Imagine yourself at an evening, outdoor wedding reception. You know… the ginormous white tent, crisp table linens, fragrant flower centerpieces, little white lights strung across the ceiling, and a DJ who is fully eager to assault your eardrums with any song that has ever been recorded. (Definitely, The Isley Brothers singing ‘Shout’ is in the queue.) Now, imagine sometime during the evening, it begins to rain. Strangely, even though everyone knows the tent will keep them perfectly dry, they each (including you), pull out an umbrella and raise it, knowing full well that the tent is solid and not leaky. You never know…. maybe the tent won’t be adequate. I’ll raise my umbrella anyway… just to be safe.
Not only would this scenario look hilariously ridiculous, but it would be totally unnecessary, right? Maybe not….if people believe that the tent won’t hold and therefore, won’t fully protect them. Then, and only then, would they be convinced that an umbrella would serve to give them additional protection, just to be extra-sure.
We all may think the umbrella scenario sounds totally silly because we’d certainly never be so obsessive. Think again. We do behave and think like this, as we live under God’s sufficient tent of saving grace for those who believe. We create unnecessary safeguards for insurance to protect ourselves from God’s displeasure. We jockey for assurance of our acceptance by Him, just in case His saving grace isn’t enough. Just like the umbrellas did in the tent…we attempt to make good use of our Umbrella Policy against soul-condemning liability.
A little history….Do you remember in John 19:30, as Jesus was hanging on the cross before his impending death, that he uttered the familiar last words, “It is finished?” He knew His death was imminent. However, his words weren’t casually referring to the fact that He was going to stop breathing. His statement was declaring the fact that His death would be the means of God’s sufficient grace (as a tent) to cover our sin, and that a right relationship with God would be established for us by His sacrifice. As a result, no longer would we be judged by our Maker according to how far we’ve fallen from keeping the perfect requirements of the Law. Jesus is the One who accomplished all of that for us…. it was finished by the perfect sacrifice of Himself. We would no longer need to offer all the required sacrifices to appease God’s wrath. We would no longer need to worry about our acceptability to God…. nothing more would be needed for cover. We can now rest in the sufficient accomplishment of the Cross, which no longer requires any attempts at “extra credit” or “brownie points” to please God. Christ knew God’s tent of grace would cover all who are in Him, and our relationship would be secure forever. Because of this, we no longer would need to worry about our position before God.
Nevertheless, we may think, “I need to do this so that God will be happier with me,” or “I need to do this so that I can make sure I’m safe with God,” or “I need to do this in order to make up for the wrong that I did last week.” In other words, adding anything to the freeing grace of the Cross, is raising an umbrella up for extra protection, just in case Jesus’ death wasn’t enough. Not only is this biblically untrue, but it minimizes what Christ accomplished through His sacrifice. It diminishes the full impact of what He suffered for our sake. When we add something to grace, it says, “I need to complete what Jesus didn’t.” It says, “I believe Jesus needs to be re-crucified in order to correct what failed the first time.” It says, “Jesus needs me to complete my acceptability because my position before God is shaky and uncertain.” How sad. We keep ourselves hopelessly enslaved to the requirements of the Law, and don’t experience the release of being set free.
Jesus eternally satisfied the requirements of God’s law by his death. He was the perfect sacrifice; the Lamb of God. Our attempts to establish a more acceptable position before God, as our judge, are in vain. We have been cleared of our guilt of rebellion against God, and no longer need to be fearful that our Maker will require more. The debt has been paid, and our attempts at “insurance” add nothing.
Let’s look at some of the umbrellas we still attempt to raise all during the week (for extra insurance). Do you think your relationship with God in Christ is more secure when you: go to church, read your Bible, have devotions, volunteer or are employed in a ministry, increase your tithe, go to a Bible Study, or pray more often? These things are spiritual in nature and are God-honoring, but have absolutely nothing to do with your acceptability before Him. Did you know that He loves you no more, and no less, whether you do them or not? Actually, the motivation to do these things should come from the heart, as a response to His saving grace, not as a means to an end. They are attitudes and behaviors that are indicative of our thankfulness and need for Him.
I recently attempted to “raise an umbrella” for extra credit that will hopefully serve to illustrate my point. I had to go to traffic court a few months ago. I had received a ticket for an expired registration sticker on my car. (I nicely pled with the police officer for mercy. Sadly, my tears did nothing but make my mascara run.) Anyway, I appeared in court nicely dressed, thinking the judge would be more lenient if I didn’t show up in flip flops and shorts. Much to my surprise, several people who had committed the same kind of traffic violation as I, were there in clothing which caused me to think, Yikes! Does your mother know what you’re wearing!!? Eventually, my fellow drivers-in-crime and I were called up front to the bench. Okay, Janice, stand up straight, and look contrite. The judge proceeded to go through the list of us offenders one by one, routinely questioning each, “Have you now registered your vehicle? If so, your court cost will be $63.50.” What?? I thought, “Your Honor, surely, you don’t understand… I wore these stinkin’ panty hose just so I’d look more acceptable to you. Do you have ANY idea what a sacrifice that is? Are you saying that even though that other group looks like they’ve been on an all-night drinking binge, they’re just as acceptable to you? They obviously didn’t make any effort to impress you!” I was incredibly shocked and irritated by the fact that it seemed to make no difference to the judge whether or not I had made any attempt, by my attire, for extra insurance. I was no more acceptable to the judge than they, and they hadn’t done anything! The judge had made it crystal clear that the only thing which satisfied the requirements of the law was to have a current registration and to pay a court fee. Period. No attempt on my part to establish a better position before the judge was necessary. It possibly may have been more respectful of me to appear before the judge by dressing up, but only because it was his courtroom, thereby, making a statement of my respect for his position. Likewise, do you think your position before God will be strengthened by your healthy respect, or clean living, or choices that are pleasing to Him? It’s interesting that we often think of God as a courtroom judge whose verdict of grace or no grace is affected by our violations of behavior or misdeeds.
Interestingly, of the twenty-seven books in the New Testament, almost two-thirds of the greetings by the writers include the words “grace” and “peace” in the same sentence. This isn’t a literary accident. The writers consistently joined those words at the same time because one word cannot exist without the other. In every case, this kind of peace has nothing to do with our feelings. The intent wasn’t meant to confer a wish for the recipients to have a nice day. The Greek word used here for “peace” has everything to do with an event in history where believers were now joined into a new relationship with God. We were set at one again with Him through Christ. The grace of the Cross accomplished peace with Him, and we can’t make it more or less effective by our deeds or misdeeds. Grace and peace don’t ebb and flow just because we may not feel at peace with God. (That’s a subject for another day.) Jesus didn’t die for our feelings… He died to make peace with God for our souls.
One last thing…. it sort of begs the question, “Then, why try to do anything mentioned in the Ten Commandments? If our position is eternally secure, and if we can’t keep the perfect Law anyway, why bother?” The answer to that one comes from our heart. We don’t do good deeds and ministry because it will get us something…we do them as a response to the love of God, in Christ. Good deeds come from a heart that is over-flowing with thankfulness. I challenge you to think of why you do or don’t do things which please God. If you’re spiritually lazy, or too busy, or simply have presumed that God’s grace has you covered, then ask the Holy Spirit to awaken your heart to the grace and mercy of the Cross.
Turn Around. Put your umbrellas in the closet. In Galatians 2:21, Paul says, “I do not set aside the grace of God, for if righteousness could be gained through (keeping) the law, Christ died for nothing!” God doesn’t need any help to keep us dry….His grace poured out, and He supplied the tent that will keep us eternally safe. Fellow believer, grace and peace to you!