or embarrassing or otherwise unpleasant, I often wimp out.  I skip a comma here or miss a quotation mark there, then affirm “I have checked this” so I can move on with my life.  I feel certain, if Jesus were grading me as I deserve, I would receive mostly F’s.  You see, I cannot measure up to Christ; but that is no excuse to stop trying.  In retrospect, Mr. McKinney taught more than English, he taught repentance and grace.  When we humble ourselves before our God, confessing our shortcomings, our F’s are erased and replaced by A’s.  It is called Grace, and it is a gift. 

Tom is preaching downtown this Sunday, where Life worship is at 10:00 in Brady Hall.  Traditional worship is at 8:30 and 11:00.  Mitch will be at the west campus where contemporary worship is at 9:00 and 11:00.  His sermon title, based on Exodus 3:1-15, is “What are you waiting for? A Sign from God?” 

Come home to church this Sunday.  Humble pie is best when eaten with others…

Greg Hildenbrand, Life Music Coordinator

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