I love the passage in I Peter where he takes it, not only from what is done in the past, but he begins to help us focus toward the future in an orientation. And in verse 13, he says, “Therefore, prepare your minds for action, be self-controlled.” Then, I love this, “Set your hope, set your hope fully on the grace to be given you when Jesus Christ is revealed.”
You set your hope on grace. Not, If I do this, and if I do that, and if I try really hard, and if I do this, and if I do that. I set my hope on God’s grace.
I love a quote by Tozer in, I think, his most classic book, The Knowledge of the Holy. He says, “No one has ever been saved other than by grace, from Abel to the present moment. Since mankind was banished from the eastward Garden, none has ever returned to the divine favor except through the sheer goodness of God. And wherever grace is found in any man it has always been by Jesus Christ. Grace indeed came by Jesus Christ, but it did not wait until His birth in the manger or His death on the cross before it became operative.
“Christ is the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world. The first man in human history to be reinstated in fellowship with God came through faith in Christ. In olden times men looked forward to Christ’s redeeming work; in latter times they gazed back upon it, but always they come and they come by grace, through faith.”
Let me ask you: How do we pass this radical, radical concept on in a performance oriented world to those we care about most? I think the first step is for you to write in your name. In my notes, it says: I, Chip Ingram, choose to believe that, with God, my failure is never final. I choose to believe, that’s not an emotion, I choose to believe that with God, my failure as a parent is never final. My failure as a pastor is never final. My failure as a friend is never final. My failure, morally, is never final. My failure with regard to neglect in the past is never final. It’s powerful. It’s grace.
Now, let’s talk about: How do you experience that? Let me give you three specific ways. First, encourage them, whether it’s a fellow you’re discipling, a young woman, one of your grandkids, encourage them to meditate on the lives of David and Peter. Murderer, adulterer, and betrayer who are among God’s most beloved and mightily used servants.
Did you ever wonder? Some people wonder, Is this really God’s Word? Can you really trust it? Did God really write this? The many authors over sixteen hundred years and all the alignment and all the archeology, and all those are great reasons, but I’ve got news for you. No man would ever write such a self-revealing book and allow the heroes of the story to be so messed up.
You don’t have that in any mythology. Think of this. The deliverer of Egypt, the one who brings us the Ten Commands, oh yeah, murderer. Mmm, ack, kind of messed up that day.
David, the greatest king, the writer of the Psalms, oh, adultery, murderer. Ooh boy. The apostle Paul – the greatest mind of a century – wrote thirteen books in the New Testament. Murderer. Why? Rahab: prostitute. James, John: anger management issues. The other Judas, he was a terrorist! We read it in the Bible like, you know, he was a…
He was a terrorist! He was trying to overthrow the government, get a band of people to take it over, physically, and kill people and take over Rome. He was a terrorist!
Matthew: crook! He was an embezzler. He was a dirty, little crook! Wiping people for their money. This is God’s dream team! And we have the audacity to say, “Well, God could never forgive me. I don’t think He could ever use me.” Are you kidding?
I remember I had not read the Bible growing up at all. And I remember probably after a year or so and dealing with all the stuff that I had to deal with and just sort of a naïve thought, I thought, You know, I’ve not killed anybody. I think God could use me! Because so far, the people that are used the most, they have all at least killed someone. I’m thinking, How much worse could it be than that?
And with your kids, they are going to fail. And our unconscious, works mentality that we will pass on is the blackboard in the sky message.
Now, does it mean that there’s not consequences for sin? Absolutely not. Does it mean you don’t discipline? Absolutely not. But I will tell you what. We can pass on, Oh, Jesus died for you. He loves you, He rose from the dead, you need to put your faith in Him because I want to feel really good about us being in heaven and all that stuff. And then raise them and your disciples in way that, basically, your love is conditional. They get good marks on the one side of the board and bad marks on the other side and when they do good, you’re affectionate and caring, and when they don’t, you back away.
And part of that is we have to tell stories, we have to tell the stories of Peter, more than walking on the water, and saying, “You are the Christ,” and talk about what goes in a human heart to betray the person who loves you the most? What happens in people who really, really are good people and love God that they start getting deceived and then they lie and then they commit sexual acts and then they cover it up and then they commit murder and then they go into denial and then they lie about it and the web that occurs.
And how did God treat people who blew it that badly? He caused some loving consequences and He restored and loved and used them. Some people think, Oh, God could never use me now. I’m thinking, Peter did okay. And I don’t think there is a more grievous sin to God than betraying Him.
