Last night at our Ground Zero youth meeting was a spectacular night! When the Holy Spirit moves, you have to flow right along with Him. Just before the service God gave me a new message and made it a participatory one. We started out by taking all the good things we’ve done in our lives and making a list. Things that we have actually acted out, not good things that have happened to us. Examples might be volunteer at a hospital, feed the homeless — acts of services. Then we did just the opposite. We made a list of all the bad stuff we have done — acted out. Stuff we are not proud of. None of us had difficult time thinking of things there. The last list we made was things we do to fill our time. Things you wouldn’t classify as good or bad, just things we do. This was another list that was easy to come up with.
Each of the lists was for the author’s eyes only. No one got to see someone else’s lists.
After all the lists were complete, I asked the group to take the last list, the one that was just stuff we do and lump it in the the “bad stuff” list. After I said that items on this list (for the most part) contained things that were selfish and driven by our need to satisfy our own desires and not meant for glorifying God, most of the youth agreed and said that those thing really do belong with the bad stuff list.
Then came the request that got a chin-dropped, wide-eyed, look of “are you crazy?” stare. I asked then to take all the good stuff, the things that make us puff our spiritual chest out, and with confidence know that God is proud of us for doing. Don’t get me wrong, He absolutely is proud of us for action in His service, but when we compare our goodness with His… well, we get Isaiah 64:6:
We have all become like one who is unclean,
and all our righteous deeds are like a polluted garment.
We all fade like a leaf,
and our iniquities, like the wind, take us away.
(Isaiah 64:6 ESV)
We just can’t compare our goodness to His. Our goodness/righteousness really is like a “polluted garment.” Again, after the youth heard this familiar verse, they shook their heads yes in agreement.
But then came the best part — unmerited favor — grace. We took all the lists and shredded them up and destroyed them. God doesn’t keep lists. He doesn’t count how many time we sin. He casts them as far as the East is from the West. If we accept His grace in Christ and Him as our Savior, God does not see polluted garments. He sees His Son.
As I look at the words “unmerited favor,” I can’t help but think after receiving this unbelievable gift that cost Christ everything, “How could you ever sin again?” But, then I think of Paul’s words “I do what I would not and would what I do not.” Or John’s words, “If anyone says he has no sin, he is a liar.” So I have to answer the self imposed question with a resounding “No matter how much I don’t want to, I will sin.” Again, I have to also say, I will repent and turn to my Father, towards the light. That is grace. I won’t sin so that grace will abound, but I will allow the grace of Christ to abound when it does happen.
And… I won’t keep a list!