Grace is something that is dispensed as needed. We only need grace when we are behaving like sinners, so—pretty much all the time.
10 He was in the world, and the world was made through Him, and the world did not know Him. 11 He came to His own, and His own did not receive Him. 12 But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name: 13 who were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.
14 And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth. . . . 16 And of His fullness we have all received, and grace for grace. 17 For the law was given through Moses, but grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. –John 1
John makes a reference here to the Law—that written word that foreshadowed and foretold the coming of the living word—in drawing attention to the stark difference and reality of the treasure and gift we have now that we have available to us the grace that was foreshadowed in the law given through Moses.
He is making the point that we have something so much better now, that rather than condemnation and death we have what the law, when kept, was intended to bring, perfection and holiness. Except now instead of earning it we have it freely given to us by the one who earned it in our place and can give it to us as those who received him who offers it to us. He who alone has the right to offer it to us; Jesus, the Son of God.
We are no longer condemned by the flesh because we are born of God, born of the Spirit as Jesus would call it.
But we just can’t help but look at the flesh and get all bound up by it can we? I was talking to the electrician on my job the other day and he said; “I’m sure you discovered this years ago, but I just realized how handy the whole Santa Claus thing is.” “Yesterday the kids were acting up and I mentioned that Santa was coming soon, and all of a sudden they were perfect angels.” “Too bad Santa only comes once a year.”
There’s Moses and the Law—Santa is the law, or as Sylvester Stallone said in Judge Dredd, “I am the law.” That is until the law was turned against him.
So anyway, here’s Santa Clause who sees all and makes a list of who’s naughty and nice, no appeal process or debate, he has a pen and a phone and he uses it—no wait, that was President Obama’s line.
Oops, I forgot
Anyway, it reminded me of a time when I was 5 years old. I don’t know where my mother was, I’m sure she wasn’t too far away, but I found myself in the Kitchen, alone with the refrigerator—the forbidden zone. It was close to Christmas and I was a firm believer in Santa Clause and I knew, because my mother had told me, that if I was good Santa would bring me what I wanted for Christmas.
Apparently this magical being could also know if indeed I was being good or not. I mean, I had heard the words of one of the songs written about Santa played on the radio—from which only truth emanates—that he has written a list and he’s checking it twice, gonna find out who’s naughty and nice. So it was indisputable.
But as I stood there gazing into refrigerated heaven illuminated by the magic light that somehow is always on when you open the door, I was suddenly craving a piece of lunch meat. I knew I wasn’t supposed to eat it, that doing so surely constituted being naughty and could land me on the lump of coal list.
But I had a plan, I was going to outsmart ol’ Santa. So I took that slice of pimento loaf and started chowing down and after about half way through I stopped and said out loud to the kitchen ceiling; “Uh, oh, I forgot it’s almost Christmas.” Oh’ well, can’t waste a good piece of lunch meat, better finish it.
So Santa, who sees all, but surely cannot read minds, would know it was just an honest mistake. That I just had a momentary lapse of memory and judgement in doing something naughty, succumbing to the temptations of the flesh, so close to Santa finalizing his infamous lists. And sure enough, Christmas morning I got what I wanted, a Tonka Toy Bulldozer—so it must have worked.
That sounds silly and surely it was, but that’s the way people under the law often thought, and some still do. “If I just appear to be doing the right thing, to be making an effort and having good excuses for my failures, then I will get the reward, I will get to heaven.”
That kind of thinking is all flesh. The legendary Santa can’t read minds, he doesn’t know the intent of the heart, and only see’s the deeds and hears the words; maybe through his creepy little Elf on the Shelf spy.
That’s the way we think about God—and we try to please him in our flesh. It doesn’t work because we are always going to fail and it is seldom an accident. You know what I mean don’t you—we always know when we are sinning but we do it anyway. It’s like we have this uncontrollable urge or a temporary insanity where we think we can get away with something or that “there must be a good excuse or justification—even if I cannot think if it right now.”
“Geez, I hope my guardian angel wasn’t watching.” It was a mistake, that’s not who I really am. That’s the line of the day—ain’t it?
There are very few real mistakes, if we are honest with ourselves we know that there are a lot of on purposes that we need forgiven for—grace upon grace, one thing after another. And if Santa had known the intent of my 5 year old heart and not just the words on my lips, he would have known this was no accident. But he is not God. And it is a good thing, because I don’t know that there is any grace in his lists—it is strictly a merit system, just like the law given through Moses.
Fortunately we have grace and truth given us by Jesus.
“but grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.”