We need to meditate, we need to think about, we need to tell, not just the Bible stories where they are heroes, but let’s peel back some of the layers and talk about where they blew it and make it into real life and talk about that pastor that we all know who fell, morally, with a little bit different spirit. And maybe assume that it was a good man in a weak moment.
And maybe talk about, You know, in a weak moment, that could be me or that could be you or you, when you talk to someone that you’re trying to help pass on the things that matter most.
Secondly, help them remove the power of secret, secret is the key word, and condemnation by practicing repentance – James 4:7 to 10 – and confession – James 5:16 – with some mature believers that they can trust.
The way the enemy works is this: When you sin, when you blow it big time, when you make a mistake, when you do something you’re ashamed of, what happens is we do exactly what David did. We start to cover it up. We don’t want anyone to know. We are embarrassed by it, we don’t want the consequences of it, and we cover it up.
And then a little secret and, by the way, I will tell you, what the enemy does is then, Oh my lands, some of you, you have lived with stuff for years, some with decades, and anytime you start to take a step here or a step here, You don’t think God’s really going to use you? Don’t you remember that hotel? I mean, yeah, you were young but remember that hotel room? What would happen if your mate ever found out that it was actually her best friend? And what about when you worked in, remember that time in the service and you were overseas?
And that starts playing the tape. And then you just cover that back up and then you push it down and if the truth were known, probably some depression and physical issues and unresolved conflict has been brewing for years and years and playing itself out.
God says, “I have a remedy.” When you take bacteria that is growing and you take it out of the darkness and you bring it into sunlight, you know what happens? It dies. You just bring it into the light.
And the process of bringing those things into the light are given to us in James 4. It says, “Therefore, submit to God.” You realize, Okay, I submit to You, and then notice that there is an enemy, “Resist the devil and he will flee from you.”
You have to say, I am in Christ! Did I blow it? Yes. Was it wrong? Yes. Am I ashamed of it? Yes. But I am going to now bring, I am going to submit to God, I am going to resist the devil, I am going to quote Romans 8:1. “There is no condemnation for those that are in Christ Jesus.”
And then I am going to draw near to God instead of feeling like I don’t deserve Him and I can’t come close. And He promises He is going to draw near to Me. Then I’m going to start this process and it’ll start with the external things and it says, “Cleanse your hands, you sinners; purify your hearts, you double-minded.” And so I am going to look at the outward things that I have done and then I am going to look at the motives of the heart, and then I am going to allow it to emotionally get down to my gut and to my soul, lament and mourn and weep.
I am going to embrace the emotions and the pain and the grief of what I have done against God. It’s a Psalm 51 moment. “Against You and You only have I sinned.” God, forgive me. Forgive me. I am sorry.
And then notice what happens. “Turn your mourning and your joy to gloom.” It’s a process. And this he is describing humbling yourself in the sight of God. And what is the promise? He will lift you up.
But until you come clean, until you get the secret out in the open, in fact, later in James 5, until we confess our sins to one another, you don’t get healed.
I had a man in our church in California. And, man, it was just like, as a pastor you meet these guys. And he’s just a “with-it” guy. And he was committed and he was driving about thirty-five or forty miles to church from where we were.
And I said, “Andy, can’t you find something a little closer?” He goes, “Look, I commute fifty-five minutes to work. God is speaking to me, He is speaking to my kids,” he had four or five kids. And he said, “We are all growing; it’s worth the trip.” I said, “Well, okay, but I’m just thinking there has got to be a church closer for you and etcetera.” He said, “No, no.” And it’s just one of those guys where you met him and, boy, he’s growing, he’s in the Scriptures, and pretty soon he is involved in ministry.
And you just dream about this, as a pastor - these really solid people that are going to make a huge difference, and they do. And ministries get built around them and you become friends with them.
And he said, “Hey, can I get some time with you?” I said, “Sure!” He said, “I need to do something.” I said, “Fine.” So he came to my office and grabbed a cup of coffee and sat down and he was kind of shaking. And I’m going, “Andy, what’s wrong?”
He said, “The last four months I have been traveling, secretly, to another city.” And I’m thinking, Oh man. I said, “So what is going on?” He said, “Well, it’s been going on for over thirty years.” He’s in his mid-forties. He said, “It started when I was seven years old and these magazines would come in, it was like the Sears catalogue. And I was just a kid but I found the lingerie section. And it was like a magnet.
“And then I was about twelve or thirteen and I don’t know, accident or what, but my dad kept Playboys in between the mattresses. And I had a steady diet of those. By the time I was in my late teens, I moved and progressed to some hardcore stuff. I have never told anyone this.”
