Category Archives: Evangelism

I AM is With Us

Last night, our small group (Outpost) was studying John 9.  In this chapter, there is a man born blind, who receives his sight when Jesus makes mud out of spit and dirt, puts it on the man’s eyes and tells him to wash in pool of Siloam.  Upon receiving sight, the Jewish leaders are incensed.  They peppered him with questions, and he answered them all.  Not believing this man, they called the parents.  The parents confirmed that he was their son and that he was born blind, but they would not go any further than that.  You see, the leaders had already vowed to throw any confessor out of the synagogue.

We tend to not have the right idea of synagogues.  We tend to look at them as places of worship.  They were more like places of learning, but they were much more than that.  Synagogue is a combination of two Greek words that means “gather together.” This was a place of gathering.  It was a place of learning, but also very much like a community center.  Being kicked out of the synagogue was practically being kicked out of the community.  Thus for the parents to confess Jesus meant giving up everything–a cost too great to bear.

However, the man born blind–now healed–did not hesitate to confess Jesus.  In fact, while not knowing exactly who (or what) Jesus was, he got a bit snarky with the Jewish leaders.  “He answered them, ‘I have told you already, and you would not listen.  Why do you want to hear it again? Do you also want to become his disciples,” (John 9:27, ESV)?  What boldness!  I’m not saying whether or not the snarkiness was necessary, but one cannot help but see that there is a stark contrast between parents and child.  The healed man defended Jesus to the leaders, until: “They answered him, ‘You were born in utter sin, and would you teach us?’ And they cast him out” (John 9:34, ESV).

This man gave up all he had known for the sake of Jesus.  He was an outcast because he confessed Christ.  What courage!  But here is the most interesting part of all: “Jesus heard that they had cast him out, and having found him he said, “Do you believe in the Son of Man,” (John 9:35, ESV)?  Jesus heard that the man was cast out and went searching for him.  Jesus would not abandon the one who confessed his name before man.

It is so easy to allow the threat (real or imagined) of becoming an outcast to dictate what we say, and Who we confess.  We don’t want to be shunned at next year’s Thanksgiving dinner.  We don’t want to be the one person at work that no one will talk to.  We don’t want to lose a friend or be the “Ned Flanders” of the neighborhood.  But we have the promise, “And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age,” (Matthew 28:20b, ESV).

Seven times, in the book of John, Jesus declared Himself as the I AM.  In John 9, Jesus reiterated what he had already stated in John 8: “As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world,” (John 9:5, ESV; cf. John 8:12).  Jesus made this statement in connection with the healing of this blind man.  When the man became an outcast, the “I AM” found him.  If we too will face the fear of being an outcast, we will find the beauty and peace that comes with the presence of Jesus in a way we never thought possible.  The I AM is with us always, even to the end of the age.  Let us never fear being outcast since it only brings us nearer to the I AM.

Prodigal Grace

Prodigal is often seen in a bad light as we see with the parable of the prodigal son.  We generally use the word to mean wasteful, which it generally is, but it also can and often does mean lavish.  As we read the story of the prodigal son, we see both the negative and the positive.  I am not sure why I have not ever seen the second and only the first before, but that’s how meditation tends to work.  When you think deeply on God’s Word you may in fact get more than you bargain for.  Of course, I say that knowing we must be careful not to make Scriptures say what they never intended to say in the first place.  I do not believe that my “discovery” does that at all.  If you read and disagree, by all means let me know (just do so respectfully).

Most of us will probably know the story of the prodigal son.  Jesus told the story of a son who asked his father for his share of his inheritance.  He couldn’t be bothered with waiting for his dear old dad to die, he wanted his money now.  Surprisingly his father gave it.  The son then went to town and painted it red as long as his money lasted, but when it ran out so did his supposed friends.  He was left penniless and without food.  He found a job feeding pigs–something no self-respecting Jew would do as they were unclean.  He got so hungry that he began to desire the slop the pigs ate.  Jesus said, “When he came to his senses, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired hands have more than enough food, and here I am dying of hunger!  I’ll get up, go to my father, and say to him, Father, I have sinned against heaven and in your sight.  I’m no longer worthy to be called your son.  Make me like one of your hired hands’,” (Luke 15:17-19, HCSB).

We generally use the word to mean wasteful, which it generally is, but it also can and often does mean lavish.  As we read the story of the prodigal son, we see both the negative and the positive.

That was the plan.  Go home, repent, ask to be a hired.  As he approached, his father ran to hug and kiss him, and as he began his prepared speech, the father ordered a ring, a robe, and a reception for him.  What I love is that the only part of the speech that was able to be stated was the repentance part: “The son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and in your sight.  I’m no longer worthy to be called your son’,” (Luke 15:21, HCSB).  There is no sign of working off the debt.  While there is repentance, there is no penitence.  There was only a feast to be had.  This is prodigal grace! It is lavish grace!

Most of us would want the person to “make up” for what they’ve done to us.  We want them to prove they’re sorry.  Saying it simply isn’t enough.  Most of us would see that ingrate walking up and think in our hearts, here he comes, crawling back because he squandered his money.  He’s just wanting to use me.  Guess I’m not so loathsome to you after all.  None of that is said or felt with the father in this story.  He is simply rejoicing and lavishing grace upon the son who was dead and is now alive.  No repayment needed.

While there is repentance, there is no penitence.  There was only a feast to be had.  This is prodigal grace! It is lavish grace!

So it is with God.  We are in debt to God beyond compare.  Forget about being in debt up to our eyeballs; we’re in debt into eternity.  No amount of good works can pay for what we have done.  God isn’t asking for that either.  He’s not asking or requiring penitence.  He isn’t requiring the sacrifice. “You do not want a sacrifice, or I would give it; You are not pleased with a burnt offering.  The sacrifice pleasing to God is a broken spirit.  God, You will not despise a broken and humbled heart,” (Psalm 51:16-17, HCSB).  Notice that this was the posture of the prodigal son upon his return.  But also notice that the prodigal son didn’t stay in such a posture.  Though, surprised by the prodigal grace of the father, he readily accepted it, received the ring and robe, and joined in the celebration.

Yes, we’ve sinned. Yes, we should be ashamed of it and repent of it.  But then we should accept that we have a gracious God, not just a gracious God, but a God of prodigal grace.  Receive it and relish in it.  Rejoice and celebrate that sin is forgiven and the debt is no longer held against us, those who are in Christ Jesus.  “Therefore, no condemnation now exists for those in Christ Jesus,” (Romans 8:1, HCSB).  However, if you are outside of Christ, you are currently outside of the celebration and so outside such prodigal grace, though invited if you will come.

Yes, we’ve sinned. Yes, we should be ashamed of it and repent of it.  But then we should accept that we have a gracious God, not just a gracious God, but a God of prodigal grace.  Receive it and relish in it.

Once again, I invite your comments.  I only ask you to be civil.  You can disagree with me and I will still publish your comments as long as they are respectful.  If you enjoyed the blog, please share it.