"Now when they heard this, they were pierced to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, 'Brethren, what shall we do?'  And Peter said to them, 'Repent, and let each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of sins....' " Acts 2:37-38...."Now Saul, still breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord.......heard a voice saying to him, 'Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me?' " Acts 9:1,4......"Grace begins with a crisis.  It cannot be understood apart from a clear recognition that we need it desperately.....Contrary to the popular image of Jesus as thoroughly benign and accommodating, He speaks the painful truth.  And sometimes that truth is incredibly humbling......No redeemed persons are spared from the knowledge of their offenses before God, because it is only in that knowledge that we can stand in His grace.  It is harsh, yes, but behind the harshness is the love that brings us to Him."  Chris Tiegreen
     I know that's a lengthy opening, but I was struck this morning by the words of Tiegreen in my quiet time with Him.  Something has been happening in the church for quite a while now, and that is an ever deepening misunderstanding of His saving grace. Somehow we have watered everything down to a kind of "no-guilt" salvation.  Don't misunderstand.  I believe completely in the fact that there is NO condemnation for those who are in Christ.  But to be in Christ, there has to come to everyone that spiritual crisis that Tiegreen writes of.  One doesn't need a degree in theology for this to happen.  For me, that crisis happened in the dining room of the home I grew up in.  I'd been attending a small church plant for several weeks, hearing the "Good News" as the gospel is called, and it was good news.  But it was a news that, as Acts 2 related, pierced my heart.  I had absolutely no biblical knowledge, but I had "knowledge" that I desperately needed this Jesus I had been hearing about. I knew I was inadequate in myself to come out of the mire of my sin.  I knew that I was lost, and I desperately wanted to be found.  In truth, until we know that we're really lost, how can we be truly found?  How can we be saved?
     Francis Chan wrote that "Nowhere in the Bible does it say that if you pray a prayer, you'll be saved."  He's right.  Salvation doesn't come about because we prayed a prayer, went to an altar, or raised our hand in response to an invite to Christ.  It comes to the heart that is made aware of it's poverty in itself, and it's powerlessness to change that, and is then made aware that the only way out of that place is Jesus Christ.  By His grace, and only by His grace are our eyes opened to see our need.  By His grace alone are we granted His repentance which is a yielding up of our will and way to Him, and a determination to now walk in His.....by grace alone.  This is a knowledge that is, as Tiegreen says, harsh.  It is a knowledge and truth that as Acts 2 relates, pierces our hearts and being.  It hurts.  Indeed, it hurts our flesh to death, and in that harshness, pain, piercing, we discover His saving, transforming love.  As His Word says, "There is no other name (Jesus) by which we must be saved." There is also no other way than this way, which is His way.  
    Saul of Taursus believed he was serving God as he sought to destroy the followers of Christ.  He thought he was in the right spiritual place. His encounter with the risen Christ on the Damascus Road pierced his heart and mind with the truth of where he truly was....lost, and living against Christ.  It knocked him to the ground, and then He who was Truth, lifted him into a life of truth. A life that transformed Saul the enemy of Christ, to Paul, the apostle of Christ's heart.  There was nothing benign or accommodating in how Christ dealt with the crowd in Acts 2, or 
with Paul on the way to Damascus.  There will be none with you or me, or anyone else as well.  His truth will make us free, but only after its piercing light has broken through every wall and obstacle our flesh has erected to keep it out.  It starts with the truth of who He is, and not who we have wished Him to be.  Has this truth pierced our hearts?  If so, will we be His vessels of truth that it may now pierce others through us? Or, do we really prefer that benign, accommodating Jesus?

Blessings,
Pastor O 
 
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