He was in some other denominations, he had been an elder and a deacon, he had been in leadership in the church, he was actually a good communicator of God’s Word. He said, “I have been living with this for thirty years. The Internet has been killing me the last decade. There is stuff and access that,” he said, “it’s like a thirsty man that I can only go hours without going and logging on the Internet.
“And the guilt that I have lived with and the turmoil inside, I can’t even explain to anyone. And so I heard about one of these sexual addiction groups, kind of a Celebrate Recovery type thing in this church about sixty-five miles away, because I didn’t want to do anything near us. And once a week, for the last four months, I have been driving there. And I got this secret out in the open. And something broke inside of me. And I wept with other men with the same problem and I have been clean now for, not just these four months, but a pretty good season of time afterwards. Now I have shared all this with my wife. It was horrendous. But, boy, do I have a godly woman.”
And he said, “Now, after this season, I feel like, I don’t know about the statistics, but probably twenty-five to thirty percent of the men in our church are dealing with this in some way. You are doing this series and I see where you’re going and you’re going to talk about sexual purity. With your permission, I’d like to tell my story. And I have asked my wife to sit on the front row, because I need to apologize to her publically.”
Now, don’t get me wrong, I really knew this guy and we prayed about it and I will never forget. I got to a certain point in the message and rather than giving an illustration I said, “I just want to stop for a moment. Andy, would you come up?” He was super respected in the church. “He has a little something he would like to share.” And I just came over here and Andy told his story.
And with tears streaming down his face, he apologized to his wife and his kids. And at the end of that, I said, “We need to get secrets out. Whoever has an issue like this in your life, Andy is going to be here tonight and we are going to start some shoot-it-straight, small group, sexual addiction for men.” We launched five groups that night.
It multiplied after that. I told this story and had people calling me from all over the country and all I do is I say, “Andy, can I have permission,” because he is gifted organizationally, I said, “can I have permission to just give your name?” He has launched, now, groups all over the country.
God has taken his greatest secret and pain and sin and not only forgiven him, but restored him and used the thing that was the worst in his life to become the conduit of grace for others. What is your secret? What is it, in your past? Is there something that you would never want anyone else to know that needs to come to the surface, that you need to bring to God, first and foremost, submit to Him, resist the devil, draw near to God, cleanse your hands, purify your hearts, mourn, humble yourself, and let Him lift you up? And then share that, in an appropriate place, with a safe person who is very mature, so God could bring healing to you and then use it as a redeeming, powerful ministry to others.
Did you ever hear the apostle Paul, when he gets really personal in the New Testament? “I am chief among sinners. And God revealed Himself to the apostles and also to me as one unworthy.” It was his depth of understanding of owning his stuff.
See, grace doesn’t mean much if it’s a little word that you say, “I am saved by grace. I believe in Jesus. I went to a camp. I raised my hand. I got baptized. Yipee-do. Yipee-do. Now I try and be a good, moral person. And in my functional Christianity, I realized there was a big blackboard in the sky. Good deeds, bad deeds, when I do, do, do, do, do, I feel good, good, good. When I’m bad, bad, bad, bad, I feel bad, bad, bad, bad, bad. So I will try really, really hard. I get really exhausted, I have to hide a number of things. And it doesn’t feel really good and I know I’m supposed to be a good guy but, but, but, but…”
That is American and much of Christianity around the world. It is not supernatural. It is not Christianity. It is performance oriented. It is not grace. Grace produces powerful life change from the inside out.
Third, teach them to refuse to continue living with a performance orientation in their relationship with God. It is and always will be a grace orientation. Sometimes when we think about grace, it’s still hard to get your arms around. There are a lot of Bible words like that, you know?
And sometimes a word picture gets it. So here’s a word picture. Here’s what grace is. If, in your flesh and frailty, is a human being, you make a mistake and you fall into a ten-foot hole. And you’re looking up and it’s a ten-foot hole and there is no way to get out of this thing.
Grace is God will extend an eleven-foot rope with knots on it and you sit on the little chair at the end and He will pull you up out of it.
But if you happen to be one of those people that makes even a huge mistake and you drop into a ninety-nine foot hole, and you can barely see the light and there was no way out of the ten-foot hole but this is, there’s not even any hope.
God will drop a one hundred-foot rope, with a little wooden thing that you can sit on and He will pull you up. That’s what grace is.
It is all that you need. Paul, “My grace is sufficient for you.” So the life message here is you were created to receive grace and give grace.