As I looked out at the sea of people in our service on Sunday morning, I noticed that there seemed to be two kinds of people most prevalent amongst our FCCers this week -- those who were excited and enthusiastic and greeting one another with warm hugs and huge smiles, and those who looked like they hadn’t slept since the Carter administration.
Now, I know that a large part of that was that we held our annual Youth Lock-In on Saturday, and none of those people got to bed until roughly 3:00 in the morning. It’s hard to be exuberant when you’ve only gotten four or five hours of sleep the night before! But they all said that they’d had a moving time of prayer and worship, as well as a lot of fun together building a stronger sense of community, so I can’t blame them much. They even played a game where Sara sent teams out into the neighborhoods around the church with a penny and the instructions to keep trading for something “bigger or better” -- and the team who returned with the best or biggest thing won. One team came back with an awesome framed puzzle of Oreos and milk. Another came back with a working, commercial-grade coffee maker for the church (and Kristi was very happy, since the existing one was on its last legs). The third team came back with a human being and her dog.
Guess who won?
It’s amazing how you can start with something that is so small and end up with things that are so impressive -- and how much fun everyone (including the neighbors) can have in the process. It’s so easy to exceed the expectations that you walk into the game with.
We talked a little bit about that in our message this week, as we continued looking at things about God that can make people struggle to want to follow Him. Last week, we talked about how everything we do is important, and about how we should consciously work to worship God in every aspect of our lives -- so this week, we looked at how God can seem like He’s asking too much of us. I mean, it’s like He expects us to be perfect!
Actually, He really is. Jesus was fairly clear in Matthew 5 that He truly expected us to follow not only God’s Law, but the heart behind the Law in everything we do. At the end of the chapter, Christ called us to be perfect, even as the Father is perfect. See, it’s not “good” people who get into Heaven, but “perfect” people.
But then, people like Solomon and Isaiah and the Psalmists and Peter and Paul all make really good arguments about how no one is ever perfect, no one is ever without sin. The only person who pulled that off through their entire life was Jesus. So isn’t it unfair for God to expect us to be perfect?
No and yes.
No, it’s totally fair because “perfect” is what He designed, created, and sculpted us to be. But yes, it’s totally unfair because the only way to save us from our sins was for someone sinless to come in to wash what we never could (if our righteousness is like filthy rags, then there’s no way that they could ever wipe a window clean -- it would take a clean cloth with no spot or blemish to accomplish that), and Jesus was the only one qualified to do that. It’s totally unfair because it’s unfair to God Himself to have to pay for what we’ve screwed up in our lives.
But that’s the nature of the Gospel message, isn’t it? That through His perfect grace (His unearned favor), God freely gives to us a gift that cost Him so dearly on the cross.
So though it’s tempting to say, “God expects too much of us!” we really have to recognize that He only asks of us what He designed us to do in the first place... and when we screw that up (as we always do), He’s always faithful to fill in what we’re lacking with His own blood.
Praise God for being so lovingly unfair with us...