Do you remember the old catchy tune that goes, “If you’re happy and you know it then your face will surely show it, if you’re happy and you know it, clap your hands.” Well, Pastor Steve Brown did a little remix of this childhood classic, and it goes something like this, “If you’re a sinner and you know it, then your life should surely show it, own it, and use it for the glory of God.”
When I first heard Dr. Brown sing that song, I thought he might’ve drank a little too much “somethin’ somethin’” before he went up to preach at the pulpit. I mean, why on earth would I want anyone to see my nasty, dirty, ugly sin? I thought Christians were supposed to brag about how they sin less and less every day, and how they no longer need to hear the juvenile Gospel message because they finally got their “crap together.” Honestly, I’d much rather take the easy way out and hide my insecurities and flaws behind a false Christian persona who utters things like, “Bless your heart dear child, praise Jesus, glory hallelujah, the sun is shining and the birds are singing hymns, amen.” (Add southern accent for full effect.)
This week I have been reading through the book of Romans in the New Testament. That book gives the legalist in me anxiety. It was written for (you guessed it) the Romans, and it was written by the apostle Paul, a law abiding Jew and murderer of Christians who seemed to have everything going for him according to the world’s standards. That is, until Jesus met him on a journey, wrecked his world completely, and put it back together a hundred times more beautifully. Let me tell you why this letter from Paul makes me cringe. To sum it all up, Paul explains that God’s finger of judgement, righteousness, and wrath, the finger that was pointed directly at me, has been redirected. That finger now points directly at Jesus. Everything I deserved, Jesus got. The punishment, the hate, the death, the persecution. All of it. Jesus freely and willingly took my place on God’s judgement stool, and because of that, my debt to the King of King’s is completely satisfied. Because Jesus acted on my behalf as a substitute, I have life, forgiveness, and freedom.
I haven’t told you guys this yet, but… I’m an outlaw.
I don’t live by the law, because I can’t keep the law. Ask my mom, she’ll tell you first hand. I break the ten commandments every day, I sin in my sleep, and I have a tendency to yell profanities out of my car window when I drive (If you live in Miami or South Africa, you should be able to sympathize.) I am rebellious, I want to do the exact opposite of what I’m told to do, and I like to be in control. So, needless to say, the book of Romans doesn’t exactly sit well with my human nature because I can’t justify or fix myself. My need to punish myself for bad behavior gets nullified and tossed out the window. I’ll give you a quick taste of what I mean:
Romans 3:20 says, “For no one can ever be made right with God by doing what the law commands. The law simply shows us how sinful we are.”
But then Romans 3:27 says, “Can we boast, then, that we have done anything to be accepted by God? No, because our acquittal is not based on obeying the law. It is based on faith. So we are made right with God through faith and not by obeying the law.”
And finally Romans 8:1 says, “So now there is no condemnation of those who belong to Christ Jesus.”
So what does this have to do with “owning my sin and clapping my hands?” Well, when I try to appear good, I actually cheapen God’s grace. The greater a sinner I reveal myself to be, the more amazing God’s grace becomes. God is glorified when I stop trying to be like God, and I start being honest about my need for God. I mean, look at Paul. The guy was a cold-blooded murderer, and yet, God loved him and chose him to preach the good news everywhere. Who better to do the job of sharing God’s grace with the world than the undeserving guy who called himself the “chief of sinners!” If anyone understood the life changing power of mercy and grace, it was Paul.
So, it’s Easter season and, to be honest, I didn’t celebrate “lent” because it would have turned into another legalistic rule following game that could have ended in one of two different ways: I screw up and feel guilty that I didn’t last 40 days with my sacrifice of choice, or I would have had an ego trip for lasting 40 days without messing up my sacrificial promise to God. Either way, it would have had nothing to do with Jesus and everything to do with me. I am also a firm believer of purposing to give 365 days of my life to the Lord instead of just allotting Him 40 “really good ones.” (But it’s a heart issue, and I digress.)
Thinking about this season, I am reminded of one of the men who was nailed next to Jesus on the cross. He wasn’t baptized, he didn’t receive any of the sacraments, He didn’t go to church, He never attended a bible study, He didn’t have a checklist of good deeds or accomplishments, He didn’t do a penance, He didn’t evangelize or save thousands of non-Christians…
He just believed in his heart that Jesus was Lord and he was saved.
Just like that. On the spot. Right before he died.
The man deserved to die by crucifixion. He was a criminal and he messed up big time, but Jesus, while being wrongly accused and tortured on the cross, accepted and loved that man beside Him without any hesitation. The forgiveness wasn’t earned, but Jesus poured it out him anyways. That’s grace.
Grace is reckless, it’s unfair, it’s unlimited, it’s unbiased, and it’s unconditional.
But most importantly… it’s free.
When I die, more than anything, I want to be known as an imperfect girl who lived according to that saving grace and shared it freely with the world.
So I end with the wise words of Dr. Steve Brown, “If you’re a sinner and you know it, then your life should surely show it, own it, and use it for the glory of God.”